Poe, Poe, Pitiful me

10 physics misconceptions, explained poorly

[This blog post was written by a guest columnist, a D-student in freshman physics who will remain anonymous]

It’s pretty obvious it’s not, even accounting for Poe’s law (as applied in this case, one could not tell the difference between a D- student and a professor pretending to be a D- student, were the professor able to avoid succumbing to snark. Or hyping his book.). The misconceptions are very real, though. One of my favorites, much more plausibly true, is the one about heavy boots.

In my teaching days I saw plenty of these. So much so that we once played a game of “GCE Jeopardy!” at a party my housemates and I threw. The answer was given, and one had to name the Gross Conceptual Error (GCE) that would have elicited the response. For example, if the answer in the “mechanics” topic was “It is always conserved”, the proper GCE question would not be energy, since that’s actually conserved. It would be “what is momentum?” Some students would invariably insist that momentum was always conserved, even in the cases where a net force was acting. Which counts as a gross conceptual error.

The Twinkie Offense and Defense

Meet the Twinkie of particle physics: the muon.

The muon is the sponge cake of elementary particles. It’s plump, basic, easy to mass-produce and disappears quickly—much like a Twinkie.

The rebuttal

Second, despite our relatively long lifespan, we are nothing like a Twinkie, which seems to have an infinite shelf life.

Much like Wonder Bread, the Twinkie’s expiration date is “You should live so long”

These Are Rights, not Commandments

The Physicists’ Bill of Rights

We hold these postulates to be intuitively obvious, that all physicists are born equal, to a first approximation, and are endowed by their creator with certain discrete privileges, among them a mean rest life, n degrees of freedom, and the following rights which are invariant under all linear transformations

There’s actually a few of these “rights” that I think should earn a slap to anyone exercising them, but I’m just going to assume the author was thinking of string theorists and not worry too much.