Three Chandrasekhar Parables
from Chandra: A Biography of S. Chandrasekhar, by Kameshwar C. Wali
"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 the Prologue; told
to the author by Carl Sagan
"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.' " from Chapter 1; a favorite story told
by Chandra to his students
"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." from Chapter 1
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