Friday, January 25, 2013

The Old Barometer Story (OBS) Redux

Some blog followers might be interested in a recent post “The Old Barometer Story (OBS) Redux” [Hake (2013)]. The abstract reads:

ABSTRACT: John Denker of the PhysLrnR list called attention to “Angels on a Pin: A Modern Parable” [Calandra (1968)] at and wrote: “There's a lot more that could be said about this story.”

And there's also a lot that's already been said about the “Old Barometer Story” (OBS). See e.g.:
(1) the Wikipedia Entry on “The Barometer Question” at;
and (in approximate chronological order):

(2) “The Barometer Fable” [Simanek (undated)] at;

(3) “a pointless story” [Goldenberg (1998)] at;

(4) “The Old Barometer Story (was Problem Solving in Physics)” [Hake (2000)] at;

(5) “Re: The Old Barometer Story” [Hubisz (2000) at;

(6) “Problem Solving in Physics” Beck (2000) at;

(7) “The Old Barometer Story (was Tower height joke)” [Hake (2007a)] at;

(8) “The Old Barometer Story - Erratum & Addendum” [Hake (2007b)] at;

(9) “Re: Free Versus Pedantic Thinking” Hake (2008a)] at;

(10) “Free Versus Pedantic Thinking” [Chandy (2008)] at;

(11) “Re: Free Versus Pedantic Thinking” [Raimi (2008)] at;

(12) “Re: Developing for creativity” [Hake (2008b)] at;

(13) “The Barometer Problem” [B. and D. Mikkelson (2011)] at;

(14) “The myth of Niels Bohr and the barometer question” [“Johann” (2011)] at

Note that Ralph Raimi (2008) at states that he heard the OBS in 1943, 15 years before the publication of the 1958 Reader's Digest version of the OBS referenced by B. and D. Mikkelson (2011)] at as the earliest version of the OBS of which they were aware. Does anyone have a pre-1958 reference to the OBS?

To access the complete 27 kB post please click on

Richard Hake, Emeritus Professor of Physics, Indiana University
Links to Articles:
Links to Socratic Dialogue Inducing (SDI) Labs:

REFERENCES [URL shortened by and accessed on 25 Jan 2013.]
Hake, R.R. 2013. “The Old Barometer Story (OBS) Redux,” online on the OPEN! AERA-L archives at Post of 25 Jan 2013 16:12:22-0800 to AERA-L and Net-Gold. The abstract and link to the complete post are being transmitted to several discussion lists.

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