Sunday, 12 December 2010

Merry Christmas

There was a caveman named 'Ogg' who lived in Waterloo. Everyday, Ogg would drive to his job in Ikea, stopping first in Hamilton to pick up his work colleague, caveman 'Thor'. As the weeks went by, Ogg noticed the rest of the people he worked with were changing. They were becoming taller, their heads looked different and they started wearing more clothes. Eventually, he decided to ask about it.

"Don't you know?" his work colleague replied. "If you commute with a Hamiltonian you don't evolve."

No, this was not in fact an episode of the TV sitcom, 'The Big Bang Theory', but the Physics and Astronomy holiday party. Yes, I found the conformation to stereotypes alarming as well.... I also laughed at that joke. This was even more alarming. It was clearly time for another beer.

For those for whom quantum mechanics has not become part of their humour repertoire, the above joke plays on the name of a maths function called the Hamiltonian that is used to calculate the energy of a system, e.g. a particle attached to a spring. If another property of that system, for instance the amount of rotation it has (angular momentum), does not change as time passes, it is said to 'commute' with the Hamiltonian. Of course, the term 'Hamiltonian' could also mean a person from the city of Hamilton. So our caveman friend Ogg was commuting with the Hamiltonian, Thor, and therefore couldn't change over time or evolve.

... Yeah. The explanation doesn't make it a more excusable joke.

Merry Christmas everyone.

1 comment:

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