Thursday, November 15, 2007

Ghosts of Studies Past

The only trouble with college physics was its computational and conceptual complexity. If not for the math and the mind-bending concepts, it would have been a perfectly lovely subject, like anthropology. I don't recall what other courses I took along with physics, but suffice to say that my second calculus class convinced me that I had studied enough math in my lifetime.
So I gave physics the required attention during the semester, but then the subject was resoundingly neglected.

Imagine my surprise then, when I found that what I know about physics would be important to me as a novelist. It is a bit like opening the fridge and finding a chipmunk snacking on a slice of provolone. One thinks, roughly, "where did that come from?"

I am doing research on astronomy for some books I plan to write. The earth's magnetic fields, the gravitational pull between planets, and a number of other concepts smack of Physics 101. So as I take notes and recall formulas, I think...the university was right; I do need to know this information. All I had to do was become a writer for it to be important again.


Kimberly Frost said...

Particles that get trapped in the Earth's magnetic fields bounce around until they collide with our atmosphere, creating brightly colored light.

I had heard of the northern lights, but had not known before what caused them. Thanks to NASA for the beautiful picture.

Anonymous said...

Actually, I think that picture is the Southern Lights, which is the exact same thing as the Northern Lights, just in the Southern Hemisphere. ;)


Kimberly Frost said...


Thanks! I had not actually looked closely to see which pole was in the picture and was speaking more generally about the lights, but it's good to have the clarification.

My sense of direction is not always what I would like it to be. I couldn't be an astronaut. I can just see me piloting the space shuttle... Oops, wrong turn Polaris. We'll have to crash land in Antartica... ;)

Diane said...

I laughed out loud regarding senses of direction, as I have a genetic defect of having no sense of direction at all! The photo of the Southern Lights was beautiful.

Gavin said...

"Where did that come from" is a rather mild response when discovering a chipmunk in the refrigerator. I suspect I'd scream, slam the fridge door, back away several steps and yell "rodents! I have rodents! Eating all my provolone!" Perhaps after a minute I might calm down enough to think "Hmm, that was a cute, harmless chipmunk." But I doubt it.

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