A ladybird problem and an excess of dry goods at Bridge Farm, Ambridge (Rousse)

While a guest of Pat and Tony Archer at Bridge Farm I supervised some final year undergraduates as they completed a maths and genetics project. The assessment task involved the breeding of super-strength ladybirds and storing them in jars. In each jar you had to double the number of ladybirds. So, in the first jar there was one ladybird, in the second two, in the third four, in the fourth eight, in the fifth sixteen and so on.

In the last stage of the work the students had one jar left to fill. This was the fourth one, where eight ladybirds were required. A sole member of the team was charged with this task: a tall, lanky, blond lad with very little to say for himself. I helped by chasing around the room and catching the airborne ladybirds in my cupped hands. Unfortunately I held them too tight and crushed them into a blackened mess. There were no other ladybirds left to catch. This was a crisis: the students were eight insects short of completing the project.

Although normally I would not condone cheating, my part in the ‘failure’ of the task led me to suggest that the student raid the 1024 jar for eight ladybirds. I was pretty sure that the markers wouldn’t bother to count the insects in the larger jars, whereas they would certainly do this for the smaller ones.

Later, when checking for some basic cooking ingredients in the kitchen, I was surprised to find huge quantities of dry foods such as pasta, rice and pulses stockpiled at Bridge Farm. It looked like Pat Archer had not done any home cooking for years.

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