As I walked into my physics classroom Monday morning, I felt that I was well prepared for the test I was about to take. As I received my test, everything looked the part. There were 3 questions on the test, with each successive question being slightly more difficult than the last. I had 50 minutes to complete the entire exam, which would have been more than enough time without the error on the third question. When I reached the third and final question on the exam, which was bound to be the most difficult, I started working.
The question was about a metal ball being launched at 30 degrees from the horizontal into the air, and landing perfectly on a table when the speed in the y-direction equaled zero. The ball then rolls along a 5 meter long table in .962 seconds. After that, it fell off of the table into a cup that was resting 1 meter above the ground.
The problem with this physics problem is that when you go to find the height of the table, it turns out the platform that the cup is sitting on is actually taller than the table, therefore making it impossible for the ball to roll off of the table and into the cup. So, realistically, you would have to again launch the ball from the table up into the cup, which is obviously not what we are going for.
During any exam in college, you see a pretty common system in which people leave the room after a test. Usually a few leave fast, then exponentially more and more leave from then on. Not one person left the room during this test over the duration of the 50 minutes; including my brother who passed the BC Calculus test with a 5 during his senior year of high school.
As I sat there, wondering what I was going to do, I decided to look around and see what other people were doing. Everyone I looked at was scratching their head and re-checking their math, which is exactly what I was doing as well. I watched as 2 or 3 people confronted the teacher and told him that the table was in fact, shorter than the platform with the cup. He turned all of them away and told them they were doing it wrong. I re-worked the problem in every possible way shape and form to attempt to find a different height for the table, but every solution was the same. My brother used mathematical techniques not known to this class, and could not get a different answer.
My answer to the question, which was a majority of the test since it was the hardest question was as follows: According to my information obtained while finding the height of the table, it turns out the table is shorter than the platform with the cup, hopefully rendering this a trick question.
So, when my professor walks into lecture this morning, we were all sitting there, completely dumb-founded as to what the heck happened Monday morning. He stands there behind his desk, and tells us how he completely intended on that question to be entirely a trick question, and that there was no possible answer. He told us he was merely testing whether or not we could do our math correctly and make a judgment call about a question that was not possible to solve.
I might have believed him, except for the few students who approached him during the exam and he turned them away claiming they were making a mistake. Either way, I lost a significant amount of respect for this professor and will have a hard time taking him seriously from now on. I suppose I will just return to his lecture next week with whatever amount of respect I have left and complete the course.