An old McSweeny's list compared different physical theories to women in a man's life. For example,
0. Newtonian gravity is your high-school girlfriend. As your first encounter with physics, she's amazing. You will never forget Newtonian gravity, even if you're not in touch very much anymore.
In a spirited response, Jennifer Oullette offers us -- "in the interests of fair play, the women should have their own version while we're having fun with the battle of the sexes." -- physical theories as men [Thanks to Guru for both the links]. Here's the same Newtonian gravity as a man:
0. Newtonian gravity is that guy you had a crush on in high school. You never really dated, but you spent a lot of time together, and once you even made out in the science lab after school over a partially dissected fetal pig. It didn't go well. Things were kinda awkward after that, but you remained friendly from a distance. Or so you thought. Years later, you find out he told everyone you were a frigid lesbian -- even though he was the one who wouldn't go past second base because he "respected" you too much. To paraphrase Whistler, the helpful demon from Buffy (Season 2): "Newtonian gravity is like dating a nun. You're never gonna get the good stuff." You suspect he may have been gay.
Both the pieces are fun and interesting, and all. But neither of them had anything to say about thermodynamics.
I was glad to see a few comments on Oullette's blog filling this crucial gap:
Tom: Thermodynamics is the guy you're never really into, who helps you move into a new apartment/dorm, even while you're dating Electrodynamics or Special Relativity. By the time Quantum comes along, he realizes it's hopeless.
Matt: Tom is too generous. Thermodynamics is your dad. [see also the Footnote]
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But I think Matt is onto something. Like a good parent, thermo lays down very few laws. They are laws that can never be violated (Even Homer Simpson got it right when he said "In this house, we OBEY the LAWS of THERMODYNAMICS!"). And they are laws that are full of wonderful insights about all kinds of things, and make us see the connections among them.
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Why am I posting this stuff? Well, I start teaching this subject today.
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[Footnote] Here's Lab Lemming on who thermo is really like:
Thermo isn't your dad, it's your daughter.