Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Quintessential Quantum Quips

As some of you may know, I have developed an interest in the principles of quantum physics over the last few years, so it will come as no surprise to you that I was completely delighted by the latest series of panels from PhDComics this week:

Slave Part-Equal Duality (An Introduction to Quantum Gradnamics) (On Comps)

Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle (An Introduction to Quantum Gradnamics) (On the Prospect of Graduation)

Schroedinger's Cat (An Introduction to Quantum Gradnamics) (On Productivity)

These REALLY amused me . . . in part because they are SO true of me, in part because they draw the parallels between doctoral work and quantum physics so substantively, in part because they do such a beautiful job of layering meaning via allusions, concepts, images, and text, and in part just because laughs come so few and far between these days that I'm thrilled for a REAL excuse to smile . . . let alone actually giggle!

The comics perfectly capture my present "location" in the developmental trajectory of tasks and experiences that comprise doctoral work. They also encapsulate my current thoughts, feelings, and frustrations beautifully, but in a much more witty and sophisticated way than I am capable of at the moment.

I hope you enjoy them as much as I did!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Frogs & Snakes

She walked through the woods, enjoying the warmth of the unseasonably sunny October day. Peep! Peep! Peeeeep! Now what could that be, she wondered? She continued along the path, eagerly anticipating the little creature that must be just around the corner. Would it be a little bird, or a frog, or some kind of rodent? She was horrified when she rounded the corner and a striped snake darted across her path with a pale green frog dangling helplessly from its mouth.

She wasn't afraid. (After all, the snake's mouth was already full, so she was in no particular danger.) Suddenly, Emily Dickinson's poem, I'm Nobody, Who Are You took on a whole new meaning. Perhaps the little frog she accused of being so "public" and "telling his name . . . to an admiring bog" was a bit of a misinterpretation! He was probably shouting, "Help me! Help me! A snake is trying to eat me!"

She stood there, contemplating the poor little fellow's misery, and debated whether she should try to rescue him or let nature take its course? She decided that even if she were to manage to successfully rescue the frog, he would probably die because he was already full of venom. So, she sent up a quick little prayer that the frog wouldn't suffer too much and then continued along the path, wishing she had her camera with her so she could have posted a picture of the whole adventure on her blog. (Ironically, the reason she had come to the woods was to take pictures, but she had forgotten that she had removed her camera from the trunk of her car.)

Lost in her thoughts, she was quite startled when a second snake skittered across her path. Well, clearly snakes lived in the woods. She'd better watch where she was walking. She noticed a forked stick lying next to the path and decided it would be a good idea to carry it with her just in case . . .

She almost stepped on the third one. He was hard to see atop the multicolored leaves so littered with twigs. He had draped himself completely across the sunniest part of the path and moved away only after she stood there for a few moments.

She was far enough into the woods to make the possibility of encountering more snakes ahead preferable to the certainty of the three snakes she knew were awaiting her if she retraced her steps, so she continued. She couldn't help but think about Eve's encounter with the snake . . . and what this little experience was teaching her about the possible meanings and symbols inherent in it.

By the time she encountered Snake #5, she couldn't concentrate on such theoretical issues because she was devoting all of her attention to walking as quickly and carefully as she could, praying all the while that she wouldn't be bitten. Her relief upon reaching the bridge leading out of the woods would have been palpable to the snakes (which she later learned had good smell and sight, were extremely sensitive to vibration, and whose tongues could taste the chemicals in the air).

Evidently, there are 18 different species of snakes native to Michigan, but only one is poisonous. "Her" snakes appeared to have been garter snakes who were likely to have been born with their 6 (or possibly 45) other brothers and sisters in the late spring or summer and were probably preparing to hibernate together for warmth (hence their abundance).

For those of you who prefer the lighter side of such things, consider reading Lizards, Frogs, and Polliwogs to your children. It is a darling little picture book that discusses the characteristics and behaviors of all sorts of amphibians and reptiles in extremely amusing poems that are beautifully illustrated (and often contain accurate information).

Monday, October 08, 2007

Do you hear that hollow, whooshing noise?

Words can be weapons that pop balloons of happiness, sucking the joy out of everything!