There were once two people on a train, a scientist and a poet, who were riding in the same compartment. They had never met before, so naturally, there wasn’t much conversation between the two. The poet was minding his own business, looking out of the window at the beauty of the passing terrain. The scientist was very uptight, trying to think of things he didn’t know so he could try to figure them out.
After a while, the scientist was getting bored, so he said to the poet, “Hey, do you want to play a game?”
The poet, being content with what he was doing, ignored him and continued looking out the window, humming quietly to himself. This infuriated the scientist, who irritably asked again, “Hey, you, do you want to play a game? I’ll ask you a question, and if you get it wrong, you give me $5. Then, YOU ask ME a question, and if I can’t answer it, I’ll give YOU $5.”
The poet thought about this for a moment, but he decided against it, seeing that the scientist was obviously a very bright man. He politely turned down the scientist’s offer.
The scientist, very frustrated at this point, tried a final time. “Look, I’ll ask you a question, and if you can’t answer it, you give me $5. Then you ask ME a question, and if I can’t answer it, I’ll give you $50!”
Now, the poet was no genius, but he wasn’t totally stupid. He readily accepted the offer.
“Okay,” the scientist said, “what is the exact distance between the Earth and the Moon?”
The poet, who had no idea, didn’t even stop to think about the scientist’s question. He took a $5 bill out of his pocket and handed it to the scientist. The scientist happily accepted the bill and promptly said, “Okay, now it’s your turn.”
The poet thought for a few moments, then asked, “Alright, what goes up a mountain on three legs, but comes down on four?”
The bright glow quickly vanished from the scientist’s face. He thought about this for a long time, taking out his notepad and making numerous calculations. Then he gave up on his notepad and took out his laptop, using his Multimedia Encyclopedia.
After about an hour of this, with the poet quietly watching the mountain scenery drift by, the scientist finally gave up. He reluctantly handed the poet a $50 bill. The poet accepted it graciously, and turned back to the window.
“Wait!” the scientist shouted. “You can’t do this to me! What’s the answer?”
Without a word, the poet looked the scientist in the eye and held out a $5 bill.