05
Dec

Human oscillators

My favourite two campus practical jokes:

1. Arrange the light switches in a lavatory and an adjacent room so that
flipping one switch also flips the other. Consider the resultant scene
(visible from the outside just by watching the windows): the rooms resident
retires for the evening, turning off his (or her) light. Some time later,
someone else decides to use the head, and turns on the light. After a few
minutes, the resident awakes, decides that someone is pulling a fast one,
and turns the light off … on the guy (or girl) who is by now seated on
the throne! If it works correctly, the two unfortunates end up standing
at their respective light switches, with the lights oscillating rapidly
(by which time the perpetrators are rolling on the ground outside laughing
their heads off).

2. This prank happened a number of years ago. Two guys had been pulling
practical jokes on each other for quite a while. Finally, one of them got
a pair of rather large (and LOUD) firecrackers, and wired them to light
bulb bases with nichrome wire such that applying power would set off the
firecrackers. One of the devices was installed in the victims room, the
other in the perpetrators.

That evening, the victim returned to his room, and turned on the light.
There was a short delay as the fuse burned, and during that delay the victim
(quite naturally) turned to see what was wrong with the light–BLAM! Well,
the victim was (quite naturally) upset and flustered and resolved to do some-
thing appropriately horrendous to the perpetrators room. He went over to
the perpetrators room, his own counter-prank in hand, went in, and turned
on the light. When nothing happened, his reflexes again betrayed him: he
looked up at the light–BLAM!

Apparently, the victim never bothered to counter-stack the perpetrator.

Fritz Nordby. fritz@vlsi.caltech.edu cit-vax!fritz

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