At G.E. in the 1920s, as a joke, newly hired engineers would be told to develop an inside frosted lightbulb, which was believed to be impossible. In 1925, newly hired Marvin Pipkin got the assignment, and astonished his peers by succeeding.
For other uses, see Fool’s errand (disambiguation).
Hammer and Nails (1977) by Hans Godo Frabel. A “glass hammer” is an impossible object which an apprentice might be sent to fetch as part of a fool’s errand
A fool’s errand is a type of practical joke or prank where a newcomer to a group, typically in a professional context, is given an impossible or nonsensical task by older or more experienced members of the group. Many such errands require the victim to travel some distance and request an impossible object by name; the prank will be widely known within the peer group as an in-joke, and the person they ask for the object will play along, often by sending the victim on to make the same request elsewhere.
The errand is an exampl… Continue Reading (4 minute read)