Thursday, September 16, 2010

Prolate Spheroids

A physicist may be described
(to first approximation)
As a simple prolate spheroid
Of infectious obfuscation.
Attempts to oversimplify
Reveal their odd propensity
To speak of spheroid cattle
Which are uniform in density—
Their perfect planes are frictionless;
Collisions are elastic;
They’re rarely seen acknowledging
The random or stochastic.
The chaos of the world outside
May leave them full of fears;
Such terra incognita
Might be filled with… Engineers!

(Of course, in XKCD, physicists are not prolate spheroids, but lines and circles, in two dimensions. Even easier!)


Johnny Vector said...

Speaking as an engineer who was raised in the woods by a family of scientists, I am offended! First by xkcd, and now DC piles on.

There's been a lot of harshing on
My chosen education:
Randall Munroe providing
A disturbing revelation.
It seems that as a physicist
(which if indeed I be)
I cause upset and worry
(but... I have a Ph.D.!)
And I eat some engineers for lunch
In scientist tradition.
No wait, not me, I are one now;
So says my job description.
But really, mostly I enjoy
A more refined and subtle dish,
In print or on a platter,
A delicious cuttlefish.

Dae said...

Saw this first in the Pharyngula comments, figured I'd come tell you how awesome it is here so you'd be more likely to see it. =)

So, Cuttlefish, you made my day.

I'm linking your post to most of the people I know, since a great many of them are either physicists or engineers. I'm a bioengineer-turned-chemical eng-grad student, into bioinformatics research, with a lot of physics friends. The xkcd made me laugh; your poem made me fall out of my chair.


Anna O'Connell said...

This is such a delight for my very hands-on engineer's soul! Though I've been told (by liberal arts majors) that I think like a lawyer, and by physicists that I am much more conversant with theory than the typical engineer they encounter, but can still make the equipment operate. Both sets of comments were meant as compliments. :-/

Just remember: In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there is.

minusRusty said...

"(Of course, in XKCD, physicists are not prolate spheroids, but lines and circles, in two dimensions. Even easier!)"

Simplify them by looking edge on. Then they're linear!

Cuttlefish said...

Johnny, you play both hero and villain in this verse--I should hope you are flattered as much as offended!

Dae and Anna--thank you, thank you... I have had friends on both sides of the physicist/engineer divide, but I did not know it was as global as it appears to be!

Rusty--brilliant! To first approximation, they are one-dimensional! but hey, most of us are, really...