## Australian Air Force's Recruiting Puzzle Shown To Be Unsolvable 113

Posted
by
timothy

from the we-meant-to-do-that dept.

from the we-meant-to-do-that dept.

KernelMuncher writes

*"Australia's Royal Air Force has been left red-faced after a job ad asked applicants to solve a complex math problem that was revealed to be unsolvable. The service posted the puzzle in a bid to attract the country's best minds to its ranks. 'If you have what it takes to be an engineer in the Air Force call the number below,' it read, above a complicated formula which candidates had to crack. But there was a slight difficulty: The problem had typos and ended up not giving potential operatives the correct contact information."*
## I know where they got the idea (Score:5, Funny)

Maybe its a test of character? [youtube.com]

## Re: (Score:2)

## Re:I know where they got the idea (Score:5, Funny)

## It's the Kobayashi Maru! (Score:5, Funny)

It's the Kobayashi Maru!

## Re: (Score:1)

It was designed to be solved by people down under.

you are holding it upside-down.

## You're in the army now (Score:5, Funny)

When people pointed out two key typos, the military bosses thanked them and said they were 'exactly the kind of people they are looking for.'

"Eh, sarge, I think this war is a mistake..."

## Re: (Score:2)

well you signed a 4+ year commit so keep in the way or face an dishonorable discharge.

## Re: (Score:2)

## Re: (Score:2)

When people pointed out two key typos, the military bosses thanked them and said they were 'exactly the kind of people they are looking for.

And the people were from Reddit...yeah, exactly the kind of people you should be looking for!

## Re: (Score:2)

Now if they has typed it in correctly, they would only have had the add in the papers they had paid for and only for the number of times they had paid for it. By making the error, that add has now gone global and. appeared many more times than they had paid for. Not to forget there are certain countries around the world from whose citizens the Royal Australian Air Force will accept applications.

## Reminds me of high school (Score:1)

My AP Statistics teacher used to say the best part about advanced math equations is that you can say (and prove!) there isn't an answer.

## Re:Reminds me of high school (Score:5, Funny)

One thing I love about fresh water school of economics, not only do they claim they can write an equation describing a modern industrial economy, but solve it too.

## If you can solve the un-solvable... (Score:5, Funny)

...and contact us at our secret phone number, we *really* want you.

## Re: (Score:3)

. . . and I was thinking that they were looking for someone for Australia's Area 51, someone whose father was an alien, who met a lovely, lonely Australian girl on a brief stopover on his travels through the cosomos, with alien math problem solving ability, who can fly the spaceships buried by the Aborigines during The Dreamtime, etc . . .

. . . does Australia have an Area 51 . . . and will iMaps take you there . . . ?

## Re: (Score:2)

The answer appears to be yes:

http://www.bibliotecapleyades.net/esp_sociopol_pinegap.htm [bibliotecapleyades.net]

I'm not Australian so it's the first I've heard of it.

## Re: (Score:2)

Wrong base

UFO's are here :- http://goo.gl/maps/1gSWW [goo.gl]

## Re: (Score:2)

## Re: (Score:2)

Never mind, if you're the right sort of candidate, the government already has been monitoring you and will be in contact shortly.

## Employment Agencies? (Score:2)

My guess is they will find good people for less cost than the government program/s.

## How they found out... (Score:5, Funny)

Several potential recruits complained after getting error messages from the Wolfram web page that reduces integrals.

## To: Royal Australian Air Force Recruiting Command (Score:5, Funny)

Your problem may be solved by means of a most ingenious proof I have, which the margin of your ad is too small to contain.

I have to go lie down now, I'm not feeling well.

## Metaproblem (Score:3)

## Maybe they're actually looking.... (Score:1)

...for people who can bullshit their way thru impossible circumstances, and are trying to seek out whoever is the most convincing bullshitters.

## It was solvable (Score:3)

It was solvable, just the solution wasn't the intended phone number.

## Re: (Score:3)

for(PhoneNumber number : allPhoneNumbers){

if (satisfies equation){

autodial from google voice

}

}

## Re: (Score:3)

Ghostbusters!!!

## Re: (Score:2)

I guess it depends on your definition of solution. If it contained an integral that can't be expressed in a closed form, I would call that unsolvable.

## Re: (Score:2)

I think the free variables for all the trig functions are supposed to cancel out, like sin(x)^2 + cos(x)^2 cancelling to become 1.

## Re: (Score:2)

Fuck me, that explains all those calls!

## Re: This is why (Score:2)

Its an even bigger issue here known as 457 visas. Even the government knows they are being widely abused however the opposition likes the status quo. Supposedly its only for job types that people are in short supply how ever almost every job you can think of is on the 457 pre approved list.

## Re: (Score:2)

## Re: (Score:3)

WTF does Australia do with its Air Force anyway? They're hopefully not teaching algebra.

Apparently they don't have to teach algebra since they seem to be looking for candidates that already know Algebra and Calculus.

