This is the old joke promised in yesterday’s brief comment. I’m not great at remembering jokes, but here’s more or less how it goes. I apologize to those of you who know it.

This group of scientists at Princeton (it just feels right to me that it should be Princeton) decided they would try to answer the ultimate question. So they commandeered the university’s largest computer and asked it: “Is there a God?”

Of course, the question was phrased, ultimately, in a nearly endless stream of ones and zeroes representing state-of-the-art algorithms from theoretical physics and transcendental mathematics, but that was what it boiled down to: “Is there a God?”

Well, the computer chugged and chugged for a while but then spit out an error message: “not enough processing power” to derive an answer.

Anticipating this, the scientists had already begun negotiations with colleagues around the world, and managed to arrange for a hook-up of virtually all the world’s supercomputers, for the better part of an hour, to work on the problem in parallel.

Nothing like this had ever been tried before, but it was, after all, the Big Question.

The hour passed, during which time commerce around the world ground to a halt, as credit card transactions couldn’t be approved anywhere, and then out came the message: “not enough processing power.”

Wow. So then the scientists hooked this whole effort into the Internet, temporarily commandeering all the processing power of all the tens of millions of PCs in the world, as well.

Again! “Not enough processing power.”

One last attempt. They added to this already extraordinary global brain all the chips in all the appliances and carburetors and digital watches — all that stuff — in the entire world. (Don’t ask me how. This is a joke.) “Is there a God?”

And the answer came back:

There is now.

Tomorrow: What’s Netscape Worth


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