# silliness

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, And caused me no small amount of panic For traveling both of them would be good But there simply was no way I could Until I remembered quantum mechanics. So half my wavefunction I sent left And rightward steered the other half Both pieces of me with equal heft And thanks to calculations deft, I knew the end would sum both paths Plenty of physicists claim to know Or at least will confidently speculateThat collapse, or a pilot wave's flow, Or decoherence act to make it so. Me, I just shut up and calculate. So in the woods I went two ways To return together…

### How Not to Control the Weather for Your Dog

I'm rooting around in my bag for a pen, and pull out a laser pointer by mistake. Since I'd really prefer not to be grading, I flip it on and shine it on the floor next to the spot where Emmy is half-dozing. She immediately leaps up (she's pretty spry for a dog of 12...), and pounces on it. Or tries to, as I flick the spot across the room. "Get the dot! Get the dot! Getthedotgetthedotgetthedot!" she mutters as I lead her on a lively chase around the room. After a few minutes, I click the laser off, and put it down. Emmy comes over, panting, and I scratch behind her ears. "That was fun, eh,…

### Ernest, the Purple Aardvark

Ernest, the purple aardvark Had a long and hairy nose And if you ever saw it, You would really say "Boy I bet you could eat some ants with that thing..." All of the ants in Tasmania Use to run away when they saw him Because if they ran to slowly, [Loud slurping noise] Ernest ate them up. Then one foggy Christmas Eve, Santa came to say, "Ernest, we have a terrible infestation of termites at the North Pole, Can you come eat them up while I deliver toys to good boys and girls?" Then how the elves they loved him, And they knitted him warm nose cozies Because aardvarks normally live in tropical…

### Conceptual Physics Halloween Costumes 2014

A fine if somewhat intermittent tradition hereabouts has been the offering of high-concept Halloween costumes for people interested in physics, surfacing in 2010, 2012, and 2013. I'm a little too fried right now to do anything all that deep, but I'll try to offer a few suggestions; see also these particle-physics suggestions from Symmetry magazine, who have an art staff to make animated GIFs of their ideas. Sexy Tycho Brahe: Ruffled collar, magnificent mustache, a little gold paint on your nose. Critically important that you remember to go to the bathroom beforehand, though-- it's going to be…

### One Does Not Simply Science Into Mordor

I recently shot a bunch of video of myself in front of a green screen, for something that will be revealed in due time. Of course, if you have green-screen footage of yourself, you're pretty much obliged to do something silly with it, so here's a quick GIMP-ing of a still from the video (also visible as the "featured image" above...). One does not simply science into Mordor (I was going to try to put myself inside Mount Doom holding a Ring, but I couldn't find a suitable background image, and I've already spent too much time on this silliness. It's not the classic Boromir pose, but it'll…

### Entrance Music

The AV Club had a Q&A last week asking "What would be your entrance music?" As a music fan and a sports junkie this is, of course, a nearly irresistable question, though a lot of other things got in the way before I could get around to typing up an answer. I've always kind of thought that Superchunk's "Hyper Enough" would be fantastic entrance music for somebody: Of course, that somebody wouldn't really be me, as I'm not especially hyper. If I were going to be running out onto a stadium floor for some sporting purpose, I would need something more in line with my actual speed. Maybe a…

### The Real Pi Day(s)

Today is March 14th, 3/14 in the normal American way of writing dates, so you'll find a lot of silliness on the web today talking about "π Day" due to the coincidental similarity with the first three digits of π (see, for example, Rhett's annual post). But, of course, this is an archaic and local convention, and not really suited to the dignity of science. After all, the defined SI unit of time is the second, so if you're going to do things properly, you really ought to measure time in seconds (like the Qeng Ho in Vernor Vinge's brilliant A Deepness in the Sky). So, a proper celebration of…

### Snow Plow Projectile Physics

We got over a foot of snow yesterday and today, so schools are closed. Except Union is a residential college, so we never close, which means I have to dig my car out all the same. Which I did, clearing a path to the unplowed street, then took Emmy for her morning walk. During which, of course, the town snow plows came around and filled in the end of our driveway again... As I was digging out again, I was struck by just how far the snow had gone up the driveway-- I paced off about six meters from the edge of the road to the farthest clumps thrown up the driveway. As a way to distract myself…

### Replacing Gravity

I'm teaching introductory E&M this term, so it's kind of fun to play around with silly applications of Coulomb's Law. For example, let's imagine that gravity suddenly switched off, but we wanted to keep the Earth in its orbit. How much charge would we need to move from the Earth to the Sun for the electrostatic attraction to take the place of gravity? The key here is to set the gravitational force, which we can reasonably approximate by Newton's Law of Universal Gravitation: $latex F_{grav}=G\frac{M_1 m_2}{R^2}$ (where the M's are the masses, R is the distance between them, and G is a…

### The Elusive Niskayuna Sloth

[Scene: In the car on the way from soccer to lunch at Five Guys. SteelyKid is in her car seat, studying the Halloween-themed temporary tattoos all over her arms.] SteelyKid: Do bats fly right-side-up, or upside-down? Daddy: From the bat's point of view, it's right side up more or less by definition. They do sleep upside down, though. SK: Yeah, they're the only animals that spend their time upside down. Except sometimes monkeys. Monkeys can hang upside down from their tails, and sleep that way. D: Well, they can certainly hang upside down sometimes. Sloths spend a lot of time hanging upside…

