-6. POSSESSING A MATHEMATICAL MIND
Several old jokes common amongst the scientific disciplines illustrate the difference between the mathematical mind and that of other disciplines. One goes as follows: An engineer, a physicist and a mathematician are all staying at a hotel one night when a fire breaks out. The engineer wakes up and smells the smoke; he quickly grabs a garbage pail to use as a bucket, fills it with water from the bathroom, and puts out the fire in his room. He then refills the pail and douses everything flammable in the room with water. He then returns to sleep. The physicist wakes up, smells the smoke, jumps out of bed. He picks up a pad and pencil and makes some calculations, glancing frequently at the flames. He then measures exactly 15.6 litres of water into the garbage pail, and throws it on the flames, which are extinguished. Smiling, he returns to sleep. Finally the mathematician wakes up. He too grabs a pad and begins fervently writing, glancing at the flames, and then writing more. After a while, he gets a satisfied look on his face; entering the bathroom, he produces a match, lights it, and then extinguishes it with a bit of running water. "Aha! A solution exists," he murmurs, and returns to his sleep.
The passage seeks to show ------ .
how brave engineers are when faced with dangerous situations
how many litres of water are required to extinguish the average hotel fire
that mathematicians are not as practical as other professionals
mathematicians, engineers and physicists react in the same way in emergencies
mathematics is of no use in practical situations
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