Friday, April 16, 2010

Egg-ceptional Physics

The age old ‘egg drop’ experiment in physics is a bit ‘overdone’ (pun intended) these days, but when I was in high school, we thought it was just about the most unique experiential learning device known to hen … oops - uh MAN. The basic premise is that you are given a raw egg, which like the drug commercials of old, represents your noggin and the presumably ‘synaptic goo’ inside. You then devise a way to protect said ‘brain-mush’ facsimile from suffering fatal destruction when dropped off a 5 to 10 story structure. The only restrictions are you cannot pack the egg entirely in foam padding and you have to limit your protective container to around a third of a cubic foot (4”’ X 4” x 4”) in volume (meaning no wings or parachutes).

Sounds simple enough especially to a bunch of sophomoric high schoolers (namely me). The only wrinkle in my universe was that my future wife (then girlfriend) was in the same class. That adds a whole new level of teen angst and male hormonal bravado, that should ordinarily be reserved for less scientific venues, such as a school dance or garage band rehearsal. Not only was my wife infinitely more adept at the principles of ‘brain saving’ physics than I, she has always been extremely competitive. So being a little short on ‘yoke’ myself, I did the obviously logical thing and proposed an all-out, ‘throw-down’ egg-stravaganza competition with my wife. The bet was that my egg would survive the fall and of course hers would not. The loser would not only face public ridicule since the whole science department was aware, but also would have to EAT THE RAW EGG in front of our physics class!

Not deterred by heavy competition, my friends ‘egged’ me on to think out of the box and find a unique solution which would not only save the egg, but most of all impress the teacher ( ok I’m lying – I ONLY wanted to impress my girlfriend, but it sounded better the other way). Amazingly my parents kind of got into the spirit of brainstorming as well and helped me ‘hatch’ a brilliant solution. My mother donated a pair of panty hose and history was born. I made an elastic suspension harness attached to 6 points on the outside of my lightweight cardboard box. Kind of like an Apollo mission, I would open the hatch, lock the perfectly centered egg in-between those taut elastic pantyhose ropes and then knew, victory was at hand.

It was an early morning when we climbed the tower to throw our eggs into oblivion. I was relaxed, confident, and felt like Rocky Balboa as he mounted the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s entrance steps, in training triumph to competitive perfection. I launched my egg and my wife did tossed hers as well. The whole class and teacher awaited the results 60 feet below. Both containers had no visible signs of damage and no liquid evidence of failure was present. With hushed anticipation, my wife opened her drop-box to reveal a PERFECT egg simply crated in a series of cut cardboard strips, not unlike how you would store a treasured Christmas ornament. BIG DEAL – that was stupidly simple. That probably took her all of 5 minutes to think up and even less time to make; my victory was assured. As you’ve already guessed, I got to feel like Rocky Balboa again – as that disgusting lump of a yoke hit the back of my throat, to the collective ‘EWWWWW’ of the entire physics class.

1 comment:

  1. Dear Son:
    How DARE you talk about my pantyhose in front
    of your millions, maybe even dozens, of readers!
    Also, we told you never to eat undercooked eggs
    due to salmonella. You're grounded again!
    -- Mom