Monday, December 21, 2009

How I Learned Physics is a Cruel Mistress

The other day my mother-in-law told me what is possibly the world's grossest/creepiest story.  

Apparently, when her grandfather was a little boy, one sunny morning (well, I imagined it sunny) he was minding his own business, sitting at the table and eating his breakfast when all of a sudden his sister (or maybe he did something to provoke her.  Who knows, they were kids, after all) threw a spoon at him.  It hit him in the face.  More specifically, it hit him in the eye.  To be as specific as possible, IT WENT INTO HIS EYE SOCKET AND POPPED HIS EYE OUT OF HIS HEAD!!!

Please take a second to re-read that.  It is for real.  He had an eyeball dangling from his optic nerve and flopping against his cheek.

That spoon scooped his eyeball out like it was digging into a bowl of ice cream.  Too far?  My bad.

Since his family lived up in the frozen tundra far from civilization, they had no access to a hospital.  So his mom PUSHED HIS EYE BACK INTO THE SOCKET AND PUT SOME GAUZE OVER IT AND WAS LIKE, OKAY, MY JOB HERE IS DONE.

Please take a moment to re-read THAT little nugget too.  

Thankfully, it turns out it healed and his eye was fine.  But the story shouldn't REALLY end that way if it is going to have a moral, right?  So here is what I will tell my children:

... His mom tried her best and nursed him day and night, but because they had no medical attention, the eye kept popping back out.  Then he spiked a fever and his eye became infected and eventually the optic nerve that connected his eyeball to his brain disintegrated and his eyeball fell off altogether.  Then his other eye suffered from sympathetic blindness and he lost vision in THAT eye too!  He was ashamed and unable to do anything he used to do, so he withdrew from his family.  Eventually, he became a hobo, and one night when he was trying to hop a train to San Fransisco, where he thought he could start over and he happy, he was crushed by the train because, well, he was BLIND.  And the sister who threw a spoon at her innocent brother?  She was shunned, cast out from the community, and fled to the woods where she spent the remainder of her days hunting and eating rats, possums, and raccoons and forgot English and spoke in grunts and snarls and began walking on all fours.  She was never heard from again.  This, my children, is why you should never throw a spoon at anyone, especially at his or her face.

I mean, It is really important to learn that all-important life lesson:  Physics is a BITCH and she will wreck you when you least expect it.  You shouldn't sugar coat it for kids.

Maybe my brother Tommy could put out some physics informational videos that show kids the consequences of their actions.  Here's why:  When my outrageous brother was taking high school Physics, he had a young teacher who encouraged them to think of creative ways to complete assignments and apply physics to everyday life.  Big mistake.  My brother decided to complete one of his assignments by making a video that showed the properties of impact.  How does a normal person accomplish this?  Get one of your friends to HIT YOU WITH A MINIVAN while the other one VIDEOTAPES it all.

From what I remember, he asked my mom permission and she gave it to him.  I think she told the driver to keep it under 5 miles per hour.  I'm guessing she had given up telling him no at this point and figured he should learn some lessons that involved broken bones.  Plus, we had awesome insurance, so it was no skin off her back if he got a little scraped up.

My brother's videos became legendary, but now that I think about it, it showed physics in action, but did NOT show the terrible consequences of taking that lady for granted.  After he was hit by a minivan in the middle of our street, he bounced back up, grinned at the camera, and shouted something like "IMPACT!" while waving jazz hands.

His videos did not properly illustrate how all the angles and velocities and thingity-bobbers can really screw you over.  I mean, I'm no scientist, but getting hit by a car can be bad.  

After hearing the story of my great-grandfather-in-law getting his eye poked out with a flying spoon, I began to wonder when I really learned not to mess with the forces of physics.  I narrowed it down to two stories.
  1. STORY 1:  I was maybe about 8 years old and my little brother was about 5 years old.  He was taunting me or something and driving me INSANE.  He was across the room and I wanted to show him immediately that what he was doing should stop.  So, my slippers being the only weapon currently in my arsenal, I pulled off one of my awesome Garfield slippers and threw it at him.  It hit him in the face and he started screaming.  My parents started yelling. I started screeching "It's a FLUFFY slipper!  It can't hurt him!!"  Turns out the slippers had little plastic eyes, and those eyes had somehow managed to smack him at just the right angle, whacking him in the face and leaving a welt the same shape as the eyeballs (which I personally thought was kind of cool).  What are the odds, right?  Well, that's because it was NO coincidence.  Physics wanted to make an example of me and ensured the slipper would hit him at that specific angle.  
  2. STORY 2:  Me, my parents, my two younger siblings and my grandmother had just finished eating at a Chinese restaurant.  My mom was in the bathroom and my dad was up at the register, about 5 feet away, paying the bill.  We had reached a fever pitch of hyper annoyingness and had run out of things to misbehave with ... until my brother realized the divider between our booth and the one next to it could be lowered.  He unhooked the latch and let it drop.  What none of us realized was that a knife was sitting VERY close to the divider, and when it dropped it hit the VERY tip of the knife, sending it flying in the air ... ONE INCH FROM MY GRANDMA'S FACE.  Luckily, she was ignoring us because of how rambunctious and terrible we were being and my dad's back was turned.  In this instance, physics was reminding us to mind our p's and q's and respect her. (Oh, and mom and dad -- if you had forgotten about this, I truly apologize for reminding you)
I think I've learned my lesson, and I will always imagine the worst case scenarios when it comes to trajectories, angles, and ... shoot, I told you I was no scientist.


  1. I think the moral of the first story was, popping an eyeball out, usually no big deal.

    I bet it was real weird to see out of for those few seconds!

  2. Muahahah! Truly, you sounded like a little hellion. :p
    The eyeball story gives me the heebie jeebies.

  3. hahaha that chinese restaurant story is definitely one of our shining moments.

  4. Dogimo -- that's why I will tell my children the alternate ending. I will probably also tell them that children who don't eat broccoli go blind.

    Kate -- Yeah, we were kind of terrible. We egged each other on a lot.

    Victoria -- I KNOW. One of our many shining moments!

  5. I think the moral of the first story was, popping an eyeball out, usually no big deal.

    I bet it was real weird to see out of for those few seconds!


Every time you leave me a comment, an angel earns its wings.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...