Physical Theories Squeak When You Chew Them

“The Internet is silly!”

I turn around from the computer. “Yes it is,” I say to the dog, “But what, specifically, makes you say that?”

“All these posts about physics theories. Comparing them to women and men and stupid wizards, and relationships. It’s silly.”

“Yes, well, it does seem to be the diversion of the moment.”

“Anyway, they’ve got it all wrong. Physics theories are like my toys.”

“oh, god…” I was afraid of this.


“Go on, name a theory, and I’ll tell you how it’s like my toys.”

“Do I have to?”

“Yes! Go on, name a theory!”

“Fine. Classical mechanics.”

“Oh, that’s easy. Classical mechanics is like a good bone. You can chew it, and chew it, and you think it’s all used up, but then you come back, and you can still chew it some more.” She wags her tail happily at the thought. “Try another one.”

“Umm… Classical electrodynamics.”

“Classical electrodynamics is like my food cube. There’s good stuff in there, but you have to work really hard to get at it. Sometimes, you have to bat it all around the room for hours to get the last little bits.”

“I guess I can buy that. God knows, I’ve felt like batting Jackson around the room for hours.”

“The book, or the author?”

“Whichever was handy. OK, how about quantum mechanics?”

“Quantum mechanics is an odd-shaped squeaky toy, like my anime cat, or the demon squeaky ball. You think you know where it’s going to go, but then it takes a weird bounce, and you have to chase it some more. But when you get it, it makes all kinds of cool squeaky noises when you chew it.”

“That makes a certain amount of sense…”

“Also, if you chew the legs off, it gets easier to catch.”

“How do you chew the legs off quantum mechanics?”

“Ummm…. The WKB approximation?”

“OK, we’re done, here.”

“But I’ve got more! Special relativity, general relativity, nonlinear dynamics…”

“I get it, you’re very clever. Everybody gets it.”

“… analytical mechanics, quantum electrodynamics…”

“Oh, all right. I’ll bite. What sort of dog toy is QED?”

“A bunny made of cheese, silly!”

“Walked right into that one, didn’t I?”


16 thoughts on “Physical Theories Squeak When You Chew Them

  1. After 17 years of being out of the game, I finally find out why we covered WKB analysis in that hellish class on perturbation theory and asymptotic analysis. The crazy thing is that I still have my copy of Bender & Orszag complete with embarrassing crease from a momentary loss of temper.

    I rarely punch my books these days – I’m older, calmer, wiser (maybe), and there’s no pressure to learn the material so I can actually enjoy the learning process. I’m working my way up to revisiting that material, half to make peace with it and half to get a more interesting job than wrangling a server farm. I figure if my head is going to hurt from banging it against something, that something should be a good solid technical problem rather than (say) Oracle.

  2. Addendum: since first reading this post this morning I found a dead mouse in my library. Note that mice, perhaps like physical theories, only squeak when they are alive.

  3. I just have to mention that I went over to the “Bunnies Made of Cheese” post and was amused in particular by the phrase “bunny-anti-bunny pair,” especially in the context of things annihilating themselves. Usually, bunnies in pairs don’t wink out of existence; they make more bunnies. (My mother’s garden would probably appreciate bunnies with exceedingly short half-lives. Me, I’m holding out for squirrels.)

  4. Some theories are chewy. But others are more stringy.
    I think 11-d catnip is what #1 would prefer.

  5. I don’t know if Annie’s Cheddar Bunnies have been mentioned on the blog before, but our local grocery store does carry them. They’re good–well, I think so, but I haven’t let Emmy try them. =>

  6. The WKB approximation as a punchline! Excellent! Who would think that I would be sitting here quietly at my computer and the WKB approximation would make me smile.


    I smiled the second time when I imagined Stephen Colbert asking you to explain it to him when you are on his show pushing your book early next year. (New version of an old thesis defense rule: Don’t put anything in there that you wouldn’t want Colbert to pick out of the blue in a live-to-tape interview.) You also need to start explaining to Emmy why she can’t go on the show, too.

    PS – One british physicist I knew insisted on calling it the JWKB approximation.

    PPS – The “Williams Ephs beer pong team” (that’s exactly what the guy said) got a shout-out on CNBC this afternoon during a story about a new Wii beer pong game. (One of the hosts must be a Williams grad.) As a future father, are you going to join the Upset Parents Brigade or buy Future Baby a copy of the game?

  7. Cheese Bunny Physics

    Credits for my Image:
    Prof Chad Orzel, for the inspiration, Thank you.
    Richard Feynman, for the diagram and everything he stood for.
    Wikipedia for the explanation of the Feynman Diagram, I’m a non scientist layperson kinda guy.

    Last but not least this guy with his link to scaryideas, (that’s an understatement if ever there was one.) LOL!

    # 15 | Luke | May 29, 2007 8:40 PM
    Hi, as soon as I saw the link (below) I remembered this post. I think maybe this advertising company reads your blog? Bunnies of cheese indeed …

  8. bhold, Ceiling Cat iz apeerd un2 me in a vizhun as i wuz in mai kitchn NOMNOMNOMing mai lunchz.

