Saturday, October 01, 2011

Of Mice and Huns

Found on a classroom floor at a university that shall remain nameless:

 History 385/Mathematics 385
History of Mathematics and Science in the Ancient World
Professor Elektratig
Final Exam

This examination consists of two question, requiring both mathematical calculations and an essay discussing the historical reasoning behind those calculations.

1. In Book XXXI of his Res Gestae, Ammianus Marcellinus described the Huns as wearing "garments made of the skins of field-mice." Calculate the number of such skins it would take to clothe the average Hun warrior, using both Euclidian and non-Euclidian geometry. Explain the reasoning behind your calculations, including considerations such as (a) the size of the average Hun warrior (taking into account Ammianus's description of the Huns as "of great size, and bow-legged, so that you might fancy them two-legged beasts"), and (b) the types of garments that you believe the average Hun warrior wore, such as tunics, hats, leggings or trousers, shoes, etc., and which of those garments you believe would have been fashioned from the skins of field mice rather than from some other material. If you conclude Ammianus correctly described the Huns as covering their "shaggy legs" "with the skins of kids" rather than with the skins of field-mice, calculate the number of kids required.

2. Ammianus also observed that the Huns did not cook their meat using fire, but rather warmed "the half-raw flesh of any animal" "by placing it between their own thighs and the backs of their horses." Calculate the amount of riding time necessary to adequately warm to "half-raw" the flesh of a chicken, a boar, a stag, a bear and a trout. Explain the bases of your calculations, including the effect on warming time of (a) the speed and gait of the horse, (b) the amount of flesh being warmed, (c) the season, and (d) whether the warrior was wearing leggings, the material of the leggings, and, if leggings were worn, whether the half-raw flesh was placed inside or outside the leggings 

The exam will last one hour.

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