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Scholars

If you are looking for the smartest scholars in the world, come to my home, within walking distance of the University of Alberta. I rent rooms to four grad students who attend the great campus.

I would put my four fellows up against any group of scholars who have ever lived. Aristotle, Einstein, Hawking. It would not matter. My lads — in their sleep — could out think anyone.

The reason my scholars are so smart is they spend all of their time thinking and experimenting. Every waking hour. Probably some of their sleeping hours.

I found mouse droppings by the pantry. “Gentlemen,” I said. “We have mice. They will eat us out of house and home.”

“We have not seen any mice,” said the one who is studying advanced ecology and ways to rid the world of Freon. He is striving not only to rid Freon from fridges and air conditioners but from any corner or crevice it exists in the world. He plans to eliminate Freon from the entire universe.

“We have mice,” I said. “The critters will multiply and infest our home if we don’t get rid of them. Trust me, we have mice.”

The scholars vowed to do something and I left on business.

Two months later I returned.

The scholar who is working on a way to turn water into gasoline using quantum mechanics and chicken feathers said that mice had been seen in the house and our problem had been solved.

“Excellent,” I said. “Did you use poison or traps?”

“Neither. The mice do not eat anything in the house. No reason to harm them.”

“What in the world are you talking about?” I asked.

“We experimented to see if the mice would eat anything in the house. We put out ten pieces of cheese,” said the scholar who is distilling all of world literature to a single 3 by 5 card.

“And,” said the scholar, who hates Freon with a determination almost bordering on character, “NONE of the cheese was touched. It was a brilliant experiment. It thrilled us.”

“Your conclusion, scholars?”

“We have mice but they do not eat anything in this house,” they said in chorus.

“What if the mice are as smart as you?” I put to them.

Their four academic brows knitted, sensing an academic puzzle. They live for the academic puzzle.

I went on — “Suppose the mice are cunning enough to realize that if they ate the control cheese, you would hunt them down and kill them? Suppose they simply eat the food that you leave sprinkled liberally all over the counters and floors, the food you keep no track of.”

“That is preposterous,” said the scholar who is figuring out why water currents whorl. He is using university equipment that costs less than 12 million dollars to determine this. If he can discover the pattern of the whirling, then he can use the more advanced 20 million dollar machine to figure out why water does not whirl when it is frozen.

“Are the four of you as smart as Einstein, Aristotle and Hawking?” I asked.

“Smarter. There are only three of them but there are four of us,” said the ecology scholar, feverishly hurling darts at a picture of a can of Freon on his biodegradable dart board.

“Maybe you are up against very smart mice,” I ventured.

“Ridiculous!” said the scholar who had so far distilled all of world literature to a five by seven card. He was using 14 point type. (Soon he would change the font to 12 point and win a Nobel Prize for reaching a 3 by 5 card.)

“Then how do the mice eat?” I asked.

“If they are as smart as we are,” said the lad working on swirling currents, “they would go out to eat. Or order take-out.”

“But mice can’t talk,” I said.

“They don’t need to if they could use the internet,” said the Freon fellow. “In theory, a smart mouse could learn to type. We will conduct that experiment next, using palm pilots and DNA mouseprints.”

As I said, if you are looking for the smartest scholars in the world, come to my house. You can also meet the world’s smartest mice.

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