Dear Dr. Boli: Someone asked me a question I haven’t been able to answer, and it’s really been eating at me. I usually have an answer for everything. I can recite the square root of two to as many decimal places as you have patience for; I can list all the politicians of both parties who are part of the Odd Fellows conspiracy; I know which fork to use for chutney; I speak fluent Quechua. But this one question has me flummoxed. Here it is; and you must pay close attention, because it is almost fiendishly intricate: How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if (hypothetically speaking) a woodchuck could chuck wood? —Sincerely, M. Beeson Hummock, Marshall-Shadeland.
Dear Sir: The anatomy of the common groundhog or woodchuck (Marmota monax) is not adapted to throwing objects at all. In this these animals differ from their cousins the tree squirrels, which can bean a target with an acorn at fifty yards. If, hypothetically, a groundchuck did chuck wood, therefore, it would be because some charitable soul, perhaps taking pity on the animal’s relative defenselessness, had provided it with some sort of chucking machine, such as a trebuchet. A trebuchet would be a fairly simple weapon for a woodhog to operate, presuming that the charitable donor had armed it beforehand; it could be held back by a rope, which the hogchuck might easily bite through when it became necessary to launch the payload, which, in this case, is wood. According to historians, the largest medieval trebuchets were capable of launching missiles weighing up to four hundred pounds; we may take that amount as the practical limit of a trebuchet’s payload, and answer your question by saying that if, hypothetically, a woodchuck could chuck wood, having been provided with that capability by an animal-loving donor, then it could probably chuck four hundred pounds of the stuff at a time without rearming.