Physics is Phun ! Page 2

Here are some very funny science goodies that I think you will enjoy...

Quotes from the experts:

Popular Mechanics, forecasting the relentless march of science, 1949.
"Computers in the future may weigh no more than 1.5 tonnes."

Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, 1943
"I think there is a world market for maybe five computers."

The editor in charge of business books for Prentice Hall, 1957
"I have travelled the length and breadth of this country and talked with the best people, and I can assure you that data processing is a fad that won't last out the year."

Engineer at the Advanced Computing Systems Division of IBM, 1968, commenting on the microchip.
"But what... is it good for?"

Ken Olson, president, chairman and founder of Digital Equipment Corp., 1977
"There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home."

Western Union internal memo, 1876
"This 'telephone' has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us."

David Sarnoff's associates in response to his urgings for investment in radio in the 1920's.
"The wireless music box has no imaginable commercial value. Who would pay for a message sent to nobody in particular?"

A Yale University management professor i response to Fred Smith's paper proposing reliable overnight delivery service. Smith went on to found Federal Express Corp.
"The concept is interesting and well-formed, but in order to earn better than a 'C', the idea must be feasible."

H.M. Warner, Warner Brothers, 1927
"Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?"

Gary Cooper, on his decision not to take the leading role in "Gone With The Wind".
"I'm just glad it'll be Clark Gable who's falling on his face and not Gary Cooper."

Decca Recording Co. rejecting the Beatles, 1962
"We don't like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out."

Lord Kelvin, president, Royal Society, 1895.
"Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible."

Spencer Silver on the work that led to the unique adhesives for 3M Post-It notes.
"If I had thought about it, I wouldn't have done the experiment. The literature was full of examples that said you can't do this."

Apple Computer Inc. founder Steve Jobs on attempts to get Atari and Hewlett- Packard interested in his and Steve Wozniak's personal computer.
"So we went t Atari and said, 'Hey, we've got this amazing thing, even built with some of your parts, and what do you think about funding us? Or we'll give it to you. We just want to do it. Pay our salary, we'll come work for you.' And they said , 'No.' So then we went to Hewlett- Packard, and they said, 'Hey, we don't need you. You haven't got through college yet.'"

1921 New York Times editorial about Robert Goddard's revolutionary rocket work.
"Professor Goddard does not know the relation between action and reaction and the need to have something better than a vacuum against which to react. He seems to lack the basic knowledge ladled out daily in high schools."

Drillers who Edwin L. Drake tried to enlist to his project to drill for oil in 1859.
"Drill for oil? You're crazy."

Marechal Ferdinand Foch, Professor of Strategy, Ecole Superieure de Guerre.
"Airplanes are interesting toys but of no military value."

Charles H. Duell, Commissioner, U.S. Office of Patents, 1899.
"Everything that can be invented has been invented."

Pierre Pachet, Professor of Physiology at Toulouse, 1872.
"Louis Pasteur's theory of germs is ridiculous fiction."

Bill Gates, 1981
"640 K ought to be enough for anybody."


Today's science question is: What in the world is electricity? And where does it go after it leaves the toaster? Here is a simple experiment that will teach you an important electrical lesson: On a cool, dry day, scuff your feet along a carpet, then reach your hand into a friends mouth and touch one of his dental fillings. Did you notice how your friend twitched violently and cried out in pain? This teaches us that electricity can be a very powerful force, but we must never use it to hurt others unless we need to learn an important electrical lesson. It also teaches us how an electrical circuit works. When you scuff your feet, you pick up batches of "electrons" which are very small objects that carpet manufacturers weave into carpet so that it will attract dirt. The electrons travel through your bloodstream and collect in your finger where they form a spark that leaps to your friend's filling, then travels down to his feet and back into the carpet, thus completing the electrical circuit. AMAZING ELECTRICAL FACT: If you scuffed your feet long enough without touching anything, you would build up so many electrons that your finger would explode!! But this is nothing to worry about unless you have carpeting. Although we modern persons tend to take our electric lights, radios, mixers, etc. for granted, hundreds of years ago people did not have any of these things, which is just as well because there was no place to plug them in. Then along came the first Electrical Pioneer, Benjamin Franklin, who flew a kite in an electrical storm and received a serious electrical shock. This proved that lightening was powered by the same force as carpets, but also damaged Franklin's brain so severely that he started speaking only in incomprehensible maxims, such as "A penny saved is a penny earned". Eventually he had to be given a job running the post office. After Franklin came a herd of Electrical Pioneers whose names have become part of our electrical terminology: Myron Volt, Mary Louise Amp, James Watt, Bob Transformer, etc. These pioneers conducted many important electrical experiments - Among them, Galvani discovered (this is true) that when he attached two different kinds of metals to the leg of a frog, an electrical current developed and the frog's leg kicked, even though it was no longer attached to the frog, which was dead anyway. Galvani's discovery led to enormous advances in the field of amphibian medicine. Today, skilled veterinary surgeons can take a frog that has been seriously injured or killed, implant pieces of metal into its muscles, and watch it hop back into the pond just like a normal frog, except for the fact that it sinks like a rock. But the greatest Electrical Pioneer of them all was Thomas Edison, who was a brilliant inventor despite the fact that he had little formal education and lived in New Jersey. Edison's first major invention in 1877 was the phonograph, which could soon be found in thousands of American homes, where it basically sat until 1923 when the record was invented. But Edison's greatest achievement came in 1879 when he invented the electric company. Edison's design was a brilliant adaptation of the simple electrical circuit: the electric company sends electricity through a wire to a customer, then immediately gets the electricity back through another wire. Then (this is the brilliant part) sends it right back to the customer again. This means that an electric company can sell a customer the same batch of electricity thousands of times a day and never get caught, since very few customers take the time to examine their electricity closely. In fact, the last year any new electricity was generated was 1937; the electric companies have been merely reselling it ever since, which is why they have so much time to apply for rate increases. Today, thanks to men like Edison and Franklin, and frogs like Galvani's, we receive almost unlimited benefits from electricity. For example, in the last decade scientists have developed the laser, an electronic appliance so powerful that it can vaporize a bulldozer 2000 yards away, yet so precise that doctors can use it to perform delicate operations to the human eyeball, provided they remember to change the power setting from "Vaporize Bulldozer" to "Delicate". [Who else, but Dave Barry! used here with permission :-) sort of. ]
Evolution of the Math Problem:

