Sunday, May 29, 2011

No More Tricks, Mr. Nan Guo! (A Physicists Perspective)

There are a wealth of stories throughout history and cultures that are meant to teach a lesson:
The Boy Who Cried Wolf, the story of Icarus, To Serve Man... ;)

Recently I have been exposed to various Chinese fables, which strike me as very well written and pertinent event today. Their beauty lies in their brevity and directness, yet their ability to paint an image in my mind is just as strong as other fables I have read.

A few days ago I was told a fable by a colleague of mine that applies very well to situations I have experienced, and I am sure many of my readers will recognized the theme, if not recognize a player in their life's stage who reflects the actions of one Mr. Nan Guo.

Story and images copied from http://chinablog.cc/2010/04/no-more-tricks-mr-nan-guo/

In the Warring States period of China (475-221 B.C.), there was a state called Qi, the king of which was very fond of listening to music, especially the music played on the Yu, a wind instrument. So he convened a band of more than 300 players from his state. Everyday the band was called in to play the Yu for his Majesty at teatime. And the king seemed to be very satisfied with the band and the harmonies performed.
As a matter of fact, one of the players, Nan Guo, knew nothing about the instrument. But he did manage to pass himself off and went on well with his tricks that each time he tried to seat himself behind and pretended to be playing the Yu together with the others. And everything seemed good for him. He had never been exposed.
image
Finally, his days were gone when the prince ascended the throne. As the latter would enjoy solo rather than harmony, the players were called each in to play alone before the king. This time, as we have guessed, Nan Guo was embarrassed to find there was no place for him any more. As soon as Nan Guo got wind of the news, he sneaked away as fast as he could.

Mr. Nan Guo had the sense to run away in shame, or perhaps there were other consequences in store for fakers in the waring states period of China.

This story was told to me in response to having run into my very own Mr. Nan Guo, and I was struck by how well the story fit.

Substitute the lack of musical skill for a lack of physics ability in someone who somehow obtained a Masters in physics, and remove the common sense of leaving in shame and replace it with arrogance and violent protesting, and indeed my own personal Mr. Nan Guo was exposed!

Oh well. =(

Every endeavor, every field of study must have it's Mr. Nan Guo. Some fields seem to have a greater percentage than others, but I am still distressed whenever I find one in the sciences or particularly in physics.

Run away now Mr. Nan Guo.... please.

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