A (Los Angeles, California): photo bymichaelj1998, 7 April 2014
The student replied:
"Tie a long piece of string to the barometer, lower it 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 answer so infuriated the examiner that the student was failed immediately.
However, the student appealed on the grounds that the answer was indisputably correct, and the university appointed an independent arbiter to decide.
The arbiter judged that the answer was indeed correct, but that it did not display any noticeable knowledge of physics.
To resolve the problem, it was decided to call the student and allow six minutes for him to provide an oral answer.
For five minutes the student sat in silence, his brow furrowed in thought. When the arbiter pointed out that time was running out, the student replied that he had several extremely relevant answers but could not decide which to use.
"First, you could take a barometer up to the roof of the skyscraper, drop it over the edge and measure the time it takes to reach the ground, but too bad for the barometer.
"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.
"If you wanted to be highly scientific, you could tie a short piece of string to the barometer and swing it as a pendulum, first at ground level, then on the roof of the skyscraper. The height of the building can be calculated from the difference in the pendulum's period.
"If the skyscraper has an outside emergency staircase, it would be easy to walk up it and mark off the height in barometer lengths.
"If you wanted to be boring and orthodox, 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 into a height of air.
So the examiner permitted the student to descend into the basement of the building, where the janitor had a small office. The student did so, and when he returned, reported what had happened.
"I went downstairs and knocked on the janitor's door. He opened it right away, but before I could get in a word, he began telling me a tall story about having met some top models over dinner in a nightclub.
"'After dinner, the tallest one told me a tall story about her barometer,' he said. 'It was a strange and confusing story; I had some trouble following it.'"
Corners (Los Angeles, California): photo bymichaelj1998, 7 April 2014
NK Mall (Stockholm): photo by Mikael Jeney, 1 September 2012
In Line (Stockholm): photo by Mikael Jeney, 29 August 2012
New Subway Station (Stockholm): photo by Mikael Jeney, 1 September 2012
Lamp (Long Beach, California): photo by michaelj1998, 13 April 2014