Saturday, November 12, 2005

Empire State

Today’s story is provided by Nora Fuqua. When I told her that I’d first heard this 40 years ago – and was still telling it – she laughed and said, “What goes around, comes around.” I made some minor changes to match my version.

A physicist, a statistician, and a advertising account manager enter into a Mensa IQ competition. Each one is given a stopwatch and an aneroid barometer and told to find out the height of the structure at 350 Fifth Avenue in New York City: The Empire State Building.

First to return is the statistician: “It’s 1,225 feet high,” he says. “How did you find out?” he’s asked. “Well,” he says, “I took the elevator to the observation deck and timed how long the journey took. I got the elevator speed from the company who put it in. Then I went out on the observation deck and took the air pressure at the top and compared it to the air pressure at the bottom. The average of my calculations is 1,224 feet.” Not bad, the judges tell him.

Next back is the physicist. “It’s 1,220 feet high,” he reports. “How did you find out?” the judges asked. “I took the air pressure at the base and after using the lift the air pressure at the top. Then I dropped the barometer from the top and timed how long it took to fall to the street below. I also timed how long the sound of its impact took to reach me. I calculated the height at 1,220 feet.” Not bad at all, say the judges.

The advertising account manager finally returned. “It’s 1,224 feet from the 102nd floor observation deck to street level,” he says. “Wow,” say the judges, “that’s exactly right. How did you find out?”

The manager said that he went into the basement of the Empire State Building and knocked on the door of the building’s superintendent. When the super answered the door, the manager said, “Here I have a very fine inlay and brass aneroid barometer and a stainless steel precision Swiss stopwatch. I will give them to you if you tell me the height of this building.”

Nowadays, you could also use the Internet. Thanks, Nora.

Photo:, with thanks.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

- Nora