For the holiday season we here at LWON are giving ourselves the gift of confronting our fears. We are choosing our own most daunting science-related subjects and writing about why they scare us.
Oh, physics. It’s flummoxed both Cassie and me. First, you’ll see Cassie’s delightful video about a not-so-delightful experience that soured her on the subject. Then, I write about how my negative feelings toward physics might be related to bad beer. Vomit features in both of our stories.
Mostly I hate physics because I don’t understand it. During the creation of this video I emailed the group to try to get a grasp on exactly how physics is involved in skiing.
Ann took a guess, and then wrote: “What I personally am waiting for is an understanding of the question: do you go faster skiing down hill than you go swooping from side to side?”
Richard responded: Let me clarify: F#$% no.
And that’s when I lost it. “Wait,” I replied. “Was Richard responding to ANN??? I hope not because the whole PREMISE of my f&%$ing cartoon is based on the idea that you DO go faster when you ski straight downhill!!!! HOW COULD YOU NOT?? AND IF YOU DON’T, I TRULY DO F#*&ING HATE PHYSICS. I HATE YOU PHYSICS!!! DO YOU HEAR ME??!?!?!?
It just so happens that Richard was responding to a different question that Ann had asked: “So Richard, do you ski?” He doesn’t.
In high school, I didn’t mind physics so much. Our teacher was a kind man who tried to walk everywhere, often while wearing a red Tyrolean hat; in his calm voice, mass and acceleration seemed reasonable. Vectors went exactly where I wanted them to go, trains left the station and passed each other on the tracks at the appointed time.
But once I got to college, physics nearly sunk me. Maybe it had something to do with finally turning twenty-one right around the time that we hit electromagnetism, but suddenly my notebook was filled with Greek letters I didn’t recognize, people’s names that had become units measuring…something. Amperes and ohms reminded me of bad beer, wretched Long Island Ice Teas (that’s where the puking comes in) and even poorer dating choices.
I walked around feeling shaky and easily startled. Had I meant to write down Faraday’s law or his number? After I took my final, I went back to my parents’ house and stayed in bed for a week, recovering from so many different facets of physics, including the various forces that, a few months earlier, had propelled a car of old high school classmates into a light post.
The high school I’d gone to was Catholic, and each semester, we had to take a religious studies class. My physics teacher taught something called Peace and Conflict Studies; we read about people like Martin Luther King, Jr., Cesar Chavez, and Gandhi.
The clearest memory I have of that class is talking about one of the stories in the New Testament, when Jesus tells his disciples to turn the other cheek. It was more than passive acceptance of one’s fate, my physics teacher had said.
From what I remember, Jesus told his followers that when someone struck your right cheek, turn and offer them your left. My teacher explained that, for a right-hander, a strike on the right cheek was a backhanded blow. Non-violence didn’t mean surrender: by showing your left cheek, you forced the other person to hit you as an equal.
So far, I’ve only written about physics when it features something fun, like skipping stones. But anything that involves currents or moving electrons I haven’t gotten near, even with a well-insulated 10-foot pole. I settled on improving the other circumstances surrounding my physics crisis. Much better beer. A much better guy.
But Faraday (and Coulomb, and Ampere, too), you’re still out there–even as I sit with my Starry Night Stout and my nice husband. Maybe you’re not out to get me, maybe you’re just waiting for me to step up. So here is my left cheek. Let peace begin with us.
Music Nightshift by Brian Boyko