FAQ

  1. Rating: +13

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    Why March 14th?

    Because March 14th is Einstein's birthday
    Because March 14 (also written as 3.14 in US), is the international Pi Day
    Because 2009 is the year of science and March is the month of physics

    We have talked about having a day that is dedicated to Physics / Physicists for a long time but the impetus for starting this site came from some recent posts by < a href="http://twistedphysics.typepad.com/cocktail_party_physics/2006/09/talk_like_a_phy.html">Jennifer Ouellette on her Cocktail Physics Blog.

    My first thought was to use a universal constant to pick a date for the Talk Like a Physicist Day and I considered using fine structure constant as a starting point. But 1/137.03 does not lend it self to a pseudo date. I thought about using 137 the day of the year, but the constant is 1/137, should we count 137 from the end of the year? It just wasn't working. The next possibility was the birthday of a famous physicist - Newton's birthday is on 25th December and that date is, lets just say, it is taken. So the obvious next choice was Einstein's birthday, which is on March 14th. It was a curious coincidence that Einstein's birthday falls on the same day as the International Pi day.

  2. Rating: +24

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    How do I talk like a Physicist?

    Here are some terms that Physicists use:

    Order of Magnitude: Use terms like "orders of magnitude" to describe significant differences of scale.
    Negligible: When something is small, say it is "negligible" non-zero, but negligible.
    Infinitesimal: If it is really really small, say it is infinitesimal.
    Non-trivial: For a physicist, nothing is ever hard or difficult - it is always "non-trivial"
    First-order approximation : That is only a first-order approximation to a good cup of coffee… “The living room is clean. Well…at least to a first order approximation.”
    Canonical: Use “canonical” when you mean “usual” or “standard.” As in, “the canonical example of talking like a physicist is to use the word ‘canonical.’”
    Orthogonal: Use “orthogonal” to refer to things that are mutually-exclusive or can’t coincide. “We keep playing phone tag — I think our schedules must be orthogonal”
    Emprical Data: Any actual personal experience becomes “empirical data.” i.e. a burn on your hand is empirical data that the stove is hot.
    Ground State: You’re not being lazy, you are in your ground state.
    Extrapolation: A semi-educated guess is an extrapolation
    Ideal Case: You aren’t ignoring details, you are taking the ideal case
    Vanishingly small: A tiny amount is “vanishingly small” or “negligible.” Really small is “infinitesimal”
    You aren’t overweight, you are thermodynamically efficient
    Potential Well: Stuck in a meeting is “trapped in a potential well,” though you hope you can “tunnel out.”
    Blackhole: If there is no escape, you are trapped by a black hole, from which there is no escape.
    Photons: It’s not light, they are photons. Turning on the lamp becomes emitting photons.
    Exercise to Reader: The rest is history becomes “the rest is left as an exercise to the reader…”
    Not even wrong. Someone is making an argument using assumptions that are known to be wrong, or are making an argument that can’t be falsified. Courtesy Wolfgang Pauli. “Wait, he’s assuming Ron Paul can still win the Republican nomination? That’s not even wrong.”
    For very small values of. This one, I’m afraid, I can best explain by example. “So there are four of us going to dinner.” “Three.” “Okay, so there are four of us for very small values of four.”
    Super position: If something seems to act like something else, I say that it’s in a “superposition of the two states”.
    Other good words to add to your vocabulary:

    Discontinuity
    Renormalize
    Positive and negative work
    God Particle
    Dark Energy
    Space-time continuum

    Other rules:
    When you are asked a question, think of improbable ways a statement could be true and then at the end make sure to give correct answer.
    When a mere mortal is asked a question "Can a pig fly?" typically the answerer is "No."
    However a physicist will respond as follows:
    "They could if there was no gravity, or in interstellar space, or if they had wings, or if they were dropped off a cliff (though it would be a short flight). Generally the answer is NO."
    Here is another example of the same rule:
    Q: two trains are a approaching each other at 40 mph and are 8 miles apart, when will they cross each other? An untrained person would say "in about 6 minutes".
    A physicist would respond as:
    If the trains are on the same track, they will not cross each other but run in to each other; when you say approaching each other, are the trains engines facing each other? they could go around the world and then cross each other, but for that I need to know the location of the trains. Also, I need to know the lengths of each of the trains to accurately calculate this, but in a trivially simple situation, the trains will cross each other in 6 minutes.
    Again, make sure that the correct answer is always present at the end.

