Interesting Questions

Have you ever had the experience of answering a seemingly simple question and then later on realized that there was a whole lot more involved than you first thought. If so, congratulations, you've experienced one of life's InterestingQuestions.

I also like thinking about QuestionsThatMakeYourHeadHurt, such as, IfTimeIsInfiniteWhereDidMatterComeFromInTheFirstPlace? Basicly anything the physicists haven't answered yet.
Years ago before the internet was hot, I used to tell people about it a lot. Friends would ask me why I thought it was such a big deal. I used to tell a little story about one of the many InterestingQuestions that occur to me from time to time.

Once I was petting my dog, Bailey. She likes to have her tummy rubbed. For some reason I started wondering where her navel was. Dogs are placental mammals, right? It should be there. I kept looking and looking, but no dice.

A normal person wouldn't care. A close to normal person wouldn't care for more than a few days, but this kept after me. If you can't find your dog's navel you start to wonder whether any dogs have navels. It is precisely this sort of breach in one's conception of the world that makes anything seem possible. Perhaps dogs aren't natural life forms? Perhaps they come from outer space? What would their mission be?

My wife saw that this was troubling me and she suggested that I find an answer quickly. Hmm.. what to do? I logged on quickly and found a veterinary USENET group. I posted my question and within 24 excruciating hours I had my answer. A dog's navel, or as veterinarians say "belly-button", is actually a small-ish scar. I forget now, but it is around a place where the hair on the underbelly curls. {Where the hair curles, eh? I wonder if this is more than coincidence?) I was able to find it and I had one less compelling reason to think that my dog was an alien.

(I had fun noticing and showing my kids a dolphin's bellybutton at the glass-walled aquarium. They really are mammals, etc!)

Why is the internet useful? It is a gigantic HiveMind. It helps us find the answers to InterestingQuestions. Some days I wonder whether my little story helped foster the growth of the internet in a small way.

-- MichaelFeathers

Damn devious of those aliens to infiltrate USENET! --KielHodges

This story is exactly the kind of thing I used to use to try to explain to people why USENET was so cool. I'm a word person (you know the type; many of you probably are the type) and people occasionally call me to ask word questions. A few years ago my mother-in-law called to ask where the expression "I read him the riot act" came from. I started to make an intelligent guess, but instead I said, "I'll find out." A short query on alt.usage.english (I think) resulted in eight informative responses within twelve hours. One of them actually contained the complete text and citation of the original "Riot Act". -- GlennVanderburg

So, Glenn, did you read your mother-in-law the Riot Act?


I didn't realize what a poetic set of authors we had here. My context for InterestingQuestions is a bit different from some of the other samples. I was thinking more of the simple questions that have hidden complexity, and the resolving of which allows for movement. A sample would be Why does it have to cost more to make changes later on in a project? XP is now exploring the possibility of a different development process based on a possible answer - With refactoring it doesn't.

The UmlCaseVultures are exploring a different possibility based on the same question. If you have a complete enough model, CodeGeneration solves all the implementation problems. --PeteMcBreen
What's the information content of a raised eyebrow?

The content depends on the context.


Why does Genesis say the world was created in 6 days when scientists believe it must have taken longer?

Maybe Genesis describes XP perfect engineering days rather than actual days. Notice that God obviously doesn't believe in overtime either - it says he took the 7th day off.

(Sorry, I couldn't resist that.)

That was pretty much the clincher in the ScopesMonkeyTrial?. Since the sun only got created on the fourth day, the first few days could have been as long as science might like them to be ...

Going back to some guy's question, I confess that I don't know the divine LoadFactor for the first six days. The records as always at the start of a large project of this kind are pretty sketchy, and a certain amount of artistic license should be assumed. Like some guy I find it interesting that the moment God has a human Pair available to join the team (whom I assume to be the first members that might ask in detail what the previous days really consisted of) He takes the following day off. Furthermore, as many people have pointed out six is the first perfect number. It's all beginning to add up some guy! --RichardDrake

One response to the Six Days question is, itself, an Interesting Question: When you're talking about the beginning of time, How long is a day?


How much theoretical CS research is funded because of "enlightened self interest" and how much is real science? (Engineering -> applications, science -> wanting to know anyway.)

  1. Imagine the transistor was never invented. (TheDifferenceEngine)
  2. Would "Computer Science" exist today as an academic subject?
  3. Now estimate the amounts spent funding "theoretical" CS subject to point (1).

I suspect that CS as an academic subject owes its existence to the economics of MooresLaw. If computer science is a pure science, we shouldn't be spending dramatically less under the above conditions. (Think about all those physicists that have taken up computing because they can't get grants...)


Note that the fundamentals of Computing Science (Turing Machines and all that) are actually older than the first general purpose computers.

I once read a claim that Turing was inspired to his work because he wanted to prove that the human mind can be seen as a mathematical entity, and thus is "immortal" in some sense. This to relieve the sorrow he experienced when a very close friend of him died.

-- StephanHouben

I'm not saying that the science behind computing wouldn't exist without the transistor. I suspect that it would have still existed, but probably wouldn't have been brought together and lumped into a new academic discipline called "computer science" - maybe most of this material would exist as branches of mathematics.


Since we're checking the "change control document" into source control, do I write an entry in the change control document to document the change I made to the change control document because I changed something?

Does it fit your organization's needs/practices better to have a change history section in the change control document itself, or as comments associated with each new revision of the change control document as it's checked in? -- SarahElkins
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