The following 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 string plus the length of the barometer will 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 principles 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 extremely 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 x t squared. But bad luck on the barometer.”

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

“But if you wanted to be highly scientific about it, you could tie a short piece of string to the barometer and swing it like a pendulum, first at ground level and then on the roof of the skyscraper. The height is worked out by the difference in the gravitational restoring force T = 2 pi sqrroot (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 lengths, 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 ground, and convert the difference in millibars into feet to give 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 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.

I wish I was back in high school for this one: Wireless Networking for the TI graphing calculators. Back in high school, our graphing calculators full of games saved some of our sanity. We went so far as to create Tetris tournaments. I went so far as to create games in BASIC for the TI-85, then to learn assembly for the TI-92. I never did get enough knowledge of the TI-92 to create games, but that knowledge did help me out with my college course in assembly.

Mac OS 9 versus Corel Linux? At first, this “Death Match” made no sense at all. After reading the article, it still makes no sense at all but did a good job of explaining the abilities of these alternative OSs.

I can smell her now. The scent is reminiscent of a powder. Not baby powder, but a dry, mute aroma. A floral accent is present, similar to lilacs yet not as pungent. Before this, I only had one visual. The setting is always the same. Nighttime turns red to grey and yellow to white. She stands softly with her back to a wall of windows, covered mostly with draperies. It seems to be our bedroom. The visual of her is the strongest. Long, straight hair frames her oval face, giving her an intelligent air. The color black is an understatement, for her raven hair is so dark it is translucent. The contrast to her pale skin is remarkable. Though barely visible in the moonlight, her eyes burn with a comfortable evil. She is definitely my equal. Her attire is still a bit hazy. The Japanese aspects of my psyche scream out kimono, yet it could just be a simple shapeless dress she is wearing. The setting speaks that we are home for the night, or we could have just gotten home. There are many things I know, yet questions still remain. Her emotion toward me has two possibilities; she is either upset and concerned about something between us, or she has a joy in her heart boundless. The year I turn 22 is pivotal, but is it because we meet this year, or because we get married in that year? These images and soothsay swirl in my mind as a mist, never to be grasped.