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Sep 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!)

5 comments

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  1. 1
    Johnny Vector

    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 onMy chosen education:Randall Munroe providingA 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 lunchIn scientist tradition.No wait, not me, I are one now;So says my job description.But really, mostly I enjoyA more refined and subtle dish,In print or on a platter,A delicious cuttlefish.

  2. 2
    Dae

    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. <3

  3. 3
    Anna O'Connell

    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.

  4. 4
    minusRusty

    "(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!

  5. 5
    Cuttlefish

    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…

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