Think For Yourself

Hi Everybody,

Here is one of my favorite stories… we have posted this story before, but I think it is worth repeating. The story told is by Sir Earnest Rutherford, Nobel Prize winner in Physics. He says:

“Some time ago I received a call from a colleague. He was about to give a student a zero for his answer to a physics question, but the student claimed a perfect score. The professor and the student agreed to an impartial arbiter and I was selected. I read the examination question: Show how it is possible to determine the height of a tall building with the aid of a barometer. The student had answered: Take the barometer to the top of the building. Attach a long rope to it. Lower it to the street. Bring it up and measure the length of the rope. The length of the rope is the height of the building!”

(Let me interject for a moment, just in case this is confusing. The professor wanted the student to use the barometer as the instrument to measure the height of the building…to use traditional physics to accomplish this task. The student answered the question in a correct manner, but completely without using the barometer itself as a measuring device. Back to the story…)

“The student really had a strong case for full credit, since he really answered the question completely and correctly. On the other hand, if credit were given it could contribute to certification in competence in physics yet the answer did not confirm this. I suggested that the student might take another try. I gave the student another six minutes to answer the question with the warning that the answer should show some knowledge of physics. At the end of five minutes he hadn’t written anything and I asked if he wished to give up, but he said he had so many answers he didn’t’ know which one to use. I asked him to give me one. He said OK. “Take the barometer to the top of the building and lean over the edge of the roof. Drop the barometer, timing its fall with a stopwatch, and then using this formula (which he wrote down) calculate the height of the building from the speed of the falling barometer. At this point, I had to ask my colleague if he would give up. He conceded and gave the student almost full credit.

While leaving my colleague, I recalled the student had said he had other answers to the problem so I asked him what they were. He said; “Well, there are many ways of getting the height of a tall building with the aid of a barometer…you can take the barometer out on a sunny day and measure the height of the barometer, the length of its shadow and length of the shadow of the building. And by the use of simple proportions determine the length of the height of the building.. ” I said fine, are there any others? He said yes, “There is a very basic method. You take the barometer to the basement where the superintendent’s office is located, and say ‘Sir, I have a fine barometer. If you’ll tell me the height of the building, I’ll give it to you!’”

At this point I asked the student if he did not know the conventional answer to the question. He admitted of course he did, but he was fed up with high school and college instructors trying to teach him how to think.”

It turns out the student was Neils Bohr, future winner of the Nobel Prize for first proposing the model of an atom with protons, neutrons and electrons.

Think for yourself. All the greats did.

Hope this helps,

Dr Matt and Dr Robin (email)

This week’s bit of Useless Information:  Britney Spears’ music is used by the British Navy to scare off Somali pirates.

This email is courtesy of Matthew Barnes, D.C. and Robin Barnes, D.C.  Neither this nor any of our emails are intended to be medical advice and should not be taken as such.  They are opinion and are for informational purposes only.  None of the nutrients discussed here are meant to diagnose, treat, or cure any disease.

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