Sunday, February 24, 2008

The Metamorphosis, or, how PHY 103/4 ruined and subsequently saved my life.

One morning while brushing my teeth, I looked into the mirror to find myself transformed into a free-body diagram. An enormous red arrow had sprouted from my chest overnight, its tip bearing the peculiar label: Fstudy for econ.

I was astonished: I had never seen anything its like. Careful inspection showed that it wasn't made of plastic, or glass, or any other material that came to mind. It was warm to the touch, as though part of my body, but the strangest thing was that it clearly knew what was on my mind, as I had been worrying about econ all weekend, even to the point of a nightmare last night about market supply curves and Ben Bernanke. Did this mean then that my concerns had actual physiological manifestations inside (or outside) my body? Or did it mean that my thoughts and worries actually came from real biological structures?

As I contemplated this disquieting change, other arrows shifted and grew before my eyes, crawling over my face and neck, arms and legs. Craning my head, I even spotted a pair of gigantic blue arrows, one protruding from each shoulder blade, Fparents' unreasonable expectations and Fwell-meaning peer pressure, pointing like bizarre wings to opposite corners of the room.

"This is most unusual," I told my reflection, which responded by sticking out its tongue. On that bumpy surface, I saw, was a tiny silver arrow bearing the label, Fconcern over what the heck is going on with these arrows.

Astonishing, I thought. Incredibly up-to-date. Like gmail, these arrows refresh automatically.

The force vectors were never still. They constantly changed to reflect the shifting pressures on me, stretching and gyrating and sometimes disappearing altogether, though never for long. The night before my econ test, I woke up with all my nerves aflame, so tense I was practically twitching where I lay. I looked down to see that Fstudy for econ had grown to monolithic proportions, completely overshadowing all the other forces the way Manhattan skyscrapers cast little bitty huts made of sticks into shame.

Quick mental calculation told me that I was hideously out of balance. If I wasn't careful, I would find myself accelerating to McCosh 50, and I wasn't ready to go yet. I needed to put on more mass.

Finally, I knew that something had to be done. First, I assigned myself a system of coordinates using the right-hand rule. Sticking my arms out in front of me, I declared my right and left arms to be the positive x- and y-axes, and my head to be z-, so long as I didn't nod.

Next, I resolved all the vectors into their components, and used the back of an envelope (as well as my handy TI-89) to calculate the net force, which I labeled ΣFstress.

Once I found it, I knew that relief was near. I walked up to the nearest wall and pushed against it with the exact direction and magnitude of ΣFstress. As Newton predicted, the wall produced an equal and opposite reaction force, reducing my net stress to zero and bringing me back to equilibrium once more.

The next morning, I woke to find that I had torque vectors tugging at each of my arms, transforming me into a gigantic rotational couple: I was literally spinning from overwork.

Dizzy, despairing, I ran for my physics textbook. I really should have taken AP.


Anonymous said...

=D. I notice that physics itself has no arrow.