Functions ~ Dunderbeck’s Machine

(Note to self: I am really glad I learned how to crochet because the Apocalypse is not over.)

As I stated in my last post, I have a Dear Old Friend – DOF – who has lost his stories, so I am telling stories for him. The last story I told was not posted in its entirety on this blog because I thought it might be boring. I only posted the outline. Today, however, I am posting my function stories in full. Why? I’ll tell you. There could be others out there who (1) are interested in learning about functions, and (2) have their own DOF who has lost his or her stories.

Steam Engine

“Girl (Scouts) just wanna’ have fun(ctions.)” ~ Cyndi Lauper

This story starts with a song I learned in Girl Scouts. It goes like this:

Oh Dunderbeck, oh Dunderbeck, how could you be so mean?

What were you a-thinkin’, inventin’ that machine?

Now all the neighbors’ cats and dogs will nevermore be seen,

For they’ve all been ground to sausages in Dunderbeck’s machine.

(Note to self: Rather a gruesome image for Girl Scouts to sing, but I have observed there is a little bit of the ghoul in most children. Ghoul Scouts?)

The thing is, Dunderbeck’s machine is an example of a function. It does the same thing to whatever is put into it. A poodle goes in, and a poodle sausage comes out; a tabby goes in, and tabby sausage comes out. No matter what is put into the machine, it spits out a sausage. That is what a function does. It changes whatever is put into it, according to its design.

The song goes on to describe how one night Dunderbeck fell into his machine; he was either drunk or sleepwalking (I forget). His wife heard the noise and came downstairs to investigate. It was dark so she flipped on what she thought was the light switch. It wasn’t – it was Dunderbeck’s very efficient machine that very efficiently turned him into sausage.  Again, that is very like a function. It just does what it is programmed to do, and too bad for you if you get caught up in it.

The moral of this story is that one cannot be too careful with one’s inventions. Freeman Dyson wrote that humans are responsible for their creations, especially technological ones. Like Frankenstein’s monster, once they are animated, they will always be with us.

(Note to self: Republicans have created monsters called Democrats and vice versa. No wonder they are so fussed all the time – their monsters are living with them!)

However, the functions I have in mind are mathematical functions, the kind that do things to numbers, not cats or dogs or humans. (I hope!) But that is for the next story.

Functions ~ Star Trek

P.S. Even though DOF has lost his stories, he still remembers the punch lines.

Doctor: So do you cry every day?

DOF: Yes, it’s on my to-do list.

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