Monday, December 05, 2011


My colleague asked me to give a practice interview to his son who's applying to Cambridge to read Natural Sciences. This was quite a challenge as I'm not a scientist and would have no idea whether the boy's answers were correct. Anyway I managed to get hold of some real interview questions and went to see the boy. He answered the first question well: "How would you go about weighing your own head?" Of course I knew the answer in advance: completely immerse yourself in the bath and measure how much water is displaced, then immerse yourself but not your head, subtract the difference and apply the ratio to your weight.
The second question was trickier: "If you were sending a package to Australia, would it be quicker to drop it through a hole through the earth or to fire it into low earth orbit with a cannon?" The boy was grappling with the problems of friction, air resistance, the angle of the cannon etc, coming up with various equations. I pointed out to him afterwards that it didn't really matter what his conclusion was, it was the methodology which mattered. He must state his assumptions and then reach his conclusion. I am told that if you assume no friction, no air resistance, that the earth is a perfect sphere of equal density, the time of each method will be equal. (Of course I can't prove that!)
Meanwhile my colleague had to give a mock interview to his godson who's applying to Oxford to read Philosophy and Theology. The godson is a "nihilistic objectivist." When I asked my colleague what that meant, a long discussion ensued which concluded with him labelling me "a pathetic empathiser". Charming!


Blogger Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Well done, WW. Hope both lads are successful.

11:23 am  
Anonymous kinglear said...

This is clearly the new in-thing. A journo had this in one of the papers recently.
Far better in the days of yore when Mallory was able to be offered a place on the basis of his being able to climb into College - and out again.
My own recent experience was with a nephew - who is also captain of saling and heading for "worlds" of some description. The interview went: Me: "What would you do if I asked you to throw a brick out of the window?" The clue is in the words " out of the window" as opposed to THROUGH the window.
His answer? " I'd ask you for sponsorship for the worlds"
I am sure he will get in without any trouble.
BTW I do wish your readers would have a look at Mr. Frugal and Mr. Lavish on might ring some bells somnewhere....

2:24 pm  
Anonymous Portinari said...

Tried the head one out on my butcher.
'I've a much better way', he said sharpening his knife.

12:52 pm  
Blogger elleeseymour said...

Wow, what fun, and such interesting questions. I hope they were successful.

10:03 pm  

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