The island nation of Runovia welcomes all visitors, and kindly requests they shut the gate on the way out.

Location: Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Kinsley Castle is a writer, musician, and certifiable nutter from Sydney Australia.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

The Empirical Storm Troopers

Beryl University, Runovia's grand seat of learning, contains some of Runovia's oldest and grandest architecture. Of particular note is The Great Big Shed of Learning, which the architect built from carefully selected sheets of artificially aged corrugated iron, to achieve its distinctive, rustic look. It's a must see for any visitor to Runovia, and the progenitor of the influential rusty-shed school of architecture.

Carmel Musey, the professor of Runovian literature, sat at the head of the table in the Great Big Shed of Learning, where she chaired the annual cross-discipline seminar.

"Order!" she said, and banged her gavel, not because the meeting was disorderly, but just because she liked the feeling of power.

"Speaking of which," said the dean of the college of medicine, "when's the next course coming along? I'm famished. The starter was a little sparse in my opinion. I hope the next fifteen courses are going to be a little more substantial."

"It won't be for a few minutes yet," said Carmel. "So we might as well move onto the next item of business. Speak up, Professor of Mathematics, how have we progressed on the whole Pi controversy since last we met?"

The professor of mathematics shrugged. "Alas! Pi is an irrational number."

"Well," said Carmel, "You know my position. Whilever the Pi issue remains unresolved, we risk creating a culture of incompletion in this university. We throw ourselves into an existential limbo where nothing can claim to exist and no knowledge is possible. So, to avoid the evils of solipsism, and because mathematics is only a social construct anyway, I move that we declare the value of Pi to be three. Is anyone in favour?"

Everyone raised their hands except the professor of mathematics. Carmel smiled. "The motion is carried."

But as soon as the applause had subsided, there was a polite knock on the door of the Great Big Shed of Learning. Then a great crash unseated the door from its frame. It fell like a tombstone on the mosaic tiles. And a dozen little men with thick glasses and white lab coats came shambling into the room.

Carmel Musey banged her gavel. "Order please! If you really must break our door down in the middle of the seminar you could at least include it in the itinerary. This is most unexpected."

"Huh!" said a little man with a long gray beard and a sliderule in his hand. "Nobody expects the Empirical Storm Troopers! Put your hands up, all of you, you're under arrest."

The faculty all looked at each other, shrugged, and got to their feet. And the professor of mathematics said, "Why is that little balding chap pointing a compass at us?"

The little balding chap brandished his compass and stood with a hand on his hip. "You thought you could get away with it, didn't you? You said, 'Let's just agree that Pi equals three.' Well it doesn't. It equals 3.141592654... and a bunch of other numbers. We've heard and meticulously taken down every word in shorthand! In triplicate!!! And now you're in trouble!"

Carmel Musey shook her head in disbelief. "Who'd have thought? It's the Empirical Storm Troopers."



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