Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Caution: Chicken crossing

I'd broken a plastic comb this morning,
Followed by a plastic jar of glue;
Thank heavens her heart wasn’t made of plastic,
Or I'd have ended up breaking that too...
(A song not written by the Beatles)

Swaminathan, the village idiot of a remote village in South India caused quite a furore in the philosophical world yesterday when he claimed that he had solved the question that had puzzled philosophers, theologists, theosonists, arsonists(??) and Marxists for several centuries (and in that order). The question in question here is the famed "Why did the chicken cross the road?" or "Kukkutaha maargam tarati kim?" as was known to ancient Indian philosophers.

To the uninitiated, let me begin with the historic importance of this famous question. Any philosopher worth his salt will agree that this question is to philosophy what Einstein's Theory of Relativity is to Physics. The exact origin of this question is still in dispute amongst the historians. Some experts say that this happened during the late Selandian era when the chickens evolved enough to distinguish between the road and the pavement, and the Darwinian force called the "survival instinct", made it cross the road to the other side, where it perceived an abundance of bird seed. However this group of experts is small indeed, for there are several other groups who have put forth arguments that have cast some aspersions on the validity of this theory. Rival groups have long argued that there were no chickens in the late Selandian era and the rest of the theory is hogwash. However a recently unearthed signboard of KFC has been found to be of the late Selandian era (in fact in the last 3 years of that era - carbon dating has accurately established) and this seems to lend a little credibility to the former group (Let's call them Selandian experts) Another group of radicals however argue that there may have been chickens, but certainly no roads in that particular era. Selandian experts have dismissed this saying that the KFC signboard was that of a KFC “Drive in”, and “Drive in” must imply the existence of roads. QED..

The opponents look silenced for now, but there is a general air of calm before the storm, and rumours have it that these opponents have an ace up their sleeve that will demolish the Selandian experts once and for all (All this became "like lighting divine fire underwater" or "neeralli madida homa" as Swaminathan, effectively put an end to this topic yesterday. More on this later..)

The origins of this question is not the only thing disputed with regard to the question. As one can see here, there are arguments that chicken did not have the rationality that road was indeed a road. For that matter, it wouldn't discomfort the road-crossing-chicken the slightest bit, if one called road a toad. This seems to suggest that the chicken was well versed in the Shakespearean philosophy of "What's in a name?" which suggest the it was indeed a rational thinker (assuming that anyone who reads Shakespeare is a rational being) Thus a mere suggestion that the chicken is not a rational being leads to 'it' being proved to be a rational being! However such suggestions not withstanding, the author of the above essay has brilliantly dismissed the idea that the "question of chicken crossing the road is meaningless and invalid".Thus there is no need for the rationality or intentionality on the poor chickens part here. It has also been bought to light in the recent LHC experiment that this question is indeed a valid one. Scientists recently claimed that the same force that causes a bunch of scientists to study atoms by colliding them against each other and breaking them apart is responsible for such actions of the chicken. Philosophers smirked at this news, saying this is what they had claimed all along. They even named that unknown force as "Curiosity"

It is to be noted here that this mysterious force has long been associated with felines. This same force has caused several members of the feline fraternity to pay dearly with their lives. This discovery of "curiosity" as the force behind the chicken-road-crossing, some philosophers go on to claim, has heightened the importance of the great question. They say that since there has been no historical evidence of any chicken having to pay with its life, even under the effect of this force, chickens are allegedly immune to the force of curiosity. Their claim is that solving this question will make even humans immune to the curiosity force, thereby prolonging their lives.

In related news, Chicken rights activists recently held protest near the author’s office stating that it was dangerous for the chickens to cross the Indian roads. They wanted the traffic police to help any chicken crossing the road. Later they distributed pamphlets, which enumerated the safety precautions that chickens had to follow while crossing roads. Unfortunately the 30 chickens who were bribed into attending this protest were nowhere to be seen after about 30 minutes after the start of the protest..

Coming back to how this question came to be solved, let us first see the previous solutions. Over the years there have been several attempts to solve this conundrum. However none of them seem to have satisfactorily answered the question. Given below are some of the more important theories:
  • "To get to the other side" (A very popular and old solution) Reason of dismissal: But why? Answered again by: "Perhaps there was grain on the other side" Reason of dismissal: "Perhaps... Indeed *smirk*"
  • "The chicken discovered that the side of the road on which it was standing on had a KFC outlet" Reason for dismissal - Chickens cannot distinguish between KFC and "McShmucks Home for homeless chicken"
  • "The sidewalk on which chicken stood was dug up to lay the Optic fiber cables. It had no space to stand, hence it crossed" (A popular Indian theory by the second-cousin forty-seven-times removed of the Nobel prize winning Chandrasekhar) Reason for dismissal - When there is a dispute over the existence of the road itself, there can be no question of admitting the existence of optic fiber (Indians have protested that it was racism that caused the dismissal of this theory)
Thus for years there were not satisfactory explanations for this philosophical question. That is until yesterday. And then,

World sat stunned in silence as Swaminathan announced: "The chicken never did cross the road... Road just happened to move under chickens feet (a la Relativity)"

Thus it came to be that a philosophical question that was compared in likeness to Relativity came to be solved by the same. Nobel committee has decided to open a new category in philosophy this year. And guess who the prize goes to?

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