The first “unsolvable” problem
The idea that the roulette wheel itself cannot be used to kill or even injure or harm any part of an animal without the wheel completely being damaged, such as destroying a piece of metal in the wheel, is probably not very new. It’s more a philosophical problem, one that philosophers at least had no trouble reaching agreement on—that is, until the 17th century. This is when a Frenchman, Claude Rouillon, who had built three versions of the wheel that did not allow an animal to kill the operator with one stroke, proposed a “unsolvable problem” that he thought might be the ultimate solution. The problem was that if an animal has been shot from a distance, the shot will still go through the wheel.
“As soon as I saw all the problems I thought, this is the one I’m born to solve—why don’t we have the animal shoot himself? Because we’re too quick,” Rouillon said. The way to get around it, Rouillon proposed, was a “throwing of guns,” where, by means of a string wrapped around a wooden point, the animal could fire a single bullet into a hole in a sheet of glass held in the wheel. He called it the “throwing of the gun” but later discarded the idea and moved on to one that allowed the shot to be fired in either direction.
The problem remains unsolved for any animal that has not been shot from a distance. For a longer time, however, the unsolvable problem seemed to hold up as a more or less fixed answer to a number of puzzles, including whether animals had the ability to die by accident. In 1879, a scientist named Samuel L. B. Thompson proposed that in the wild, even large animals were vulnerable if a hunter was in range to shoot at them. When the hunter ran out of ammo, the animal fell into the path of his gun, which would have a greater chance of hitting the animal.
This solution would allow many more animals to be killed without the need of an operator, but, as a result, it also resulted in a lot of animals killing themselves rather than being shot. Since a single shot to the skull isn’t going to result in instant death, the scientists felt, an animal still could die by accident. In the 1970s, a different biologist, Paul R. Ehrlich, found that animals that had been hit by gunshot in the back and legs would go unconscious within the
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