Science books don't teach irrefutable laws of physics

Posted: Sunday, January 13, 2002

It is a fact in life that some people are simply not suited for certain professions. O.J. Simpson, for instance, would not make a good marriage counselor, Wilt Chamberlain would not cut it as the pope and Tipper Gore would have no business being the lead singer for the Beastie Boys.

One of the many professions I am simply not cut out for, along with gourmet chef, swimsuit model and linebacker for the Chicago Bears, is scientist.

Science has never been my area of expertise. As far as I'm concerned, the theory of relativity explains why picking up women at family reunions should be outlawed in Alabama. And I have yet to grasp the concept of why toilets flush the opposite direction below the equator. My brother is an electrical engineer and has patiently tried on numerous occasions to explain the physics of toilet flushing and several other complicated scientific phenomenon to me. Each occasion generally ended with me in a half Nelson and him muttering something about wishing he was adopted.

But that's OK. He may be able to outsmart me when it comes to creating chemical reactions, explaining the space-time continuum and in understanding why the light in the refrigerator comes on when the door opens, but I can still kick his butt at foosball and arcade Pac Man any day.

I'm not exactly on the intellectual par with Albert Einstein, Bill Nye the Science Guy or even most third-graders, for that matter. I consider it a good day intellectually if I don't try to brush my teeth with the tube of first aid cream and remember to change out of my fuzzy slippers before leaving for work in the morning.

I operate on a live-and-let live policy with science. I'm just glad that we have gravity, I don't care to know how or why it works. If the laws of physics don't mess with me, then I won't mess with them. As long as I don't float to the ceiling when I get out of bed in the morning, then I won't start experimenting with splitting atoms, time travel or cooking with flammable liquids.

So a rocket scientist, I ain't. But there are some common laws of physics that I do grasp, they just aren't found in science books or discussed on the Discovery channel.

The 10-second rule is probably the most well-known of these laws. This rule defines the length of time an item of food can remain on the floor after being dropped before it becomes inedible. Generally the length of time is set at no more than 10 seconds, but it decreases proportionally to how long it has been since the floor was cleaned and the number of hungry dogs in the vicinity, and increases depending on how much alcohol has been consumed and how long the dropper has lived as a bachelor.

Like all supposedly constant, inarguable laws of physics, the 10-second rule does have exceptions. Some food items are simply unsalvageable, no matter how quickly they are retrieved. Jell-O pudding is one, as is gravy, oatmeal and, of course, soup.

Similar to the 10-second rule is the 10-percent rule. This states that the last 10 percent of any beverage, roughly equal to the last swig, will consist of 90 percent backwash. Depending on the drinker, this percent can be raised to as much as 20 or even 30 percent, but it is never less than 10. This law obviously contradicts the Maxwell House slogan "Good to the last drop."

The law of public humiliation is the one I have the most experience with. This law defines the complex scientific factors that go into making a fool of yourself in public. Basically this law states that any enormously embarrassing admission or comment made will always coincide with a lull in the background noise, making the comment audible in at least a 30-foot radius.

You can be at a crowded party on New Year's Eve with music blaring, glasses clinking, drunk lawyers at the bar belting out show tunes and enough background shouting to wake Helen Keller from the dead, but the moment you open your mouth and say something like "I have a festering boil shaped like Gumby on my rear end" or "I love Barry Manilow music," will be the exact moment the song on the stereo ends, the serenaders at the bar pass out and everyone collectively pauses in their conversations.

Actual scientists might not agree with my theories, and, unfortunately, I can't provide any mathematical proof to show these laws exist. However, there is no doubt in my mind that they do. So if any scientist wants to challenge the validity of my findings, I invite them to settle this dispute over a friendly game of Pac Man. Any day, any time.

Jenny Neyman is a reporter for the Peninsula Clarion.

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