Dear Tom and Ray,
I really enjoy solving the Puzzler and always look forward to discovering if I solved it correctly. But I have to tell you that the answer to the Puzzler regarding armor on the RAF planes was completely bogus. On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the most bogus answer ever, this answer rated an 87.3, and that factors in a +/- 3-point margin of error.
I reasoned that the correct answer was under the engines because if the engines were shot the planes couldn’t fly. The day you gave the answer I was at the Hill Aerospace Museum near Ogden, Utah. The Museum exhibits more than 90 military aircraft, missiles, and aerospace vehicles including a Wright 1903 Flyer, C130, B52, B29 Superfortress, P38 Lightning, P51 Mustang, etc. You get the picture. I thought ‘this is perfect. I’ll ask these guys at the museum what the answer is and see if I got it right.’ One volunteer thought it was the “titanium bathtub” developed for fighters during the Viet Nam war to protect the pilot. But that couldn’t be the answer since that was post World War II. None of the half-dozen volunteers I asked knew the answer. Knowing my wife was waiting for me I started to leave when I saw this veteran telling his family all about what he did on a B17 Flying Fortress. He was a gunner in one of those turrets along the side of the aircraft. It was amazing watching him tell what must have been his children, grandchildren and maybe even great-grandchildren how he was shot down and spent time as a POW. I thought surely he would know where they placed the armor. When he paused, I introduced myself, told him of the Puzzler and asked him where he thought they would have placed the armor. I was completely deflated when he said “I don’t know.”
After wandering around trying to find the answer with no success, I met my wife in the lobby and we walked back to the car. I couldn’t stand not knowing, so I pulled up your website and was blown away with the answer. You said the answer to where they put the armor on the planes was “… to armor-plate the un-hit areas that the returning planes had in common.” Leading up to this answer you even offered that clearly they could not put armor on the propellers, but this answer qualifies the propellers for armor.
This has got to be the most bogus answer ever thrust on your listeners. To illustrate my argument, I am going to call your logic the Magliozzi Theorem. Your answer of ‘putting the armor where the holes were not’ is analogous to ‘the right answer is where the wrong answer is not.’
Let’s examine how this theorem will jeopardize every fabric our of society, particularly education:
- A first grader is taking a test and one of the questions is “how much is 8 + 6?” The student hasn’t studied and he has run out of fingers to do the counting. So he invokes the Magliozzi Theorem and writes down ‘the answer is not 2’ deducing that since the answer can’t be 2, then this is as good as the correct answer.
- How about pharmaceuticals. A company tests several formulas for a new drug and is conducting a trial on humans. One control group that was taking a particular formula all die. The CEO jumps up at the meeting and declares all of the other formulas are good and apply for FDA approval. The FDA asks for the data and the scientist invoke the Magliozzi Theorem and conclude “well we know it’s not the formula that killed people, so this must be it.”
- And now the most damaging argument of all; past puzzlers. Take virtually any Puzzler and apply Magliozzi Theorem. How about “Road Trip Trigonometry?” After the explanation, the question was “Who drove the most – and how many more miles did that person drive?” I could submit an answer of ‘the one who drove the most is not the one who drove the least and he drove at least one more mile.”
You have only one course of action that you must take; you must go back and tell your listeners exactly where they put the armor.
Very respectfully submitted,