Friday, March 24, 2006

Can hot water freeze faster than cold water?

The average person can quote more untruths than truths about our physical world - a fact that disappoints me. My disappointment turns into irritation when I can't convince a misinformed person that their "belief" is only an "old wives’ tale". I’m a physicist and engineer, which means that I know a very little bit more than the non-physicist/engineer about the physical laws of our universe. Just enough to know that what fails the common sense test is often untrue. One such belief is that hot water freezes faster than cold water. You wouldn’t believe the number of times that I’ve been told this yet I have NEVER been able to convince one of the believers that the old wives’ tale is not true.

Today, I was searching the internet and one of the results was a paper titled “Can hot water freeze faster than cold water”? (Just my luck!) The author of the paper states that this tale is true but only if certain conditions are met. I find the paper believable but I still disagree with this tale. I can make an equivalent argument that “man can fly”. Under certain conditions. Let the man buy an airline ticket. Ensure that the man has in his possession all the necessary papers to satisfy the applicable security requirements. Let the man board the plane, take his seat and abide by all of the applicable rules of conduct for a passenger. Let the plane in which the man is seated take off successfully and fly (to move in the air with wings without support from the ground). Yep, hot water freezes faster than cold water and man can fly.

If you have the time and interest, I suggest that you read the paper titled “Can hot water freeze faster than cold water?”

If you are interested in checking out a few more “wives’ tales” for some that you like I may believe, take this link to Wikipedia.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Hollywood versus Hollywood

I know I’m about a week late with this post but I’ve been busy finishing my projects at work before my early retirement on March 31st. Hollywood’s uproar over the Best Picture Oscar reminds me of the mad man threatening to shoot himself in the head because he doesn’t agree with himself.

Before the nomination of Brokeback Mountain for Best Picture Oscar it appeared that all of Hollywood considered Brokeback Mountain the Best Picture Oscar winner. After the Oscar Committee nominated Brokeback Mountain for Best Picture Oscar, Hollywood was absolutely sure that Brokeback Mountain had the Best Picture Oscar. Hollywood applauded its film makers and the Oscar committee for having the courage to make and recognize a film that defends and normalizes homosexuality - no little matter considering the near-revival strength of conservative Christian ranks.

But, Brokeback Mountain didn't win the Best Picture Oscar – Crash won – and Hollywood is beside itself with disappointment and anger. Is Hollywood upset because Brokeback Mountain was really the Best Picture? Or, is Hollywood upset because members of their own ranks threw away a big opportunity to make a liberal statement about homosexuality? Is Hollywood liberal enough to nominate Brokeback Mountain yet biased enough to give the Best Picture Oscar to the second best movie? Maybe, but it’s at least equally possible that the Oscar voters, a subset of Hollywood, acted apolitically. Producers, directors, screenwriters and actors have every right to express their opinion – any opinion – through the movie medium. If movie makers were strictly interested in the art and technology of movie making, would the general public be entertained? The movie makers have something to say and often it’s something they have to get off their chest. The viewing audience wants to be entertained. They want to laugh; to cry; to get mad; to fall in love. Most of us were very impressed by the technical artistry of the graphics in “Shrek” but the movie makers really, really touched us when Love proved again that beauty is only skin deep.

So, I give kudos to the movie makers for putting their money where their mouths are and I give the benefit of the doubt and kudos as well to the Oscar voters who remained, I hope, true to their charge.