QUIZ: What’s another name for fresh dog poo?

I can hear my great nephew, Mason, who would probably say, “Stink bomb!” That’s one possibility. Any others?

Here’s a hint. It’s January. Imagine it’s a cold winter day as you’re walking your dogs. Second thoughts?

Fresh dog poo in a plastic bag
Harry and George, with their fresh bag of dog poo

My vote: can you say hand warmer?

Well, that’s what I use it for. It cleverly recycles heat into my cold hands. And it’s an example of what I call functional analysis.

I’m not sure where I first heard the term functional analysis, but this is not the mathematical functional analysis you’ll get if you Google the term. This is more of a MacGyver thing. What do you need? Then, what do you have at hand that can fit the bill?

In this case, I have cold hands. Maybe I have gloves, maybe not. I’d like to get them warmer. My problem: get heat and/or do a better job of retaining the heat I already have.

Opportunity comes: fresh dog poo. Like a good citizen, I bring plastic bags to pick it up and dispose of it. This time, instead of holding the bag by the neck, I hold it at the bottom, using the fresh warmth to warm my hands.

Ok, so this is not the most elaborate use of functional analysis. It’s more of a convenience–recognizing an immediate opportunity. But you can take it much further.

What other types of waste energy could be recycled?
What other ways could you make do with stuff you have on hand to solve an immediate problem?
It helps if you break the problem down to its key parts or functions, instead of describing how you currently solve that problem. That’s where the “function” in functional analysis comes in.
What would you do if you needed a rolling pin, but didn’t have one? My solution–look for a hard cylindrical object, like a long glass bottle, or possibly a full plastic water bottle (plastic isn’t as stiff as glass, but a bottle full of water will probably be stiff enough). Then use a piece of plastic wrap to provide a sanitary barrier between the bottle and whatever you’re rolling out–like pizza dough.
How have you used functional analysis to solve a problem?

Let me know!


MK Tufft

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