|Saturday, May 24, 2003||
1906: Joseph John Thomson, Cavendish Professor of Experimental Physics at Cambridge, where he succeeded the great Lord Rayleigh, is having celebrations at home. His work, ‘Conduction of Electricity through Gases’, published in 1903 and described by Lord Rayleigh as a review of "Thomson’s great days at the Cavendish Laboratory", has won him the Nobel Prize for Physics. He has a firm belief that his theories cannot be challenged.
His son, 14-year-old
George, is, however, not like his father. The buzz is that he has, so
far, shown no sign of being a future scientist. "I have done
experiments with light, but I see nothing but darkness when I look into
my son’s future," says Joseph John Thomson to his guests at the
party. "Good heavens, Thomson! Surely, Master George has some
talent that you haven’t spotted," says Lord Rayleigh.
Planck (to the boy after he’s brought): "A light bulb hangs in my room across the street and, outside, there are three switches, of which, only one is connected to the lamp. Right now, all switches are ‘off’ and the bulb is not lit. Let’s play a game. You are allowed to check in the room only once to see if the bulb is lit or not. This is not visible from the outside. Find out with which of the three switches the light bulb can be switched on." The guests follow George to Planck’s house.
To find the correct switch
(1, 2, or 3), George turns switch 1 to ‘on’ and leaves it like that
for a few minutes. After that, he turns switch 1 back to ‘off’ and
turns switch 2 to ‘on’. Now, he enters the room. If the light bulb
is lit, he’ll know that switch 2 is connected to it. The bulb is not
lit, so, it has to be switch 1 or 3. He touches for short the light
bulb. If the bulb is still hot, then, switch 1 was the correct one; the
bulb is cold, so, it has to be switch 3. The guests: "Good heavens,
Thomson! The child’s a genius." J.J. Thomson: "Gentlemen, I
apologise for hiding the truth, but if I ever recommended his name for a
Cambridge fellowship, I didn’t want anyone to say that he didn’t
deserve it." (Write at The Tribune or email@example.com)