Treasure Island

Paul Hartal


Mystery of the Immovable Car


The exhibition hall was filled with shiny new cars.
Huge crowds thronged to see them.
Standing in a prestigious booth, the Engineer pointed
to a state of the art model and said:
'This car can exceed the speed of 300 miles an hour',

'Oh, no; it cannot move at all', the Turtle said.

The Engineer looked surprised. At first he wanted
to ignore the strange visitor, but he was intrigued.
So he said: 'What? You must be kidding.'

'Not at all. And it does not matter which car;
this car or that car, because cars cannot move an inch.
They never steer or veer. Cars always remain immobile,
static and stationary.'

'Rubbish', the Engineer said.
'Your words carry neither rhyme nor reason.
And I cannot believe you would utter such absurdity',

'Well, let me ask you something.
Could a car travel in a place in which it is not? '

'Of course, not', the Engineer agreed.

'So, then let me pose another question to you.
Considering that moving implies changing positions,
could a car travel in the place in which it is,
without abandoning it? '

'Obviously not', said the Engineer.

Then a so called travelling car
is always at the place at which it is.
Consequently, it cannot move out of it
and is always at rest. ', said the Turtle.

The Engineer scratched his head.
'That's all smoke. One cannot make head or tail of it.
Cars move all the time on the streets,
they travel on the roads. Reality clearly contradicts
your reasoning. You just proved that logic
is a useless subject.'


'Really? Then you have to throw the whole edifice
of mathematics into the recycling bin, too',
said the Turtle.

'And why is that? ' asked the Engineer.

'Because mathematics depends on logic
and it hardly corresponds to reality, ' the Turtle said.

'I don't see any connection between
your ridiculous arguments and mathematics.'

'Oh', replied the Turtle, 'the riddle of the stationary car
is a variation of Zeno's ancient arrow paradox.
Now, mathematically these sort of paradoxes involve
calculus, notions of limit, convergence, speed
at an instant, summing to infinity and
the problem of illicit division by zero.'

Submitted: Monday, December 17, 2012
Edited: Monday, December 17, 2012

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Poet's Notes about The Poem

The Greek philosopher Zeno of Elea lived in the 5th century BCE.
He is most famous for the paradox of Achilles racing the tortoise. The philosopher here proves by logic that the fast-running Achilles can never win the competition against the much slower tortoise.

Zeno was a disciple of Parmenides and skillfully defended his master's doctrine that reality is indivisible and it never changes. Aristotle regarded Zeno, along with Socrates and Plato, as a principal inventor of dialectic, a method of critical discourse or debate.

Zeno's paradoxes challenged, baffled, inspired, influenced, entertained and outraged philosophers, mathematicians and physicists for more than two thousand years.

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