Sunday, October 28, 2012

Armchair Physics

The scientific community was slow in embracing Katy’s Couch Theory.

To tell you the God’s honest truth, the theory did make much of an impact until around the middle of the twenty-first century. Scientists – even scientists who are physicists like the ones we were dealing with – have always been a notoriously stuffy crowd. They’re stuck in their ruts. They’re impervious to the smallest of changes. Real revolutions in thought are often beyond the capacity of their eggtastic noggins.

This holds true even when the theorizer in question is a scientist of some renown, armed with charts and graphs and laboratory results, with studies and journal articles, protractors and an army of vacantly nodding interns. But if the theorizer should happen to be a semi-literate, intermittently homeless ragamuffin without one iota of scientific training to her name, then, well…

Suffice it to say that the scientific community was slow in embracing Katy’s Couch Theory.

This was the same scientific community which only a couple generations earlier had accepted the existence of black holes based on theory alone and to much applause. You’re asking me to believe – on faith, essentially – that there are tiny invisible holes in Reality possessing such unbelievably high mass that they suck all of the time and all of the space in their vicinity into themselves?

“Sure! Why not?”  the scientists said.

And a generation later: Dark matter? You say you cannot see it, cannot measure it, and that it neither emits anything nor absorbs anything, but that it accounts for more than three-quarters of the total mass of the whole Universe?

“Sign us up!”  these scientists said. They would have high-fived each other as they said it, too, but that would have required touching, and have you ever seen the menagerie of microscopic organisms that reside on the skin cell of the average human? Yuck!

So, for those of you keeping track at home: Invisible heavy holes in the fabric of Reality? Yes! Invisible immeasurable stuff accounting for most of the weight of the Universe? Yes! But Katy’s humble Couch Theory? No fookin’ way, man.

Of course, Katy – heroic and selfless genius that she is – was not embittered by the almost universal rejection of her Couch Theory (then called the Divan Principle). This was because Katy understood the basic intellectual hurdle the scientific community was facing.

It is, after all, one thing to say there’s some incredible force existing tens of millions of light years away from you – a phenomenon you will never have to deal with face to face – that is bending time and space and generally wreaking havoc on the very fabric of Reality in its little corner of the galaxy. But it is a very different thing indeed to say that there is a similar force sitting in each and everyone one of our living rooms – right under our noses the whole time! – and that it is capable of the same thing.

I mean, can you imagine the embarrassment? As one (acutely analogy-impaired) scientist was to put it years later, “It was as though I’d traveled all the way to Africa to see a real live elephant in the flesh only to realize that my wife back home was one.”

Couch Theory is so basic, so fundamental, so close to the heart of any human being who has ever been forced to move their belongings into a second story apartment that it is almost too close to see.

Katy? Well, she was simply the first person to say it out loud. She was an innovator only in that it was Katy who first stood at the bottom of an external apartment staircase, watching fifty of her closest friends struggle with her three-seater sofa, and said, “I know I said I measured it four different ways three times, but… That couch is not gonna fit through the door!”

And she said, “No… No, Rufus… See? The arms stick out too far. Even if you tip it up on end, you can’t get it through the door at an angle where it will go…”

And Katy even said, “I don’t see how taking the legs off is going to make any difference, but you’re the engineer, Marlon.”

You see, Katy had flown in commercial airplanes before. Not a lot, but often enough that she had on more than one occasion happened to look down and see the buildings and the cars and all of the things you and I down here surround ourselves with day after day without thinking very much about it. While flying high above, she had viewed sprawling apartment complexes, and she’d seen how tiny and insignificant they looked from a few thousand feet up.

And that tiny dot of a dwelling place, over there near the horizon? There was simply no way that fifty reasonably intelligent human beings could not manage to physically force a three-seater sofa through the door and into the living room of it!

It defied explanation!

And so was born the Sofa Conundrum, later known as the Davenport Problem, briefly as the Chaise Longue Idea, then, for one very memorable Saturday as the Settee Impression, before a temporary consensus arose to go with the Divan Principle, and finally, of course, a more permanent agreement that it was only the term Couch Theory that really captured the spirit of the thing.

In a nutshell, Couch Theory says only this: “When lifted off of the ground and put in motion, a couch will expand in size to fill any given space, no matter how large the space might be. With this increase in size comes a disproportionate increase in weight.”

That’s it. That is Couch Theory in its entirety.

Isn’t it simple? Isn’t it remarkably unremarkable? It hardly even seems worth mentioning, what with couches typically living such stationary lives. It’s so simple and yet it’s true, isn’t it?

Think about it. That futon you’ve got that’s so small you can hardly even manage to balance yourself on it while reading a book? Just try carrying it in through the huge sliding glass door at your new place and it will instantly expand. It will not go forward. It will not go backwards. You and the friends you conned into helping you will be trapped, holding the futon up, unable to move it either way.

Of course, the architects and engineers who design apartment complexes, they’ve known for years about this quirk in the space-time continuum. It’s why they build the staircases leading to the second and third-story apartments to look like something out of an MC Escher painting: They are attempting to confuse the couch for just long enough that it might be transported into its new residence before it notices.

But this – to quote my analogy-impaired scientist friend again – is a bit “like playing basketball with a black hole. You have little or no chance of winning against a phenomenon of astrophysics.”

So there you have it: It took decades, but eventually, even the scientific community has become convinced that Katy was right. They have become convinced that “When lifted off of the ground and put in motion, a couch will expand in size to fill any given space, no matter how large the space might be. With this increase in size comes a disproportionate increase in weight.”

They even write it in their physics textbooks, right there in black and white for everyone to see. See?

