# ChandraStories

Chandra: A Biography of S. Chandrasekhar by Kameshwar C. Wali, a 1991 book about the great astrophysicist, is rich with zen-like anecdote and insight.

from the Prologue (told to the author by Carl Sagan):

Chandra was giving a colloquium. Three walls of the lecture room had blackboards on them, all spotlessly clean when Chandra began his lecture. During the course of his lecture, he filled all the blackboards with equations, neatly written in his fine hand, the important ones boxed and numbered as though they had been written in a paper for publication. As his lecture came to an end, Chandra leaned against a table, facing the audience. When the chairman invited questions, someone in the audience said, 'Professor Chandrasekhar, on blackboard ... let's see ... 8, line 11, I believe you've made an error in sign.' Chandra was absolutely impassive, without comment, and did not even turn around to look at the equation in question. After a few moments of embarrassing silence, the chairman said, 'Professor Chandrasekhar, do you have an answer to this question?' Chandra responded, 'It was not a question; it was a statement, and it is mistaken,' without turning around.

from Chapter 1 (a favorite story told by Chandra to his students):

There were five princes. When they were taking archery lessons from a famous master, one of the five princes became known as the greatest of them all. On one occasion, a visitor --- a wandering minstrel --- comes to the archery school and sees the five princes practicing. To him all of them appear extraordinarily good, nothing discriminates one from the other. When he encounters the master with his observation and asks him why one is picked as the greatest, the master leads him to the five princes. The master asks each prince to take aim at, but not shoot, the eye of a bird sitting on a tree. When they are ready, he asks each of them, 'What do you see?' The first prince says he sees the bird's eye, the tree branches, flowers, and the sky beyond. The second prince narrows the list somewhat, but when it is the turn of the prince who is known to be the best archer of them all, he says, 'Revered master, it's strange. I don't see anything except the eye of the bird.'

also from Chapter 1:

Another one of Chandra's stories that many of his students heard was that of a milkman on his way to deliver milk in the early morning. His milk cart hits a rock on the road and topples over, spilling all the milk. The man of course gets upset, curses profusely, but proceeds on his way. A little later, a mother is taking her son to school. The boy stumbles over the rock, is hurt, and starts crying. The mother curses the rock and proceeds. This continues all morning --- people stumbling, falling, and cursing. All this time, a blind beggar sitting at the side of the road wonders why all these people are cursing but doing nothing to remove the obstacle from their path. Finally, at noon, when there is a lull in the traffic, he gets up and removes the rock. To his surprise, he finds a bag of gold underneath it.

(see also RedundancyRedundancy (23 Apr 1999), LatePhysicists (24 Sep 2000), ... )

TopicProfiles - TopicLiterature - TopicScience - Datetag20040225