I love this story:
Many years ago a question was set for an outstandingly able physics student. He was asked to describe how he would determine the height of a skyscraper with a barometer. He coolly replied, “Tie a long piece of string to the barometer, then lower it from the roof to the ground. The length of the string plus the length of the barometer would equal the height of the building.”
Though the answer was correct it did not display any knowledge of physics, and everyone there knew that. So the student was allowed six minutes in which to provide a verbal answer. For five minutes he sat in silence, unable to decide which of his answers to use. On being advised to hurry up, the student replied that he had thought of five ways in which it could be done,
“You could drop the barometer from the roof and measure the time it takes to reach the ground. The height can then be worked out from the formula H=3D0.5g x t=B2 But bad luck on the barometer”
“Or if the sun is shining you could measure the height of the barometer, then the length of its shadow. Then you measure the length of the skyscraper’s shadow. Thereafter, it is a simple matter of proportional arithmetic to work out the building’s height”
“If you wanted to be highly scientific, you could swing the barometer like a pendulum, first at ground level and then on the skyscraper’s roof. The height is worked out by the difference in the gravitational restoring force T=3D2p =D6(l/g)”
“If you merely wanted to be orthodox, of course, you could use the barometer to measure the air pressure on the roof and on the ground, and convert the difference in millibars into feet to give the height of the building.”
“But undoubtedly the best way would be to knock on the caretaker’s door and say to him, ‘I will give you a nice new barometer if you tell me the height of this skyscraper.”
That student was from Denmark and his name was Niels Bohr, and he went on to great achievements in the field of physics.
I was reading this story this morning and it reminded me of stuff I’ve been thinking about recently about young people and the Church.
When the Church asks a question in can be from such a firmly fixed ecclesiology that there is one set answer, when we ask the young people we find a whole set of new posibilities! I’m back to the quote again from the Youth Strategy and asking how do young people find opportunity to be, “leaders and innovators in the Church?”
I love the final answer that Niels Bohr gives, you can’t argue with that, if only Churches engaging with young people was that simple eh!
I love this story: