Friday, January 2, 2009

Answers to Various Physics Questions

Answers to Various Physics Questions:
Some of the most common physics questions concern the buoyancy of various objects. Of course, any discussion of buoyancy is apt to recall a certain historical event where Archimedes, who was the first person to actually use the word, even though he wasn't exactly sure what it meant but just liked the sound of it, sprang from the tub and ran naked through the streets shouting "Buoyancy, buoyancy!". The proper authorities were notified, and buoyancy experiments in bathtubs were thereby banned for a thousand years. There was then a resurgence of buoyancy research in and around Salem, Massachusetts in the 1600s, where considerable interest arose in whether witches float. The question was never conclusively answered, but it was definitely established that broomsticks float, and modern science was born.
But here are some common buoyancy questions: people have called in wanting to know whether asparagus floats. Well, our answer is that we'd recommend staying with root beer floats. Another common question is whether buoy is pronounced "bewey" (to rhyme with Hewey, Louie, and Dewy), or "boy". The answer here is complex, and is deemed beyond the scope of this blog. We recommend you contact "Miss Manners" before attending a cocktail party where you intend to discuss buoyancy-related issues (although if you are known to talk about such things, we doubt you will be invited to very many).
Another frequently asked question concerns the famous, so-called "Schrodinger's Cat Paradox". Well let's put paid to this one forthwith, because we have discovered that Schrodinger did not, in fact, even own a cat---he owned a parakeet. End of that paradox! And please note that the "Schrodinger's Parakeet Paradox" sounds just plain stupid, and we refuse to pursue it anymore here.
And then, many of you have asked why the sky is blue. Well the answer to that is that it hasn't always been, and may not be even next year, according to many of the pundits. For example, in the Renaissance it was a pinkish shade, in the 1930's it was light greenish dotted with little sailboats, and so on. In fact, the sky is sort of like a huge "screen saver", because otherwise the sun would just be way too bright, and nobody would ever be able to catch a fly ball. Hence this is not a physics question, but just a matter of esthetic preference on the part of whoever it is that controls the sky.
Several of you have inquired as to how the bagpipes work. Well, the obvious answer to this stupid question is that they don't, or else they wouldn't sound the way they do.
The last question that we have space for here concerns why us physics people insist on using the Latin sounding phrase, "et al" after our names. Well part of the reason is that it sounds rather erudite, and helps compensate for mistakes in the actual scientific paper. But another reason is that scientists often lack will power when it comes to food, and we are often heard saying that we can't believe we "et [it] all".
That’s all we have time for now, but remember--you can always call to get your answers on the Physics Hotline, 1-800-Why-Is-It. Prices are as always: answers are 5 cents, answers requiring thought are 50 cents; the costs of correct answers, like lobster, vary with the availability.

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