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I wonder if you know why it is that birds, in flying across the Mediterranean, are said to choose for their journey not the shortest distance from land to land, from the heel of the boot which is Italy to the mainland of Africa, but instead the widest portion of the ocean? This story may not be true, but it comes to me from my college days under a great mathematics teacher, now the Dean of Columbia College. He had presented a simple and direct solution of a problem which in our textbook had been the subject of a lengthy and complex demonstration. The following day, however, a student, when asked to give the problem, recited the discarded book analysis with naive literalness. Our teacher made no comment whatsoever upon the recitation, but first told us the story of the Mediterranean birds and then explained their strange conduct. For the route of their flight, now the widest expanse of water, had originally been the narrowest before the land receded into the sea and the birds, having once started on their course, continued for generations to follow it, though reason would dictate a change.

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The Challenge of a New Federal Civil Procedure, 20 Cornell Law Quarterly 443 (1935)

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