### Historical Physicist Halloween Costumes

It's that time of year again when people start thinking about Halloween costumes-- SteelyKid is apparently planning to re-use her Peter Pan outfit from last year-- and the conceptual costumes post from a while back has proved enduringly popular at this time of year. If you're not into conceptual art, though, maybe some historical cosplay is more your thing, so here are some totally serious ideas if you want to go to your local physics department's Halloween party as one of the great physicists of the last half-millennium. Sexy Niels Bohr This was actually the trigger for this post, when…

### Louis de Broglie is Mildly Amused by Your Ideas

After a nice, relaxing weekend in Ithaca without the kids, I've returned to a crazy hectic Monday, with no free time to blog, despite a couple of things that I vaguely need to post. Lacking time, though, I'll just give you this image of Condescending Louis de Broglie, an idea that sprang to mind when I ran across the original image and wouldn't go away. This is, obviously, an analogy to the condescending Wonka meme, and derives primarily from the faintly amused look on de Broglie's face in this obviously posed publicity photo from sometime in the 1930's. A theory of everything? How…

### The 15 Most Interesting Force-Carrying Bosons

It's gradually becoming clear to me that this blogging thing is old hat. It's a Web 4.0 world now, and we're all just Tmblng through it. So, I need to get with modernity, and start posting the listicles that are the bread and butter of the new social media order. Thus, I give you a web-friendly list of The 15 Most Interesting Force-Carrying Bosons. The 15 Most Interesting Force-Carrying Bosons 1) The Photon CGI photon from Physics World (http://physicsworld.com/cws/article/news/2012/aug/10/photon-shape-could… ) (Image source: This Physics World article) The photon is the carrier of the…

### Fantasy Physics Season Preview

While I was away for the weekend, intending to mostly ignore the Internet, Steve Maier tweeted: #FantasyFootball ? What if #FantasyPhysics existed--who would be your picks? This, of course, ended up sucking up a huge amount of mental energy for the rest of the weekend, because it's such perfect blog fodder. If I'd had a laptop with me, I might've ended up staying up late writing it up, but instead, I'm skipping the second half of a horror-show game between my Giants and the hated Cowboys to write it on Sunday night... So. Fantasy physics. For those not up on their pop culture, this is a…

### Physics of the Bouncy-Bounce

SteelyPalooza came off very well, despite high disaster potential. We were, after all, inviting a dozen five-year-olds plus assorted siblings to our house, on a day when Kate and The Pip were out of commission due to coxsackie virus. Everything went smoothly, though: the kids loved the bouncy-bounce, SteelyKid's playset and playhouse, and the six-person tent we set up out back. They're getting close to an age where they can entertain themselves, so I was even able to enjoy snatches of adult conversation during brief lulls in my hosting duties. This was, however, thoroughly exhausting, so…

### Dorky Poll: Document Preparation Software

The Pip is home with coxsackie virus today, and we're having a big party for SteelyKid tomorrow (her fifth birthday is next week), so I'm too busy to do more cold-atom blogging today. So instead, we'll consider one of the great linguistic conundra of modern physics: The document preparation system LaTeX is pronounced: This is a purely classical poll, so you can choose one and only one answer, not a quantum superposition of several. And if you choose wrong, everybody will point and laugh. No pressure, though...

### Dorky Poll: Rorschach Numbers

It's been a really long time since I've done a Dorky Poll here, but I'm pretty fried at the moment, so here's a kind of mathematical personality test: two numbers that do not uniquely define a sequence, but suggest some possibilities that reveal your innate character type and/or appropriate career path: Personality Test: What number should come next in this sequence: 101, 1001,...? Feel free to offer arguments for your chosen answer in the comments, and/or to speculate about what the hidden meanings of the options are. I'll explain the logic some other time. (This might be too abstract for a…

### Kids These Days

SteelyKid's preschool "graduation" was today, and in addition to a certificate with her name on it, she got a CD of her class's favorite songs and a composite picture of her class. I'd include an image, but it wouldn't reproduce well, and anyway, I try not to post pictures of other people's kids. What I will do, however, is a rundown of what it says about Kids these Days, since the picture is made up of shots of the individual kids each holding a sign declaring what they want to be when they grow up. The class featured six boys and seven girls, so here are the results by gender, boys first…

### Return of The Physics Bus

My parents have a DVD of the Bacon Brothers singing "The Wheels on the Bus" over an animated scene, which The Pip loves and insists on watching over, and over, and over, and over... As the parent sitting through this on Sunday morning, I got a little punchy over on Twitter, and invented some quantum-physics-themed verses (if you don't know the tune, 1) count yourself lucky, and 2) here's a clip from the video on YouTube). Here are the results: The electrons on the bus are fermions, fermions, fermions. The electrons on the bus are fermions, in antisymmetric states... Operators on the bus are…

### How Good Is My Starbucks Cup?

It's been a while since I've done a post over-analyzing some everyday situation, because I've been too busy to do any silly experiments. We're on break this week, though, so I took a little time Monday to bring excessive technology to bear on the critically important scientific question: how good is my insulated Starbucks cup? To back up a little bit, because it's always important to provide background and motivation when writing a lab report, I spend a lot of time working at Starbucks these days, because when I try to get work done in my office, people keep showing up wanting me to do stuff…