    Thanks to Sean, JerseyBoy, Swans on tea, dr. Dev. Stephan at Live granades, James Cronen and many others who have commented on various blogs on this issue.

  3. Rating: +2

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    What do I wear for the Talk Like a Physicist Day?

    As a physicist, the first thing you need to learn to do is to listen and pay attention to all the signals that your senses give you. This is a TALK like a physicist day - not a LOOK like a physicist day. Moreover, physicists are not some sort of outcasts, we all look like regular people. So if you want to really look like a physicist, you can just wear regular clothes.

    However, if you must, you can wear one of those "Thursday threads" t-shirts.

  4. Rating: +8

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    Do I need to carry any props to look and talk like a Physicist?

    You don't really need them; you can do a lot of hand waving when you talk, that's normally enough. But if you'd like to do more:

    (i) Carry a lot of (used) envelopes and do all your writing on the back of the envelopes. In highly technical terms, it is called "doing a back of the envelope calculation." It doesn't have to be right, or even close. It just has to fit within the back of the envelope.

  5. Rating: +13

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    Have you heard about " A physicist, an engineer and a mathmatician..."

    Yes, we have heard them all. You can find some more of them on the blog in the Physics Humor section, and yes, the physicist did the right thing.

  6. Rating: +13

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    What happened to the Schroedinger's cat? How many cats have been sacrificed to test that theory?

    No cats are harmed during Schroedinger's cat experiments.

  7. Rating: +4

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    Are there any Physics Songs?

    You mean, you have never heard of

    Rudolph the bright red photon?

    Yes, yes, yes, there are 100's of physics songs.

    Don't forget the Physics Rap song.
    See here!

    http://www.haverford.edu/physics/songs/

  8. Rating: +12

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    Are there any pickup lines that Physicists use?

    yes. Enterprising physicists have been trying to come up with good pick-up lines since the time of Newton. Here are some examples.

    Please note that the chances of any of these pick-up lines ever working is infinitesimal.

    Wanna dance? I can really put your inertia in motion.

    I know the spring constant of my mattress. Wanna take some data?

    You're more special than relativity

    You and Me = Grand Unification

  9. Rating: +12

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    What have Physicists done for me?

    There are two MAJOR inventions that Physicists are responsible for:

    (i) The remote control for your TV. Imagine your life without the remote control, it would suck, wouldn't it?
    (ii) One word : Elevators! Yes, physicists invented those.

    There are other non-essential things that physicists have been credited with; like airplanes, cars, radio, microwave ovens, satellites, GPS, phones, LCD, DVDs, among others.

  10. Rating: +4

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    Yes, I want to become a physicist, what do I need?

    We are all physicists by nature. Some of us are physicists by training, some of us are physicists by trade, some of us are intuitive physicists, some of us are accidental physicists.

    If you have ever played any sport and have tried to calculate or guess the trejectory of the ball, you are already a physicist. If you have ever extended your arm to balance yourself when you are falling, you have already applied some of the most basic principles of physics.

    So you don't need anything special; you already walk the walk, now we just need to teach you how to talk the talk.

  11. Rating: +8

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    Talk like a Physicist? Come on.. that's silly!

    Yes, it is silly. And that's exactly the point. It is silly, whimsical and funny. It is a perfect occasion for non-physicists to laugh at the Physicists and for physicists to find out how silly they really are.

    We could go on and say that there is an educational value to "talking like a physicist" and that people are losing the art of being a physicist, but we are going to save those arguments when we apply for a $2B grant from the NSF. That's all BS.

    Yes, you are right, Talk Like A Physicist Day is silly... Next question please.

Talk Like a Physicist