Monday, October 5, 2009

Physics Degree

I went to crossword yesterday, after a very long time. What a shame! I live less than a minute's walk away! The thing is that there are four crossword vouchers in my possession since my b'day. And I've decided to put these to good use. Which is why I've vowed not to spend these on crime books, something that is characteristic of me. For a change I want to buy a book, that can be read again and again( No, I already have hp series :) )
So, I headed straight to the new arrival section. Four newspaper articles, three television interviews and one radio chat later I'm very keen on reading 'The story of my marriage'. I wish to believe that Bhagat's going to deliver what he has promised, this time round. Couldn't spot it. Asked a store guy. He told me, in way one talks to a five year old when one is trying to mask one's exasperation with an air of fake patience, that it hasn't released yet, but will adorn the bookstores very soon. Silly me. OK. Lesson learnt. When you spread the newspaper every morning, try to actually read it!
So anyway, since I couldn't find anything that I'd want to read again and again, my vouchers still lie idly in my once-cluttered-now-clean drawer. I wanted to buy something from the literature section. Actually a good compilation of plays would've been it. It has been a long time since I've read plays. Couldn't find the book. I can be very picky at times. Honestly, it can be safely said that I'm more picky than most of the customers anyway. The more I visit crossword these days, the more I find Landmark's collection richer. But that place isn't half as comfy as this one is.

On a carefree sunday evening, during the mad rush hour, even a panglossian wouldn't be hopeful of finding a space to park herself (or himself;know it doesn't matter, but why run the risk of being called an agressive feminist). Vaise, I'm both. Agressive. Feminist. But not both words placed next to each other in an alphabetical order. Yeah, so where was I? But anyway, I guess I was lucky to find an empty place near the toy section. Pleased at my discovery, I wondered why these fools would rather keep standing than sit on this vacant seat. And just a moment later I knew why. The little fancy table next to me was not just for tasteful rococo furnishing. It was a help desk of toys section. I 'm unable to decide what was more uneasy. The riotous kids who made a racket or their mothers who darted glances at the title of the book that I was reading. I was secretly happy that I picked up 'Almost Single' from the rack and not '20 and still a virgin'. And now about this. This isn't looking good. Seriously. There was a time when I actually gave a very disdainful look to books with such titles. I would roll my eyes at friends who'd rather browse through romantic section, than tagging along with me at the crime or science section. I'm telling myself this, again and again-this is most certainly not looking good.

Some forwarded mails are singular and superb. I liked this one very much indeed.

It concerns a question in a physics degree exam at the University of Copenhagen:

"Describe how to determine the height of a skyscraper with a barometer".

One student replied: "You tie a long piece of string to the neck of the barometer, then lower the barometer from the roof of the skyscraper to the ground. The length of the barometer plus the length of the string would equal the height of the building."

This highly original answer so incensed the examiner that the student was failed immediately. The student appealed on the grounds that his answer was indisputably correct, and the university appointed an independent arbiter to decide the case.

The arbiter judged that the answer was indeed correct, but did not display any noticeable knowledge of physics. To resolve the problem it was decided to call the student in and allow him six minutes in which to provide a verbal answer which showed at least a minimal familiarity with the basic principle of physics. For five minutes the student sat in silence, forehead creased in thought. The arbiter reminded him that time was running out, to which the student replied that he had several relevant answers but couldn't make up his mind which to use.
On being advised to hurry up the student replied as follows:

"Firstly you could take the barometer up to the roof of the skyscraper, drop it over the edge, and measure the time it takes to reach the ground. The height of the building can then be worked out from the formula H= 0.5g*t squared. But bad luck for the barometer".

"Or if sun is shining you could measure the height of the barometer, then set it on end and measure it's shadow. Then you measure the lenght of the skyscraper's shadow, and thereafter it's a simple matter of proportional arithmetic to work out the height of the skyscraper."

"But if you want to be highly scientific about it, you could tie a short piece of string to the barometer and swing it like a pendulam, first at the ground level and then on the roof of the skyscraper. The height is worked out as a difference in the gravitational restoring force T= 2 pi square root(l/g)."

"Or if the skyscraper has an outside emergency staircase, it would be easier to walk up it and mark off the height of the skyscraper in barometer length and then add them up".

"If you merely wanted to be boring and orthodox about it, of course you could use the barometer to measure the air pressure on the roof of the skyscraper and on the round, and convert the difference in millibars into feet to give you the height of the building".

"But since we are constantly being exhorted to exercise independence of mind and apply scientific methods, undoubtedly, the best way would be to knock on the janitor's door and say to him 'If you would like to have a nice new barometer, I will give you this one if you tell me the height of this skyscraper'."

The student was Niels Bohr, the only Dane to win the Nobel Prize for Physics and the teacher in question was Rutherford.

I loved this person's name as a teenager. Still do. Because it sounds like my name- in progress :D
I love Mr. Rutherford's name as well. More so because I loved the play that we had in our syllabus at school- The importance of being Earnest. :)


Tanmay said...

Nice post...

I didn't get the connexion between Ernest Rutherford and 'Importance of Being Earnest'... unless it's the name 'Ernest' that you're referring to...

priyal said...

really,jhimli..a very good post....keep posting good posts..