Wile E. Coyote and the Computationally Simulated Roadrunner

After yet another colossal failure, Wile E. Coyote came up with his best idea yet: To research the Roadrunner. RR being notoriously hard to catch, Wiley knew he couldn’t study it directly. So he ordered a computational simulation package from Acme Computer. With it, he built an automaton and named it Runnerbot. Wiley carefully calibrated Runnerbot so that its behavior exactly mimicked the real roadrunner. He recreated all of his greatest hits: The coyote cannon, the fake wall, the explosive bird seed. He re-ran each catastrophe again and again, so as to program Runnerbot to destroy him exactly as the real Roadrunner had done.


Four years and $5 million later, Runnerbot was finally finished. Wiley began to study it, searching for clues about the best way to capture the real roadrunner. Sure enough, a pattern of vulnerability began to emerge. It was this. At the end of every disaster, as Wiley sat smoldering on the ground, Roadrunner inevitably dashed up, went “beep-beep,” and tore off again. This was it! A regularity! An actionable insight from a computational social simulation!


Wiley immediately set to work. He built a bomb and ordered from Acme Baby Goods, Inc. a baby monitor. Wiley modified the baby monitor so that the words ‘beep-beep’ activated it. When activated, the monitor sent a signal to the fuse of the bomb, which then lit, leading shortly thereafter to a massive explosion. Excellent! Wiley strapped this bomb with its monitor to his stomach and hid it with a hair shirt. Finally, the crafty coyote built a rockfall trap above the road with the triggering mechanism just downhill from the rocks. He put a pile of bird seed in the road and crept behind the rocks to wait.


cd2cb03321bcb39d7dd8e38a9fc150e5.jpgSoon enough the Roadrunner zoomed up and came to a screeching halt at the birdseed. As he happily pecked away, Wiley pretended to have trouble triggering the rockfall trap. He came grumbling around to the front of the rockpile and pulled the trigger. The rocks began to fall on him! Madly, he ran down to the road but – too slow! – the rocks crushed him anyway. His torn, crumpled body came to rest in the roadrunner’s shadow. A disaster. As expected.


But the battered canine was overjoyed. “This is it!” he thought. “Roadrunner will say beep-beep and try to run off. But his song will trigger the bomb strapped to my stomach, and BOOM! Roadrunner roadkill!”

The Roadrunner, however, did no such thing. He looked at Wiley and noticed his bulging stomach. Responding creatively to the data, Roadrunner said, “You finally figured out how to eat. That means our story is done. I can leave you alone now.” And he sped cheerfully away, never to be seen in those parts again.

Wiley was astonished. How had he gone so wrong? How could his inferences from Runnerbot be so inaccurate? He looked to the skies and moaned, “But … but … the Roadrunner always says beep-beep!” And with that, a sizzling sound was to be heard from around the poor lad’s midriff. Seconds later: KABOOM!

The End