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Australia Math It's funny.  Laugh. The Military

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

Posted by timothy
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."
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Australian Air Force's Recruiting Puzzle Shown To Be Unsolvable

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  • by cold fjord (826450) on Saturday June 29, 2013 @10:25AM (#44142247)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 29, 2013 @10:25AM (#44142249)

    It's the Kobayashi Maru!

    • by sigxcpu (456479)

      It was designed to be solved by people down under.
      you are holding it upside-down.

  • by HeadOffice (912211) on Saturday June 29, 2013 @10:30AM (#44142267)

    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..."

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

    • 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!

    • by rtb61 (674572)

      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.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    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.

  • by anyaristow (1448609) on Saturday June 29, 2013 @10:35AM (#44142299)

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

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

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 29, 2013 @10:44AM (#44142357)

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

  • by cold fjord (826450) on Saturday June 29, 2013 @10:44AM (#44142359)

    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.

  • by gmuslera (3436) on Saturday June 29, 2013 @10:49AM (#44142379) Homepage Journal
    You find out that they are mistaken. So, you don't solve it, do a fake solving, or report them that they made a mistake? Considering how they approach to vulnerability reports the last option could get you in prison, while the problem will still have the same mistake.
  • by Anonymous Coward

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

  • by Hentes (2461350) on Saturday June 29, 2013 @10:51AM (#44142385)

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

    • Fuck me, that explains all those calls!

  • by BenBoy (615230) on Saturday June 29, 2013 @11:05AM (#44142479)
    ... the only winning move is not to play.
  • by gsgriffin (1195771) on Saturday June 29, 2013 @11:19AM (#44142543)
    You just need a cocky young man that can reprogram the test and then casually win the test while eating an apple.
  • 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.

    • by Hentes (2461350)

      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.

      • 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.

  • by gweihir (88907) on Saturday June 29, 2013 @12:10PM (#44142795)

    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)

      by Anonymous Coward

      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)

      by Glenn Deles (2967947)
      A wise person knows what they do not know. I used to interview entry level programmers. I would ask harder SQL questions until they could not provide a good answer. Usually "what is a left outer join". The best non answer was "I am not sure, it is similar to this, and I know were to look it up". The worst answer (in a valley girl voice). "It is like a regular join, except like outer.".
      • by gweihir (88907)

        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.

      • by MaXiMiUS (923393)
        I'd think the correct answer would be the best answer. Does this really qualify as a harder SQL question? I know what a left outer join is just from stuff I've done in my free time.
        • It's a personality test not a technical test, the technically correct answer tells the interviewer nothing about the person's character. The SQL question is just an example of a point where a bullshitter would likely start trying to fake their level of knowledge. It's not hard to do if the interviewer knows the subject, simply keep thinking up questions based on trivial information you have had to look up in the recent past. I've used the same technique in the past when hiring C programmers. Most times it t
          • by gweihir (88907)

            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

      • I've used the same technique myself, it's a very effective way to screen out bullshitters.
        • by arth1 (260657)

          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.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    42

  • :-> Maybe they were just trying to facebook comment bait. You know, like those "95% of people get this wrong." posts, lol.
  • by Hartree (191324) on Saturday June 29, 2013 @01:43PM (#44143321)

    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.

    • by The Dark (159909)

      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.

      • 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 when you have engineers attempting calculus without mathematicians around.

  • by countach (534280) on Saturday June 29, 2013 @04:37PM (#44144239)

    No wonder I kept getting a Chinese take out joint.

  • 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

    • 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

  • I have two nephews who fly for the U.S. Air Force. Hope they never need backup from the Aussies!!!

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