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Weigh an elephant

Posted by Karys on November 3, 2010 – 2:27 am

There is a chinese short story telling about a minister (or whatever) who weighs the Emperor’s elephant.

How could he have done that, without having to make any giant weighing machine ?

You are not specifically asked to find the story where this came from. Here, originality and practicability are the key.

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  1. 1. Wizard of Oz Said:

    Have the elephant stand on one end of a long plank placed across a cylindrical rock. Place enough weights at the other end of the plank until they balance the elephant across the cylinder. Provided he distances of the elephant and the weights from the cylinder re the same, then the sum of the weights will be the weight of the elephant.

  2. 2. MightBeWrong Said:

    I’m thinking it may have something to do with water…

  3. 3. Sam Said:

    If there were cars, you could know the weight of the car, put the elephant on a cart. then you pay some guy to get in the car and drive at the elephant as fast as he can. you record how fast he went and how far the elephant went back. then knowing the mass and speed of the car and knowing how far the elephant went back you should be able to tell how much the elephant weighs
    or
    you could as Might be wrong said you could drown it and see how fast it moved through the water and do some math to see how much it weighed
    or
    you could put it in a bathtub and see how much the water raises

  4. 4. Diana Said:

    put it in a big pool of water and estimate by the rise of water level…

  5. 5. Your name Said:

    fill a giant pool with water, measure it then..place the elaphant inside the water see how much the water went up.. you have the mass get the volume divid..tada!

  6. 6. kyle Said:

    what u do is take 4 small scales and put one under each foot and u take the sum of the 4 and bam u have your total easy and simple

  7. 7. forsythe303 Said:

    I can’t believe everyone so far has missed the obvious… I don’t want to give it away, but it includes a small scale, a sharp knife, and the minister (or whatever) meeting an untimely demise after informing the emperor of his elephant’s weight. :-)

    None the less, I agree with the water in the pool idea and the amount of water displaced (in US gallons) multiplied by… errrrhhhh, I forget, but I think it is something like 8.3 pounds (that’s a measurement where I am from – not money). :-)

  8. 8. Karl Sharman Said:

    Is there really a real elephant? It may just be a small model?

    I think water displacement is the key, but using a pivot and a balance arm is a viable option (as long as the balance arm doesn’t deform).

  9. 9. TheWyvern Said:

    bring the elephant to the river or pool and led it to board a boat or ship. Then mark on the boat the water level. Led back the elephant to the shore and replace stones in the boat until the water reaches the same level as when the elephant was on board. It is an easy job to weigh the stones separately and add up the total. The weight of the elephant was simply the same as the weight of all the stones placed in the boat.

  10. 10. Karl Sharman Said:

    TheWyvern is going a long winded way about this. I think you should get x chinese guys, weigh them, then get them to eat the elephant, and weigh them again after the elephant consumption. (Weight of Chinese Guys before eating) – (Weight of Chinese Guys after eating) = Weight of Elephant.
    Obviously, I wouldn’t be serving the elephant with chips or vegetables, or even gravy, and I would expect the tusks, bones etc to be eaten.

  11. 11. Random Guy Said:

    @Karl
    Wouldnt some of the elephant be completely digested and become nutrients (however you phrase it)?

  12. 12. Karys Said:

    @Random Guy :
    Even if the elephant were digested into nutrients, the weight of the nutrients should be the weight of the elephant. There cannot be any loss of mass. It could however be argued that sweat could be kind of a loss, yet not so important.

  13. 13. Karys Said:

    @TheWyvern
    I don’t know if you actually knew it, but that’s the way the minister did in the original story :)

  14. 14. Paul H Said:

    (Laughing over here)

    Let’s not forget that even if the chinese men eat the entire elephant, we have to quickly measure them before they have to visit the bathroom.

    I think we can grind up the tusks and make some kind of chinese version of miso soup. Maybe “Hot and Elephant” or “Elephant Drop” soup?

    I’m getting hungry now…

  15. 15. Karl Sharman Said:

    Paul H – here’s your soup recipe.

    http://www.congocookbook.com/soup_and_stew_recipes/elephant_soup.html

    Not sure if my local Tesco’s has all the ingredients….

  16. 16. TheWyvern Said:

    really?!!. i think there are other answers.

  17. 17. chidroop Said:

    the minister could chop the elephat into bits and measure it .it would be easier

  18. 18. Your name Said:

    you put thee elephant in the boat and mark on the boat where the water level is then take the elephant out and put sand in the boat until it reaches the same level when the elephant was on the boat weigh the sand that you put in

  19. 19. Spencer Said:

    Chop the elephant and wheigh each part individualy.

  20. 20. Karys Said:

    Not bad :)

  21. 21. Mal Said:

    Get the elephant to join weightwatchers; they do weekly weigh ins.

  22. 22. John24 Said:

    WTG Wyvern.

    My first thought was having the elephant displace water but the elephant and the water do not have the same density so that will not work.

    Rocks, boat, and level of water would be very inaccurate since you would have to have extremely calm water, several marks around the boat and rocks placed perfectly on the boat to get the water level perfect.

  23. 23. TheWyvern Said:

    you will put a mark above the side of the ship..anyway .. you can choose a fine sunny day :-)

  24. 24. TheWyvern Said:

    It’s always sunny here in egypt :-D .. and the sea is very calm ..

  25. 25. voldermort's nipple Said:

    the only reason im saing what i think the answer is, is because the people that read this obviously want to know the answer.

    wouldnt he cut it up and weigh each peice sepperately,then add it up…

  26. 26. Simon Bridge Said:

    technically, the balanced beam, big bath, boat etc are all examples of large weighing machines forbidden in the opening post – therefore “cheating”.

    A *small* weighing machine would be a Cavendish apparatus. Use the elephant’s gravitational deflection of a small mass on a tortion-spring to determine it’s mass and hence weight. (The gravitational constant can be measured the same way on a known mass.)

    Alternately: you can carefully biopsy the elephant – weight the samples and, with careful measurements, compute the overall weight. Thus you can go the surgical route without killing the elephant. You don’t have to be terribly accurate since the elephants weight will depend on how long since it last ate, deficated, urinated, ejaculated, menstruated, sneezed, stomped on a mahoot (they stick to your feet) etc.

  27. 27. Jarod Said:

    Okay, this is simple. Get a boat and put it in a pool. Put the elephant on the boat and mark how far the water rose. Then take the elephant off and place weights on the boat until the water rises to that same height. Add up all of the weights that you used and you’ll have the weight of the elephant.

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