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April 22, 1904: Birthday of Robert Oppenheimer more: Today in Physics  





Physics Tales & Anecdotes

It isn't just biologists who have tails!

A subset of physics tales and anecdotes is The Worst Cheaters Ever

If you appreciate this page, you may also like the Short Stories section of Eureka! Stories.

The following is an anonymous story sent to me. If you have any you wish to add, let me know.

At York University first year Physics students have exams after christmas and third year students used to have exams after Christmas. One student in his first year turned up ten minutes late for an exam and was accidently given a third year paper. He hadn't been to many lectures and he didn't notice that he was given the wrong paper! A few days later he had a sarky note from the department secretary telling him that it was generally assumed that university students had a certain degree of intelligence and could read!

The following story was submitted by Russell Bray. It illustrates something that we Physicists have to live with... people who remain completely convinced of something that is incorrect even when corrected by someone who knows more about the subject than they do.

I am a Arizona State Secondary Ed Major with emphasis in Physics. In a class of Secondary Ed students (none of which are Physics), we were having group discussions. The dude giving his lecture (Theatre Major) asked the class what makes the sky blue. We were to get in groups of five, discuss, and come up with a collective answer.

I was not surprised when two groups decided that the sky was blue because the reflection of the ocean. I come to expect that, deal with it, and realize that they were lied to by their parents or second grade teacher. What I didn't expect was that the guy asking didn't know either. After I gave my response of scattering of the sun's light waves through the atmosphere, he said close, but no. Interesting. "What pray tell, is it" I ask.

He says, "Because our atmosphere is mostly Nitrogen Oxide, all the rays of the sun are absorbed by the molecules but blue, just like this blue folder absorbes all but blue rays." To a certain degree I see his point, but I couldn't leave it alone.

"Why is a sunset red" I ask.

"Pollution. We have beautiful sunsets because we have dirty air." He says confidently.

The following story was submitted by Michael Crawford.

A professor of mine in grad school while teaching told us that a colleague of his used to move his head around inside of particle accellerator magnets to stimulate hallucinations. It also turns out that psychiatrists are experimenting with oscillating electromagnetic fields as a replacement for shock treatment.