In 1939, George Dantzig enrolled as a graduate student studying statistics under Polish-born professor Jerzy Neyman. At the beginning of one class session, Dr. Neyman chalked two examples of famous unsolvable problems on the blackboard. George happened to arrive late to class that day, and mistakenly thought the unsolvable problems were their homework assignment, so he transcribed them in his notebook and went to work. Eventually George solved both problems. Six weeks later, an ecstatic Dr. Neyrnan knocked on George’s door to share the news. A bewildered George actually apologized, thinking the assignment was overdue. That’s when Dr. Neyman informed George that he had solved two of statistics’ unsolvable problems.”The problems seemed to be a little harder than usual,” George would later recall.
Over the ensuing years George Dantzig served the United States Air Force as civilian head of the combat analysis branch, earned a doctorate, worked as a mathematical adviser to the Defense Department, and joined the faculty of Stanford University as professor of operations research and computer science. Dr. George Dantzig received numerous awards during his distinguished career, including the National Medal of Science in 1975. The tools Dantzig developed have shaped the way airlines schedule their fleets, shipping companies deploy their trucks, oil companies run their refineries, and businesses manage their revenue projections. But the genesis of his genius can be traced back to those two problems scribbled on the chalkboard while he was a statistics student. In his own words, “If someone had told me they were two famous unsolved problems, I probably wouldn’t have even tried to solve them.”
George Dantzig solved those unsolvable problems because he didn’t know it couldn’t be done. Do we limit God’s power because we’ve already decided what God cannot do? Maybe we need to meditate afresh on Ephesians 3:20-21, “20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”
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