Back when I was a graduate student at M.I.T., several publications gave sample questions from past PhD qualifying exams — the exams you take after your coursework to enable you to move on to the thesis phase of your degree program.

Of course, these questions are meant to be challenging —

Some sample questions (from How to Get Around MIT, Edition 3, September, 1971, p. 15)

Political Science: There is a telephone on the desk beside you.
Start World War III. Report on its socio-political effects, if any.
Biology: Create life. Estimate the differences in subsequent human culture if this form of life had developed 500 million years earlier, with special attention to its probable effects on the English parliamentary system.
Management Science: Define Management. Define Science. How do they relate. Create a generalized algorithm to optimize all managerial decisions. Implement your algorithm on either a PC or a Macintosh.
Medicine: You have been provided with a razor blade, a piece of gauze, and a bottle of Scotch. Remove your appendix. Do not suture until your work has been inspected.
Music: Write a piano concerto. Orchestrate and perform it with a flute and drum. You will find a piano under your seat.
Extra Credit: Define the universe. Give three examples.

Today's topic: "Are Computers Intelligent (or Could They Be in the Future)? "
Time limit: 50 minutes

With range of topics possible under this heading and the time constraints, task seems similarly daunting.

At least we can start considering the question.

created 7 January 2007
last revised 15 February 2007
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