    4 Ceiling Cat iz teh M00chr & can heerz sound ov frij openin form 2 milez awai: & Ceiling Cat iz evr redy 2 axept sakrifysez of tunaz & cheezburgerz & milkz & cookies & left ovr chikn & lazanyaz & stufz. (but g00shyfudz iz teh k in teh emurjensyz.)

    & i offrd sakrifysez un2 Ceiling Cat. & Ceiling Cat NOMNOMNOM teh sakrifysez & wuz wel pleezd & prrrrrrrd mytily.

    & den i sed un2 Ceiling Cat: sum1 iz on teh Intarwebz tryin 2 figur out teh fizix. & dey is aks wot u thinkx.

    & Ceiling Cat sed un2 me:

    bhold, I AM teh 1 Tru Ceiling Cat wot maded u but did not eated u. but sily hy00minz iz tinkx deyz got evry ting figurd out. der4 harken un2 Mai Wurdz:

    Ceiling Cat iz wachin u spekulate. wot, u tinks Ceiling Cat folowz hy00min fizix? woah un2 u, u f00lz! verily, I shud Smite(TM) u 4 dat!

    but den agin, mai b not. den who wud openz up teh canz of g00shyfudz 4 Me? & who wud go 2 MickyD’s & bringz bak Mai cheezburgers?

    bhold, I teh 1 Tru Ceiling Cat can beez teh nise wen iz revelant 2 Mai intrestz.

    dere4 Im in ur Intarwebz showin u teh tru Lawz of Fizix wot Iz reveeld un2 My profet Mendenhall, wot hath translaitd dem in2 peepspeek 2 meks it eezyer 4 sily hy00minz 2 unnrstandz:

    …Law of Cat Composition
    A cat is composed of Matter + Anti-Matter + It Doesn’t Matter….

    Law of Cat Gravitation
    A cat’s gravitational pull (i.e. weight) will vary upward in direct proportion to the desire of the human to move the cat.

    Law of Cat Inertia
    A cat at rest will tend to remain at rest, unless acted upon by some outside force – such as the opening of cat food, or a nearby scurrying mouse….

    Law of Cat Probability (Uncertainty Principle)
    It is not possible to predict where a cat actually is, only the probability of where she might be….

    Law of Cat Thermodynamics
    Heat flows from a warmer to a cooler body, except in the case of a cat, in which case all heat flows to the cat….

    ders moar but u go raeds it ur own self. wot, u tinkx Iz gonna do evryting 4 u?

    & bhold, I tellz u moar tru mistryz ov teh fizix:

    sily hy00minz iz meks all kindz ov sily guessz bout wot happenz to kitteh wif buttrd tost on bak. bhold, I shal tellz u:

    kitteh wif teh buttrd tost on bak wil spinz untill iz casted 4th fur ballz & g00shyfudz & cheezburgerz & cookies & left ovr peepsf00dz & mai be a mous or a burdie upon ur hed, and u shal be cuvrd ovr in foul filth & disgustitudez.

    & kitteh shal land wif clawz deeply berryd in ur bak. & der shal b gret walin & ganashin of teefs.

    der4 u shal not tiez buttrd tostz 2 bak ov kitteh & drop him form teh gret hitez if u noes wots g00d 4 u.

    Shrodingr iz evoler den puppeh. i shud hav eated him wen i had teh chans. 4 he hath put Mai kittehs in soar danjr wif his st00pid xpeermints, & iz meks Mai kittehs afrayd 2 go in boxz nemoar evar.

    der4 i shal cast him in2 teh box & seez how he lieks it. & i shal seelz box wif teh Duct Tape(TM) so hez no can jumpz out evar lolololol.

    Einstien wuz FAIL cuz he sed I duz not playz teh dices. sily hy00min! u jus dropz 1 on teh florz nex tiem u playz Yahtzee & seez how fast Iz bat it undr teh furnichrz wer u no can has it lololol.

    stringz theery iz 1 ov teh gretest tingz Iz evar maded, cuz wachin sily hy00minz chasin invisibl stringz al ovr teh plase is TEH FUNNEEEEEEEEEEEE ROFLMEOW!!!1!

    & teh rest of peeps fizix i jus maded up 1 dai wen i wuz in mai Kitty Kondo havin nuffink betr 2 do, jus 2 conf00zle sily hy00mins. so tehre.

    dis iz teh Tru Wordz of Ceiling Cat. nao, i can has cheezburger? kthxbai.


  9. Bwahahaha that was awesome! The Jackson comment and the WKB approximation punchline had me in stitches. And of course #12’s Ceiling Cat message 😛

  10. I somehow wandered into this high-brow blog. I had to read the post twice to understand what the heck was going on. lol.

  11. It took some time to understand this blog. When however finished I think it is funny! A dialoque with your pet is not bad and normally you will be the winner. One day I shall tell you about my experience with all the dogs in the small place I live, we call it Dog City, because they are on top of everything

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