1960: A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. If his cost of production is 4/5 of this price, what is his profit?

1970: (Traditional Math) A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is 4/5 of this price, or in other works, $80. What is his profit?

1970: (New Math) A logger exchanges a set L of lumber for a set M of money. The cardinality of Set M is 100, and each element is worth a dollar. Make 100 dots representing the elements of set M. The set C of the cost of production contains 20 fewer points than set M. Represent the set C as a subset of M, and answer the following question: What is the cardinality of set P of profit?

1980: A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is $80, and his profit is $20. Your assignment is to underline the number 20.

1990: (Outcome Based Education) By cutting down beautiful forest trees a logger makes $20. What do you think of this way of making a living? (Topic for class discussion: How did the forest birds and squirrels feel?)
University Application

This is an actual essay written by a college applicant.
The author, Hugh Gallagher, now attends NYU.

3A. Essay

In order for the admissions staff of our college to get to know you, the applicant, better, we ask that you answer the following question: Are there any significant experiences you have had, or accomplishments you have realized, that have helped to define you as a person?


I am a dynamic figure, often seen scaling walls and crushing ice. I have been known to remodel train stations on my lunch breaks, making them more efficient in the area of heat retention. I translate ethnic slurs for Cuban refugees, I write award-winning operas, I manage time efficiently. Occasionally, I tread water for three days in a row.

I woo women with my sensuous and godlike trombone playing, I can pilot bicycles up severe inclines with unflagging speed, and I cook Thirty-Minute Brownies in twenty minutes. I am an expert in stucco, a veteran in love, and an outlaw in Peru.

Using only a hoe and a large glass of water, I once single-handedly defended a small village in the Amazon Basin from a horde of ferocious army ants. I play bluegrass cello, I was scouted by the Mets, I am the subject of numerous documentaries. When I'm bored, I build large suspension bridges in my yard. I enjoy urban hang gliding. On Wednesdays, after school, I repair electrical appliances free of charge.

I am an abstract artist, concrete analyst, and a ruthless bookie. Critics worldwide swoon over my original line of corduroy evening wear. I don't perspire. I am a private citizen, yet I receive fan mail. I have been caller number nine and have won the weekend passes. Last summer I toured New Jersey with a travelling centrifugal-force demonstration. I bat .400. My deft floral arrangements have earned me fame in international botany circles. Children trust me.

I can hurl tennis rackets at small moving objects with deadly accuracy. I once read Paradise Lost, Moby Dick, and David Copperfield in one day and still had time to refurbish an entire dining room that evening. I know the exact location of every food item in the supermarket. I have performed several covert operations for the CIA. I sleep once a week: when I do sleep I sleep in a chair. While on vacation in Canada, I successfully negotiated with a group of terrorists who had seized a small bakery. The laws of physics do not apply to me.

I balance, I weave, I dodge, I frolic, and my bills are all paid. And to let off steam, I participate in full-contact origami. Years ago I discovered the meaning of life but forgot to write it down. I have made extraordinary four course meals using only a mouli and a toaster oven. I breed prizewinning clams. I have won bullfights in San Juan, cliff-diving competitions in Sri Lanka, and spelling bees at the Kremlin. I have played Hamlet, I have performed open-heart surgery, and I have spoken with Elvis.

But I have not yet gone to college.