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This is a question The B3TA Detective Agency

Universalpsykopath tugs our coat and says: Tell us about your feats of deduction and the little mysteries you've solved. Alternatively, tell us about the simple, everyday things that mystified you for far too long.

(, Thu 13 Oct 2011, 12:52)
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Sir Clement Freud and the Physics Genius...
Story from Big Clem:

"I was for six years rector of the University of Dundee. As rector, one would chair the court of the University. There was one occasion when a physics student came to us with a complaint. He had, in the course of his final year physics exam been asked a question. He had been asked ‘How would you gauge the height of a skyscraper, using a barometer?’

He had answered that he would take the barometer to the top of the skyscraper. He would tie a piece of string to it, and lower it to the ground. He would then measure the elapsed string, add the length of the barometer, and that would be the height of the skyscraper. He was failed for showing a total ignorance of physics. He appealed to us on the grounds that he had given a correct answer and received no credit for it. And the marks were important to the quality of his degree.

We considered, and then accepted he had a point and so appointed an external examiner to ask the question again. When the examiner met him, he said to the student ‘You’ve had plenty of time to answer it, so come on what is your answer?’

The student said, ‘It isn’t as simple as that. I could of course go to the top of the skyscraper, and drop the barometer. And then with an accurate stop watch record the length of time taken for it to hit the ground and then, bearing in mind the falling speed of the object, I could give you a pretty good idea of what the height of the skycraper is. Or, and this is I imagine what you had in mind, I could measure the barometric pressure at the top of the building, and then again at the bottom. But on consideration, what I think I would do, would be to go to the janitor and say to him, “If you tell me the height of this skyscraper, I will give you a barometer.”‘
(, Fri 14 Oct 2011, 12:26, 17 replies)
Needs more theodolite.

(, Fri 14 Oct 2011, 12:29, closed)
Wasn't this originally said of Niels Bohr?

(, Fri 14 Oct 2011, 12:56, closed)
He had plenty of theodolite. Got arrested for it more than once I believe.
(, Fri 14 Oct 2011, 13:16, closed)
It's an urban legend.

(, Fri 14 Oct 2011, 14:05, closed)
I think Niels Bohr really did exist. Wikipedia says so, so it must be right
(, Fri 14 Oct 2011, 14:17, closed)
He didn't exist really.
He was Schroedinger's imaginary friend.
(, Fri 14 Oct 2011, 14:22, closed)
The Simpsons
did it.
(, Fri 14 Oct 2011, 14:26, closed)
I've got the recording.
Clement Freud told the story on an episode of the Radio 4 program "That Reminds Me" along with, among many other anecdotes, a classic tale of an MP and a woman called Horse Face.
(, Fri 14 Oct 2011, 16:44, closed)
You is good!
(, Fri 14 Oct 2011, 16:55, closed)
So, what does he say about it?
A google tells me he once rattled it off as a story about a student during one of his lectures. That tells me it's still a legend.
(, Sat 15 Oct 2011, 0:31, closed)
I heard the interview on R4 mentioned above, so I can only say I heard it from the man himself. If you think doing a Google is enough to prove something is real or not, I suggest that you might wish to reconsider what you rely on.

Legend or not, I thought it was a good story and wanted to share it. I thought that was a better use of my time and more in the intended spirit of this website, rather than posting yet another sneery, mean spirited, uninteresting comment.
(, Sat 15 Oct 2011, 3:37, closed)
So he said that he did it and it was real then?
I don't rely on google particularly but when researchers say that it dates back to a 1961 book (if I cared I'd find a copy) and someone else states that they were in a lecture of his and they heard him tell it about someone else then I start to realise it may not be a true story about him.
As for being in the spirit and being mean spirited -- I can't speak with any authority about the spirit of this site but I'm not sure it's about regurgitating things which have been going around on the internet since its birth and I don't think it mean spirited to point out that a legend is just that.
(, Sat 15 Oct 2011, 7:18, closed)
it IS a true story about Clement Freud in as much as I heard him say these words on the radio. Whether or not the subject of the story is apocryphal or "legend" is something we'll never know because the big man has snuffed it. How do "Researchers" and "someone else" actually know this didn't happen to Sir Clem? They don't. Maybe the student in question had read the unnamed 1961 book and thought it would be a wizard wheeze to re-enact. Who knows? I'm happy to just take the amusing story and enjoy it for what it is.

I personally haven't seen this story on teh interwebs, but then that's a matter of experience isn't it? I'm sure many others may not have either, and that's why I shared it.
(, Sat 15 Oct 2011, 10:19, closed)
I'll admit we only have the venerable gentleman's word for it.
But I was pointing out that this was a legend to someone who had also heard it about Niels Bohr by way of explanation.
I think it is entirely possible that the story in the book is about Clement Freud -- but you having heard him tell it as being about him on the radio doesn't prove it was true any more than my googling proves it false. To not point out that this is seen as an urban legend would be to deprive anyone reading the thread of this knowledge that it may not be true.
(, Sat 15 Oct 2011, 13:34, closed)
This story is older than the internet
Try at least to post something original.
(, Fri 14 Oct 2011, 15:59, closed)
There's a thousand sneering posts like yours on this site, none of which contribute anything.

That ain't original is it?

(, Fri 14 Oct 2011, 16:16, closed)
(, Fri 14 Oct 2011, 16:48, closed)

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