Posts Tagged ‘physics’

Symmetry Breaking Reviews Rational Comedy for an Irrational Planet

I’ve been writing up my notes from Science Foo Camp, anxious to get something online about the unconference that ended a week ago already, and from which I’m still on a serious high.  Meanwhile…

symmetry breaking has a new review of my “Rational Comedy for an Irrational Planet” show.

symmetry breaking is a blog supplement to symmetry – a great particle physics magazine that explores not only the science but also the people, the culture, and the policies of science.

It’s published every other month by the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory and the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center – national laboratories funded by the Office of Science of the US Department of Energy – and, therefore, the magazine is available for free – in print as well as online – to anyone.  Subscribe here.

The review is written by David Harris, editor of symmetry, who attended my show at the Punch Line Comedy Club, here in SF, last Monday, August 11, immediately following SciFoo weekend.

He also invited me to write an essay on being a science comedian for the print version of the magazine.

Thanks, David!

Conservation of Mass

I noticed a long time ago, whenever my mother would lose weight, my father would gain weight. And when my father lost weight, my mother gained weight.

It was like the Conservation of Mass, within our family.

Being the young scientist that I was, I developed a theory to explain the facts: You see, you never actually lose weight….you just give it to somebody else.

Fat can be neither created nor destroyed. It’s one of the basic laws of the universe. You need to know the laws if you’re gonna live here.

Science Comedy Video

A montage of some of my science comedy routines, taken mostly from two events at the Marian Koshland Science Museum of the National Academy of Sciences (in 2006 and 2007).

A couple clips from my 2008 performance appear earlier in this blog (on cell phones and Karma) and more are coming soon.

Why is the sky blue?

Once, when I was maybe ten years old, I asked my dad, “Why is the sky blue?”

A pretty reasonable question for a little ten-year-old scientist. But he wasn’t in the mood.

He said, “Go ask your mother.”

And I thought: Great, she knows.

I turned from my dad, and headed toward the kitchen, knowing I was one step closer to having my answer.

And as I rounded the corner, I was experiencing the thrill of the Scientific Method. I was following in the footsteps of Galileo and Isaac Newton.

And, to a certain degree, I was correct. I was, indeed, one step closer to my answer. Not the answer, but an answer.

There she stood. I took a deep breath, and asked her, “Mom, why is the sky blue?”

And I’ll never forget her response:

“Because I said so.”

At first, I was in awe of my mother. Later, I learned not to trust her in matters of science.

(The real reason the sky is blue has to do with light scattering by oxygen and nitrogen molecules. The Usenet Physics FAQ of UC Riverside has a good explanation – including the role Albert Einstein played in proving it was the air molecules themselves that were responsible and not particles of dust or droplets of water vapor suspended in the air)

Why is there something instead of nothing?

For all that astronomers and physicists, philosophers and poets have learned about the universe since women and men first peered out of those tiny holes in our skulls, we are still no closer to answering perhaps the most fundamental cosmological question of all:

Why is there something instead of nothing?

But I have my own theory:

It was a tax write-off.

It was more beneficial to have a universe than not to have one. And it was designed to fail – which it has, if local conditions can be taken as any indication.