I agree with Jorge on this one. It sounds like the old guy was spinning a good yarn to elevate his position as grand wizard in the eyes of his students. I've actually heard this story told by someone else once, but I politely only sneezed "bullshit" at the end of it.
To find true reciprocity time one must do experiments such as Barnbaum did. That is why he gave us his tables to use rather than what Kodak published as their's are wrong.
I recently did a 30 minute exposure of a dried up green pepper in a flower pot. Used Bruce's numbers and it came out perfect. Tried one using Kodak's numbers and it was grossly underexposed.
Anyway that's my 2 cents worth. If this guy can actually do this get him to show you on paper how he did it and post his methodology here so we can all learn.