Gernsback’s Fables: The Rover

A student had built a small rover and packed in its brain an algorithm for finding sunny spots so it could move into them and keep itself charged through the solar panels on its shell.

The student set the rover on the ground in the lab and aimed it away from a sunbeam that highlighted the floor, hoping it would rotate itself and move into the sunbeam. The student beamed in satisfaction that the algorithm was working, in a way.

On the other side of the lab one of the clumsier students bumped a table, which caused a sheet of paper to land on the floor in front of the rover. The algorithm was not based on heat sensors but differences in brightness, so the the rover charged toward the paper, which to the rover appeared bright against the darker gray tiles of the lab floor.

The clumsy student, still trying to correct their lack of balance, crushed the rover with a falling boot.

The lab instructor, observing all this, told the student “your zeal shouldn’t override caution; use the testing room instead of a busy lab.”

Adapted from The Thirsty Pigeon