Forming the Right Problems


A distinguished looking professor stepped into the wooden paneled hallway. Sitting on the two hundred year old stone floor was his doctoral student.

“Mr. Johansson. I can see you now,” said the distinguished looking man.

Karl Johansson scrambled to his feet and followed his faculty advisor into his office. “Thank-you for seeing me Dr. Turgid.”

“Not at all. In fact, I have several questions about your dissertation proposal.” Dr. Turgid flipped through the document in question. “Would you mind explaining it in your own words?”

Karl paused for a second to think. “I’m hoping to answer one of the deepest questions left for humankind. Where is sock heaven?”

Dr. Turgid stared blankly at Karl.

“I don’t mean in a metaphysical sense. We’re scientists. I wanted to put small GPS trackers on socks and track their movements to see where they go when they get lost,” said Karl.


“Preliminary research suggests it hasn’t been carefully studied,” said Karl.

Dr. Turgid leaned forward on his desk and clasped his hands. He took a long, deep breath. His eyes grew hard. “What on earth are you thinking, giving me this proposal?”

Karl swallowed. “I was hoping to get a job. Maybe designing washing machines or something. I thought an ‘out-of-the-box’ approach might be attractive to companies.”

“Mr. Johansson, we’re an institution of higher learning. We’re interested in the pressing questions of humanity. Global climate change. Human rights. Wealth equalization. We do not care about the business world,” explained Dr. Turgid. “The motives behind your research are highly questionable.”

Karl leaned back in his chair. His eyes glazed over. Suddenly, inspiration flashed.

“Believe it or not, locating lost socks would decrease global demand for cotton by 400 million tons per year,” said Karl.


“The energy consumption for cotton refining and production equals the output of 760 coal fire energy plants,” said Karl.

Dr. Turgid’s eyes grew wide. “That’s fascinating.”

“That’s not to mention the estimated reduction of pesticide use and pollutants from farming production.”

“Can you prove all this?”

Karl thought quickly. “I’m not sure it’s ever been properly studied, but we could make inferences through mathematical calculations.”

Dr. Turgid clapped his hands. “Now that’s a proper proposal. Write it up and have it on my desk in the morning.”

Karl thanked his advisor and left. As he walked down the hallowed hall of academia, he sighed. Who said getting a job wasn’t hard work?


About vanyieck

There is nothing about me that is more interesting than you. I am a man. I have a wife and family. I have a career. I have two dogs. I
This entry was posted in academia, college, fiction, flash fiction, humor, humour, short fiction, short story, sock heaven, story, university and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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