First, a little electron humor . . .
Anonymous: “In your Niels Bohr column, you mentioned physicist Werner Heisenberg. I’d like to invite you to the next meeting of the Heisenberg Fan Club. Unfortunately, I can only tell you where OR when it meets, but not both.”
Next, a curtain call . . .
Bill Jones: “I just happened to be in New York last week attending a conference when I read your column about the play Copenhagen. Based on your review, I made a point to see the play. I was absolutely blown away by it! It’s an excellent playwright who can make even me think that I understand the complexities of atomic science. I’ll forgive your politics if you continue to make excellent recommendations like this one!
Penultimately, the physics of hell . . .
Jim Reed: “Your Niels Bohr story reminded me of this story:
The Physics of Hell
The following is an actual Bonus Question given on a University of Washington engineering midterm: Is Hell exothermic (gives off heat) or endothermic (absorbs heat)?
Most of the students wrote proofs of their beliefs using Boyle’s Law (gas cools off when it expands and heats up when it is compressed) or some variant. One student, however, wrote the following:
“First, we need to know how the mass of Hell is changing in time. So we need to know the rate that souls are moving into Hell and the rate they are leaving. I think that we can safely assume that once a soul gets to Hell, it will not leave. Therefore, no souls are leaving. As for how many souls are entering Hell, lets look at the different religions that exist in the world today. Some of these religions state that if you are not a member of their religion, you will go to Hell.
“Since there are more than one of these religions and since people do not belong to more than one religion, we can project that all souls go to Hell. With birth and death rates as they are, we can expect the number of souls in Hell to increase exponentially. Now, we look at the rate of change of the volume in Hell because Boyle’s Law states that in order for the temperature and pressure in Hell to stay the same, the volume of Hell has to expand as souls are added.
“This gives two possibilities:
“1. If Hell is expanding at a slower rate than the rate at which souls enter Hell, then the temperature and pressure in Hell will increase until all Hell breaks loose.
“2. If Hell is expanding at a rate faster than the increase of souls in Hell, then the temperature and pressure will drop until Hell freezes over.
“So which is it?
“If we accept the postulate given to me by Ms. Teresa Banyan during my Freshman year, that ‘it will be a cold day in Hell before I sleep with you,’ and take into account the fact that I still have not succeeded in said pursuit, then, #2 cannot be true, and thus I am sure that Hell is exothermic and will not freeze.”
The student received the only A in the class.
And finally . . .
Mike da Mailman: “I like your idea to ask about the source of whatever someone feels the need to forward. Such as that Niels Bohr story. Could you also express to your vast audience that, when forwarding by e-mail, it would be nice to cut and paste only the part of the e-mail that the recipient is intended to read rather than all the headers, all the addresses and all the extra comments that the past 17 readers have added? If I am worth taking the time to send me something, and the item is worth your taking time to send, then the small amount of time it takes to clean up the useless and unnecessary stuff before sending it to me would be appreciated.
“PS. If someone takes the time to delete all the >’s and spaces they have earned my endless gratitude. This action and the time spent speaks volumes of your opinion of me.
“PPS. The time saved by receiving clean e-mail will help me with my Mikeyday, and eventually spread throughout the land and you will get your Andyday.”
[Please note that, in e-mails, PS stands for pre-signatorum. You place it before the signature so it won’t be lost to a recipient who fails to scroll down to see it. PPS thus stands for pre-pre signatorum and should, by rights, come before the PS. Unless it stands for post-pre signatorum, in which case Mike has it in the right place. The committee has not yet met to determine this one. Never mind.]
Quote of the Day
In 1800, 75% of [an American's] working man's expenditures went for food alone. By 1850, that had dropped to 50%. Today it is a little more than 11%.~The Wall Street Journal, September 20, 1996
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