"But it is more than that, Holmes. When faced with an effect, we quickly try to think of all
possible causes that are consistent with the available data and with what we know about
the world-call these 'multiple working hypotheses'. Then, we see what each of them
predicts that we might discover or measure-each possible hypothesis is a cause, and we
reason to its effects, in the same way that other people reason from causes to effects. But
we go further, and we make those measurements or observations that will identify the
effects of each of our likely causes, using the results to eliminate some of the hypotheses.
For example, if we postulate that a horse stomped on the cake to make the giant splat,
then we expect the mark of a horseshoe in the cake."
"Even if the horse missed, the shaking of the ground might have caused the cake to fall.
Close counts in horseshoes and hand grenades, as you know."
I ignored his attempted witticism, and said "Holmes, allow me to send a few telegrams to
test some hypotheses, and we will soon have the answers."
An hour later, I was ready to explain the giant splat to Holmes. "Sue Matra is married to
a diligent and helpful husband, who is also an amateur cook. He confirms that he was
baking a birthday cake for Sue, and made it in three layers, putting down a layer of cake,
then icing, cake, icing, cake, icing. Then, he put candles in, and carefully carried the
cake across the study toward a table. Unfortunately, the couple owns a large and
boisterous retrieving dog, and the dog jumped up and took a large bite out of the cake."
"The curious incident of the dog in the daytime," Holmes muttered.
"Yes," I said, "the dog did much in the daytime. You will notice that your highly accurate
sketch shows that the dog's bite has severed the candle, and that the candle was shoved
through the icing, so the order of events is clear. The actions of the dog so surprised the
husband that he dropped the cake, which was unbalanced by the dog anyway. Given the
height from which it dropped, and the rotation imparted by the dog, the cake flipped
halfway over and splatted to the floor. The husband, distraught, and worried lest the
suddenly sweetened dog should have an accident on the floor, took the beast for a walk,
and during this interval Sue returned home and discovered the splat."
"And how," asked Holmes, "did you determine that the dog bite occurred before the
"If the splat occurred first and the dog then bit the splatted cake, the bite would not run
smoothly through the whole thickness of cake, or else the dog's teeth would have scarred
the floor or become stuck in the wood, yet the bite through the cake runs smoothly the
"Well," said Holmes, "I hope they have some good old H2O to clean up the mess."
"Elementary, Holmes," I replied, "elementary."