Written by Helen Tarnation
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Topics: chickens, jokes, Maps

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

image for Cartographer determines why chicken crossed road
Puzzled chickens have 'innate cartographic sense'

Many have pondered the question, 'Why did the chicken cross the road?' The answer offered most frequently is, 'To get to the other side'. However, it is widely recognized that this answer is incomplete, if not redundant. The answer merely states the chicken's obvious intention, but says absolutely nothing about the chicken's choice of routes.

To answer this question, Dr. Rupert Collins, Ph.D. of Turnstile Technical University turned to the equations that lie at the foundation of theoretical cartography.

'If you take any road of indeterminate length, and place a chicken on one side of it, and challenge the chicken to reach the other side of the road, the chicken has no choice other than to cross it', Collins explains.

'Quite simply, the other option is going around the road instead. However, this implies a route of indeterminate length, which is cartographically irrational.'

The problem is compounded if the road has intersecting roads to either side of the chicken.

'This makes navigation of the route itself indeterminate', says Collins. 'And, in a simple cartographic matrix with as few as three roads, and three intersections, going 'around' the road becomes a cartographic impossibility.'

Thus, one of mankind's most enduring questions has been laid to rest.

However, as is common with many scientific solutions, the solution itself raises another question.

Given that chickens are, essentially, 'bird-brained', how are they able to quickly determine their preferred route, when they quite obviously have no recourse to the arcane theorems of theoretical cartography?

Peter Benchly-Hewitt, Ph.D., an avianthropologist with the Royal Aviary, says that this research suggests chickens have an 'innate cartographical sense'.

'However,' he adds, 'clearly more research is needed before this can be offered as a definitive answer'.

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The story above is a satire or parody. It is entirely fictitious.

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