EppsNet Archive: John McCarthy

John McCarthy: A commentary on important events of the 20th century and expected events of the next was solicited by the San Jose Mercury and published on 1999 June 24.

Posted by on 8 Nov 2011

The State of Evidence on the God Question

6 Nov 2011 /

By the way I’m an atheist. I don’t claim to have a proof that God cannot exist. It’s just that I consider the state of the evidence on the God question to be similar to that on the werewolf question.


Extensions to Logic for Common Sense

6 Nov 2011 /
It's time to travel

From some John McCarthy lecture slides on extensions to logic for common sense.

Problem

Find the height of a building using a barometer.

Intended answer

Multiply the difference in pressures by the ratio of densities of mercury and air.

Unintended common sense answers

  1. Drop the barometer from the top of the building and measure the time before it hits the ground.
  2. Measure the height and length of the shadow of the barometer and the shadow of the building.
  3. Rappel down the building with the barometer as a yardstick.
  4. Lower the barometer on a string till it reaches the ground and measure the string.
  5. Sit on the barometer and multiply the stories by ten feet.
  6. Tell the janitor, “I’ll give you this fine barometer if you’ll tell me the height of the building.”
  7. Sell the barometer and buy a GPS.