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Computica Big Game

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<== Back to Computica ==> Mathematics and big game

There is some history to the following paper. The date was 1987 04 01 and it was the first meeting of ISO/IOC JTC1/SC22/WG13 (Modula-2 standards committee). I arrived early and handed a sheaf of Canadian position papers to Roger Henry, the chair. As I anticipated, he turned these over to a secretary with instructions to duplicate and circulate copies to the some thirty delegates representing more than a dozen countries. About 0900 the packet was passed around the table, and as Roger struggled to keep order, the delegates began snickering and chuckling at Canada's first paper (now officially a meeting document). When we talked about it later I expressed surprise that the Brits hadn't pulled a stunt of their own, and Roger replied, "We didn't know you North Americans celebrated All Fools Day, and we thought you might be offended."

Oh -- and my boys are a lot older now.

Canadian Position Paper

Document # C-0

1987 04 01 Meeting at Nottingham, U.K.


The attached paper deals with some important language issues, and is presented to the ISO WG-13 in the interests of promoting the international cooperation and the appropriate use of language.

About the Author

Rick Sutcliffe has been teaching Mathematics, Computer Science and Physics since 1969. He is presently Associate Professor of Mathematics and Computing Science at Trinity Western University in Langley, B.C. Canada. He has written numerous articles, reviews and columns for a variety of computer magazines and journals, and is the author of "A First Programming Course Using Modula-2" Merrill Publishing, 1987. He resides in Bradner, B.C.with his wife Joyce, and his two sons Nathan(8) , and Joel(6).

Contributions of Computer Science to the Modern Theory of Big Game Hunting

R. Sutcliffe


The seminal paper on the subject was that of Petard [1] in 1938. Two additional contributions were made by Morphy [2] and Dudley et. al. [3] thirty years later. The purpose of this current paper is to survey the literature, reestablish interest in this important field, and to offer some new methods from Computing Science.

Survey of Major Results

Petard [1] pointed out that topological considerations showed that any location on the Earth's surface could be used for the hunt, and suggested the Sahara desert. He also indicated that attention could be confined to Felis Leo (lions) as a representative class of the category of big game. He then offered to cage such a lion using methods from Mathematics, theoretical and experimental physics such as:

The SCHRODINGER method. At any given moment, there is a positive probability that there is a lion in the cage. Sit down and wait.

The THERMODYNAMICAL method. We construct a semi-permeable membrane, permeable to everything except lions, and sweep it across the desert.

The MENGENTHEORETISCH method. We observe that the desert is a separable space. It therefore contains an enumerable dense set of points, from which can be extracted a sequence having the lion as a limit. We then approach the lion stealthily along this sequence, bearing with us suitable equipment Morphy [2] confined the discussion to mathematics (with one exception), offering several important new methods which had surfaced in the intervening years.

The GAME THEORETIC method. A lion is big game. Thus, a fortiori, he is a game. Therefore, there exists an optimal strategy. Follow it.

The GROUP THEORETIC method. If there are an even number of lions in the Sahara Desert, we add a tame lion. Thus, we may assume that the group of Sahara lions is of odd order, rendering the situation capable of solution according to the Feit-Thompson theorem.

A BIOLOGICAL method. Obtain a number of planarians and subject them to repeated recorded statements saying: "You are a planarian." The worms should shortly learn this fact since they must have some suspicions to this effect to begin with. Now feed the worms to the lion in question, transferring their knowledge. The lion, now thinking he is a planarian, will proceed to subdivide a process which, while natural to a planarian, is disastrous to the lion.

Dudley, et. al. [3], inspired by this new research, added several new methods, which had previously been overlooked, including two of the most elegant to date.

Method of NATURAL FUNCTIONS. The lion, having spent his life under the Sahara sun, will surely have a tan. Induce him to lie on his back; he can then by virtue of his reciprocal tan, be cot.

Method of MORAL PHILOSOPHY. Construct a corral in the Sahara and wait until autumn. At that time the corral will contain a large number lions, for it is well known that a pride cometh before the fall.

New Results

After nearly fifty years, the discipline is surely mature, yet the advent of computing and other high technologies has brought with it major new applications to this venerable old field. We offer these new techniques and suggestions for the enterprising adventurer.

A MEMORY INTENSIVE Method. Obtain a sufficiently large RAM. Now, induce the ram to attack the lion. If a sufficient number of bytes are employed, the lion will become memory-resident within the ram and can easily be manipulated.

A PROGRAM CONTROL Method. Construct a LOOP about the desert with a single EXIT and place a cage at that point. Execute the LOOP and wait. Matters can be expedited if a COTO is available. A corresponding hardware method involves mapping the desert to a suitable keyboard with a single ESC.


(1) Attempt to teach the lion what "standard RS-232 means". The beast will become so hopelessly confused as to be easy prey.

(2) Since there is very little food in the Sahara, any serial interfacing will surely cause the lion to ingest the cereal applied to his face too quickly for his metabolism (baud rate) and he will become incapacitated.