## Re: (Score:2)

Certainly if it is not solvable using what's taught in Maths Extension 1, it is certainly solvable for Maths Extension 2 students. For reference if you are doing a maths or computing degree in Australia most universities require you to have completed at least extension 1 maths (or equi

## A strange game ... (Score:5, Funny)

## They only think it is impssible to solve (Score:3)

## Wrong demographic (Score:2)

Typos in the problem aside, most engineers I know wouldn't have either the inclination or ability solve that kind of problem. The reactions to it would vary from x "I forgot that shit as soon as I graduated".to a full blown "wtf".

And between both my wifes job and my own, we actually know actually quite a lot of engineers.

That is clearly a problem for mathematicians, not engineers.

## Re: (Score:3)

Mathematicians don't bother with such low-level expressions. This is indeed a problem for engineers. A good engineer would know how to load the problem into Matlab (or whatever symbolic solver engineers use), and lean back while it computes the answer.

## Re: (Score:2)

A good engineer would know how to load the problem into Matlab (or whatever symbolic solver engineers use), and lean back while it computes the answer.

This. Most of what I'll -- for lack of a better term -- call applications engineering is done this way. You learn the math in high school and college so you understand the problems, not so you can solve them in your head. Even in research fields it's unusual to solve equations of this size by hand.

## Re: (Score:2)

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## Is there a version that isn't blurry? (Score:2)

## Obviously they need brighter people (Score:3)

And in particular people that know the limits of their own skill. Dunning-Kruger effect at work. People that know the limits of their own skill get help when faced with something beyond them. People that do not know these limits mess it up.

## Re: (Score:3, Funny)

And in particular people that know the limits of their own skill. Dunning-Kruger effect at work. People that know the limits of their own skill get help when faced with something beyond them. People that do not know these limits mess it up.

Or, the put things a little differently, perception of ability approaches infinity as actual ability approaches zero.

There's no excuse for not knowing your limits. That's why L'Hôpital's Rule was invented.

## Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

## Re: (Score:3)

Indeed. Good test. In this day and age, you cannot know everything, and how you deal with not knowing becomes critical for actual ability to solve problems.

## Re: (Score:1)

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## Re: (Score:2)

I call this "failure of the second order", i.e. not being able to deal with ordinary failure. A competent professional will say "I don't know. I would find out in the following way." They also may have some suspicion what it is, but will confirm that before acting on it. The cretins will lie, fantasize, improvise something at least partially broken or be wrong without knowing it. There is indeed zero value in continuing to talk to these.

I think I failed a job interview at Google some years back because I ac

## Re: (Score:3)

## Re: (Score:2)

Yes, that it's "left outer join" here is not what's of value. It's how the applicant answers when faced with something he doesn't know, which might or might not be valuable to the employer. You could ask what the benefit of an orcish maneuver is, or when Goroud shading is preferable to Phong shading, or a boatload of other things. The point is to stump them, but not come across as bullshitting them.

## Re: (Score:2)

Most: never. Most that have it have it from the start. A very small group learns it at some indefinite time in their lives.

## Re: (Score:2)

## Re: (Score:2)

I used to believe that. Now, I don't think so anymore. Some people seem to be born with the ability to realistically see themselves, and they do get better with experience. But they already start out with some skill in this area and the potential to acquire more. However, most people are not born with this skill and never acquire it. Some of these without manage to find out that they have this deficiency, but that seems to be the maximum possible. I also do not believe anymore that it can be taught. It can

## My guess for the answer (Score:1)

42

## Facebook... (Score:1)

## Actually: (Score:3)

They were looking for someone with enough common sense to not bother solving it and just look up the recruiter's number in the phone book or on the web.

## Re: (Score:2)

Or possibly someone with enough common sense to just call the only number in the equation that looks like a phone number - 131901

It does say "call the number below", not solve the equation.

## Re: (Score:2)

After reading the article (yes I did) it would seem that the phone number was the solution to the equation but due to 2 typos on the last 2 lines it didn't work properly.

If you ignored the last 2 lines on the original then you would have still got the number as the last 2 were supposed to solve as 0.

Though if you need to solve the equation to get the number then they probably want you in intelligence anyway as anyone else would have known what it was due to it been advertised everywhere for years now.

## This is what happens (Score:2)

This is what happens when you have engineers attempting calculus without mathematicians around.

## No wonder.... (Score:4, Funny)

No wonder I kept getting a Chinese take out joint.

## How hard is it to "solve" an algorithm, anyway? (Score:2)

IANA Mathematician, but all those big hairy equations just look like code to me. Doesn't "solve" just mean "to compute", i.e., you read the symbols, do what they tell you, wash, rinse, repeat? If I gave someone a function that executed some huge, gnarly block of code and then asked them to tell me what it would return, what would that really tell me? That they know how to read? Third graders know how to read.

And what kind of person, exactly, would such a test attract? Puzzle-solvers, people in love with

## Re: (Score:2)

This particular equation is not directly computable. It requires knowing things like how to close infinite sums, and how to ignore bad choices of parenthesis of the poor guy who had to come up with it. Maybe they didn't tell him it was going to be advertised.

It's an equation that looks hard, but is actually really really simple, which will actually attract the kind of people that militaries want. They want someone who can be made to be full of himself without ever actually considering the value of his ch

## Backup? (Score:1)

## Re: (Score:2)