Saturday 24 April 1999
The reasons for such violence are uncontentious and well-known. But just because the problem is understood and has a solution in theory does not mean that it will be solved in practice. Social factors, values and personal interests - in short, political considerations - get in the way. With a powerful gun lobby, controlling a gun culture that allows easy access to lethal weapons to anyone unable to control their anger, turns out to be a hot potato too far.
Solving a social problem is of a higher order of complexity than an intellectual problem considered in isolation. People are involved. Like a good puzzle, such a problem must be anti-intuitive, which militates against the very consensus necessary to motivate change in a democracy.
Great minds do not think alike. Otherwise they wouldn't be great. Societies, crowds and groups have their own logic. You can reason with individuals. But demagogues don't reason with crowds - they sway them. Even if all agree on what needs doing - power, skill and political will are needed to effect change. But we elect politicians not for their problem-solving skills, but on image: how they talk and move. The line from the Tom Lehrer song: "At last we have a senator who can really sing and dance!" points up a truth. So expert advisers are needed.
But what if social good and personal self-interest conflict? You can always fall back on Maslanka's Third law: "For every expert advising a course of action, there is one who advises the exact opposite." Choose the right experts and you can free yourself of doing the right thing.
Solutions to last week's problems
1 It is tempting to "see" the shortest route between opposite diagonals of the cube as shown in Fig 1a. Unfolding it does not distort the surface, however, and the shortest route is as in Fig 1b. 2 See next week's Puzzlemaster.
3 TIME FLIES = LIFETIMES.
Points to ponder
1 Three flies swim in a straight line away from a common starting point in a bowl of soup. How can the starting point be found? (Fig 2)
2 3 legs good, 4 legs not so good. Under what wobbly circumstances? Why?
3 Find a single-word anagram of COSY IGLOO.
Comments to: indy@ puzzlemaster.co.uk
MusicThe band accidentally called Londoners the C-word
Film 'I've never been comfortable on-screen', she says
Arts & Ents blogs
- 2 This letter from a reader explains why women can’t play football
- 4 Scientists predict green energy revolution after incredible new graphene discoveries
I'm A Celebrity 2014: Jungle security stepped up after murder and 'suspicious death' close to camp
This house and dental clinic 'piled up like bricks on the brink of collapsing' is why Japan wins at architecture
Exodus Gods and Kings: Ridley Scott never considered casting 'Mohammad so-and-so from such-and-such' in lead role
James Cameron hypes up Avatar sequels: 'You will s**t yourself with your mouth wide open'
Marilyn Manson denies involvement in shocking Lana Del Rey rape video
Ukip says babies born to immigrants in the UK should be classed as migrants – which would include Nigel Farage’s own children
The young are the new poor: Sharp increase in number of under-25s living in poverty, while over-65s are better off than ever
Tamir Rice: 12-year-old boy playing with fake gun dies after being shot by Ohio police
Rochester aftermath: Sacking of Emily Thornberry will make work of Labour MPs '10 times harder'
Ed Miliband's 'north London set' must be demolished to save Labour, say critics
Sarah Vine criticises lesbian mother Jack Monroe: 'If she was unsure about her sexuality, she should have taken greater precautions'