Written by IainB

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Tuesday, 18 January 2011

image for Directions for physicists Where the Hell Am I?

At school, we are taught that there are four states of matter (in decreasing order of order) Solid, Liquid, Gas and Plasma.

Physicists know of a fifth, which is Bose-Einstein Condensate, which is a kind of solid liquid. However, this is an extreme and rarely encountered outside of the lab.

But what does this have to do with asking for directions?

Well, there are four states of being lost. In decreasing order of order there is Familiar, Unfamiliar, Panic and Where the Hell Am I? Between Familiar and Unfamiliar is the equivalent of Bose-Einstein Condensate called Looks Familiar But I've Never Been Here Before. However, this is an extreme and rarely encountered outside of Milton Keynes.

Solids, or Familiar, are sensible and nobody needs to ask for help. They just sit there being sensible. Everybody is familiar with familiar.

Unfamiliar is similar to a liquid. It's nothing to worry about. It may have more laws applicable to it than a solid, but they are easy to remember and commonsensical. Unfamiliar can usually be worked out without outside aides from first principles of finding something familiar, which is similar to the phase change of freezing. You keep going until you get familiar.

Panic, like gas, can be returned to a familiar state only in rare occurrences, and normally requires a great deal of pressure. Alternatively, panic can be condensed into unfamiliar by application of Gay-Lussac's law, which as every schoolchild knows, is the introduction of an external factor to introduce a phase change to the gas. A common one is adding Sodium to Chlorine. Chlorine is a gas, and thus in panic mode. Sodium is a solid, and thus familiar. The result is salt, which is nice and familiar as well as solid.

In order to attain this, find somebody who is in the solid state of familiar, and introduce them to your gaseous state of panic. This can normally be achieved by stopping a passerby and enquiring as to their state. If they are a solid, then they can phase change your state hopefully into familiar, but if not, at least unfamiliar. Introduction of a second panic will result in more panic, which is no worse a state to be in.

There is a warning though. Continuing to increase the level of panic can result in becoming a Where the Hell Am I? As with plasmas, avoided this state unless you are equipped with protective equipment.

An interesting point regarding directions and with molecules is that there is a chirality possible. In molecules this appears as left handed and right handed molecules that can have subtly different properties when it comes to phase changes. In directions, the chirality is gender. Males are less likely to phase change from Panic to Familiar than females. The reasons for this are complicated, but boil down to the chirality of women is more suited to introducing an external force to force a phase change.

In summary, if you should find yourself in a gaseous state, let a woman drive.

The story above is a satire or parody. It is entirely fictitious.

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