Sunday, December 16, 2007

Bastard of the Day

Julie Deardorff tells how to avoid slipping on the ice, courtesy of Mark Grabiner, director of the Clinical Biomechanics and Rehabilitation Laboratory at the University of Illinois at Chicago:

Look where you're going.

<sigh> I guess in this age of cell phones, iPods, and complete obliviousness to one's surroundings, people have to be told to just pay some freaking attention.

So why is Grabiner's name boldfaced above as today's bastard? Deardorff adds this:
Grabiner, by the way, is uniquely qualified to dispense advice: He is one of the only researchers in the country who deliberately trips senior citizens to study how they fall.*
Okay, so he's not really a bastard since he's doing it in the name of science and helping others. But if you met a guy at a cocktail party and asked him what he does for a living, and he said, "I trip old people just to watch them fall," what would you think?

* Deardorff (or her editor) gets credit for not using the tautological "fall down" (in what other direction would one fall?).

Speaking of gravity, that reminds me of a teacher I had in high school. I took a class called "Principles of Technology," which was touted as a bold, new, interdisciplinary course merging the concepts of math and physics with the practical applications of a shop class. I fondly recall it as "Physics for Burnouts." I only took it because my best friend wanted to, and he thought it would be an easy "A." He was already taking real physics and pre-calculus on his way to becoming president (at age 36) of a steel fabricator's engineering department, so the course was quite basic for him. I was just looking to pad my GPA to help get a college scholarship. Fortunately, it was an easy "A," and we had a good time interacting with the burnout subculture. We even learned about Guns N' Roses before they became phenomenally popular. Anyway... our teacher was a good guy who seemed to know what he was talking about, but he relied on the word tends a bit too much. One day, he explained to the class, "The Earth's gravity tends to pull things downward." Uh, dude, aren't the laws of physics a bit more definite than that?

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