1. Son of a Theoretical Physicist
Books line the back wall of my study.
Morse and Feshbach; Poincaré; Jackson; Goldstein; Misner, Thorne and Wheeler; Courant and Hilbert; Margenau and Murphy; Abraham and Marsden. And others.
I am my father’s son. Many of those books were his. And more than a bit of my father’s theoretical physical nature runs in my veins.
2. Fallen Branch
We’ve known for some time that the neighbors’ Walnut tree was going to be a problem.
Many years ago, they cut back the branches overhanging their house and their power line, leaving the those hanging this way (although truth be told, at the time they probably did so out of deference to the then-owners of this house who might have enjoyed the tree).
Then a few years ago, twigs and small branches began dying and dropping into our yard and onto our roof — mostly small stuff. We had our tree guy cut back some dead branches when he was here.
Finally, the first sizable branch fell a few days ago. And wouldn’t you know it, it got hung up on our power line. The taut line seemed to be growning under the load but didn’t seem in jeopardy.
F = ma, as the saying goes. A little bit of dynamics. A little bit of statics. Theoretical physics of a sort — visible just outside our kitchen window.
3. Applied Physics at Work
Our tree guy had told us, “Once the branches start dying, the tree goes fast.”
So we talked to the neighbors about it. But that was a while ago. And now they were out of town. And that branch was on our power line. So I gathered my loppers and my saws and and went into the back yard.
I had a plan — a strategy based on my estimation of the relevant physics, my general expectations for the branch’s trajectory after I lightened its load. It was a good plan, because the branch would fall away from me. Which it did.
I know you expected me to say that the branch fell top of me. I am happy to report that it didn’t. It followed the trajectory I expected and fell away from the ladder, away from me. But here’s the thing of it.
When the branch hit the ground, it twisted. And when it twisted, a small sub-branch of it swung around. And when that sub-branch swung around, it clomped me on the shoulder. Hard. And I’m lucky it didn’t break my collar bone.
So you see, the problem here is this… I am indeed my father’s son. I have a theoretical approach to things. I understand Newton’s laws. I can work with Lagrangians and Hamiltonians. I can derive the Planetary Equations. I can tell you about the mathematics of the Earth’s gravity field. Hand-wavy, general principles, big-picture physics.
It’s the nitty gritty that gets me. And that, my friends, is why I shun power tools. Because sadly, theoretical physics.