A BASIC method. Teach the lion this language. According to a result by Dykstra [4], he will become "mentally mutilated beyond hope of regeneration" and can therefore be readily captured.

A DESIGN technique. The lion is known to be polygamous. It therefore represents a CAD problem. Rotate the lion by 180\^y\o\^y\ rendering it helpless.

An ADA-inspired idea. It is, as can be readily observed, exceptional to find a lion in the Sahara desert. RAISE the lion and it will be unable to run away. If it is too high, irradiate it until it drops a bit.

A DESKTOP method. We can regard the Sahara Desert as a window on the Earth's entire surface. Using a mouse as bait, induce the lion to look through the window. At this point, click the mouse, closing the window. The lion will now be pinned against the sill and may be disposed of with a suitable garbage collection routine.

(From FORTRAN) Redimension the lion. Then return the lion to three dimensions, but in a knotted condition. It will be helpless.

Data type methods:

1. FLOAT the lion. Due to its great aversion to water, the animal will become exceedingly distressed. Now TRUNC it. Without its trunk, the remaining parts will not function.

2. CHAR the lion. While a burned pelt will not be very valuable, this method is as simple as any.

3. The lion is clearly an entity, and is therefore either transparent or opaque. If the former, its details are visible and it can therefore be corrupted. A sufficiently corrupted lion will eventually die. If it is the latter, then there must exist a POINTER TO the lion. Put some poison on the tip of the pointer and throw it. In either case, be sure to DISPOSE of the carcass afterward.

4. Abstract the lion. The capture of an abstraction is left as an exercise to the reader.

5. Subdivide the desert into an ARRAY of a suitable type and erect a large number of loudspeakers over which you play the words: "Boo Lion!" Since this type can take on only two values, it should be easy to determine which are TRUE. If the array is now employed in a popular benchmarking program, the lions can surely be sieved from the desert.

6. Employ two-way lists. Since there are not many large animals in the desert, examining the tail pointers should shortly reveal one of the cats attached to this appendage.

A method from SOFTWARE ENGINEERING metrics. Apply a lions of code (LOC) analysis to the problem. Since they are used to the Sahara heat, it should be possible to capture at least one lion before they become acclimatized to the cold. We note in passing that similar methods can be devised using the cooled spheres available in a popular business oriented language.

A STORAGE technique. Collect several large cabinet style disk drives and bring them all on-line at once. The animal will be pinned -- its system brought to its knees. Further action with respect to a kneeling lion is left as an exercise.

A KNUTHIAN method. We are assuming that a lion is in the desert. But this is not its natural state, so if it has been de-sorted, it can be re-sorted. Employ all available means to do this. The lion will at least be easier to capture once it is entirely out-of-sorts.

A DATA PROCESSING method. Process the desert sequentially having taken care to place the cage at the Von Neumann bottleneck.

A real-time method. View the desert as a sequence of Modula-2 processes. Because of Wirth's new definition of this type, it should be easy to capture the lion, for we may determine its ADDRESS at all times.

A general SOFTWARE APPLICATIONS method. Reformat the lion with a sufficiently long length so as to reduce its height to the point that it cannot run away. If the application contains a spreadsheet, it may be useful at this point to place the creature in a cell.

MUSIC AND MASS CAPTURE. Engage the services of the Wichita lion man to string sensitive networking connections over the desert. Wait for something to go wrong [Murphy]. At this time several lions will be ready to do your bidding because everyone knows that a glitch on the line slaves nine.

A contribution from CRIMINOLOGY. Test all the animals in the desert with a polygraph and secure any which fail to tell the truth. Each is a lion.


These offerings, modest and incomplete as they are, are put forward not as definitive answers to this old problem, but to stimulate further discussion. The author will be pleased to include contributions from others (with acknowledgements) in a follow-up piece which is being contemplated. Surely none of the readers will take such a challenge lion down.


1. H. Petard, A contribution to the mathematical theory of big game hunting. American Mathematical Monthly. Aug.-Sept. 1938. 446-7.

2. Otto Morphy, Some Modern Mathematical Methods in the Theory of Big Game Hunting. American Mathematical Monthly. Feb. 1968. 185-7.

3. Dudley et. al., Further Techniques in the Theory of Big Game Hunting. American Mathematical Monthly. October 1968. 896-7.

4. Dijkstra, E.E. "How do We Tell Truths That Might Hurt?" SIGPLAN Notices 17,5 (May 1982): 13-15.


Following the meeting, a piece of paper was left under my door anonymously. I suppose the writer didn't want to be known as a dabbler in the puncane arts. However, it was wrtitten on Hotel Zurich stationery, so I can guess to within three people whom it might have been. It offered the following data type method:

Assuming that you know SIZE of the lion, it should be possible, using strong typing techniques (for lions are quite strong and require a strong typewriter) to construct a cage of suitable SIZE. Once this is done, you may quite easily CAST the lion into the cage.

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