Friday, October 2, 2009

Reflection: Pearls Before Breakfast

The title of this post (Pearls Before Breakfast) connects to a human interest article of the same name. Joshua Bell, a 39-year-old virtuoso violinist and consummate performer, who routinely performs in concert halls where tickets sell for $100 or more, decided to try a brief stint as a street musician. The experiment was planned to the most minute of details: Bell took a taxi to the Metro to avoid possible harm to a violin that cost more than I'll make in a lifetime. So what did happen when he played? Most people hurried past him, some flipped quarters, only a few recognized that they were listening to a very talented professional. The performance was captured on video, and a number of witnesses were interviewed afterwards.
This experiment is obviously more scientific, but one of the themes reminds me a bit of a favorite passage from The Little Prince: I have serious reason to believe that the planet the little prince came from is Asteroid B-612. This asteroid has been sighted only once by telescope, in 1909 by a Turkish astronomer, who had then made a formal demonstration of his discovery at an International Astronomical Conference. But no one had believed him on account of the way he was dressed… Fortunately for the reputation of Asteroid B-612, a Turkish dictator ordered his people... to wear European clothes. The astronomer repeated his demonstration in 1920, wearing a very elegant suit. And this time everyone believed him.