But for those of us living in the late twenty-second century, a new question has begun popping up: WHY? Why does the Universe operate in this manner? What advantage could there possibly be in a couch such as we see in the Ceres I-7(b)(6)-2t€4(q)(q) Nebula – a couch 10,000 light years across, from arm pad to arm pad?

Katy Anders – still a pioneer in Couch Theory at the age of two hundred and thirty years young – has a theory about this. It goes like this:  The Intelligent Universe has developed couch expansion as means to keep increasingly mobile species of life in their own corner of the galaxy.

It makes us stay put. Left to our own devices, we humans will want to relocate across the surface of the Earth into fancier and fancier digs each year.

Left to their own devices, Luxtorpussions in the Bradbury Nebula will look at Earth through their telescopes and they will shout, “Pack the things, Martha! This ‘Earth’ place has tile floors and On-Demand movies!”

But in both cases, Reality will soon sink in and the would-be mover will groan, “But… Damn it. I’ve got that couch. Never mind!”

Because in both cases, the would-be mover knows implicitly – without resorting to high-fallutin’ principles of astrophysics, generally accepted or otherwise – that NEVER in a million years is that couch going to fit up those stairs and through that door. 


53 comments:

  1. jervaise brooke hamsterOctober 28, 2012 at 5:54 PM

    I want to bugger the two amazing naked birds sitting on the expensive couch.

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    1. I was hoping I'd get your input on this one! But I'll tell you what: I certainly wasn't expecting you to say THAT. There's never any predicting what you'll say when you see a picture of a female...

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  2. Might I present my opposing theory, the "Tilt, Angle, Twist Theory" of couch moving. "Any object poorly designed to fit through an average door may be tilted at a precise angle and pushed through the door frame at an equal angle to the tilt shall Tetris that shit right on through." Or you can try popping off the screen of a window. Or burn the couch in frustration. They all work.

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    1. This past weekend, we considered tossing my couch up onto a balcony. There was simply NO WAY it was going through the front door, which was at the top of an enclosed stairwell - to the left.

      It's never made any sense to me: Everybody has a couch, and yet NONE of the apartments appear to have been set up in a way where you can get a couch in the front door.

      Maybe this is my calling in life: To invent an apartment that is couch-accessible. It's all I would need to say to fill up all of the units. "Couch accessible!"

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  3. jervaise brooke hamsterOctober 28, 2012 at 6:05 PM

    Katy, that has to be THE most pretentious, highbrow, elitist, intellectually baffling, and ludicrously absurd article that you have ever posted on this site (if you dont mind me saying so, and with all due respect obviously).

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    1. Yes, I admit it. Katy's Couch Theory seems dense and confusing now.

      But your kids are going to use it as the very foundation for all higher physics.

      I'm sort of like the Einstein or Bohm of the 2040's...

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  4. jervaise brooke hamsterOctober 28, 2012 at 6:19 PM

    Er Katy, that list of your top 10 all-time favourite movies, i`m still waiting little darlin`.

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    1. You just can't rush creativity. I'll get there when I get there.

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  5. the photos tell a great story...

    ---------

    STAND BACK... I got this

    The problem is you failed to realize that couches and futons define the expanding universe. Every Global Warming Scientist that is seeking a government grant will tell you that couches absorb methane gas. Yes thats right... FARTS!

    Now before to beat my private parts with a wet noodle while singing kumbaya, let me explain. Women watching chick flicks while eating ice cream fart. (Yes it's true, I read it in Scientific America.) The result of this not so subtle action requires an equal reaction. Which a course is, the couch and futons absorbs the methane gas. Thus explaining the expanding couch theory.

    As Every Global Warming Scientist that is seeking a government grant will tell you that drastic measures are needed. We are talking Texas Chainsaw Massacre measures. You need to remove the problematic mass with a chainsaw. Cut all growth below the knees, it's the only answer.

    However, if Schroedinger's Couch moves into an apartment , and no one is around to observe it, is Schroedinger's Couch really in the apartment?

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    1. thanks for the brain food and motivation...

      Every once in awhile we like to share a slice of life from the Goodstuff family. Last night Pinko (the commie dog) let rip a stinker. However, the rest of the family blame my ass. I had to explain that it could not be me that fouled the air.

      http://goodstuffsworld.blogspot.com/2012/10/its-gas.html

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    2. As long as I am inspiring highbrow Art, I'm happy!

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    3. Katy, your words are like Da Mona Lisa Screaming American Gothic stuff

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    4. Hmmm... Yeah, I'll take that as a compliment.

      In fact, it might go on my book jacket.

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    5. OK, new and improved compliment...

      The classic dame Katy words are like Da Mona Lisa Screaming American Gothic stuff

      what can I say; It's Halloween in Bangkok
      http://tinyurl.com/GOODSTUFF-HALLOWEEN

      have a bewitching Halloween

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  6. That sounds scientifically sound to me. I don't see any way that anyone could disprove that...

    We considered going the chainsaw route this weekend, by the way. I just wasn't sure whether that would simply give us multiple pieces of a couch that could all expand independently to fill any doorway we encountered.

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    1. Frankly, I would use the chainsaw on the door frame to enlarge the opening.

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    2. Well, but there goes your security deposit...

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    3. That's ok. The cats and dogs were going to trash the place anyway.

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    4. I can only imagine what a landlord would say if confronted with all of the animals that Dana and the kids have.

      My spider can't tear up the carpet or the couch...

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  7. Katy. Your theorum is spot on and I think reflects one of my own. "The dead weight of our past relationships shrinks our doors of opportunity."

    Bigger couches--smaller doors.

    Sell the fucking couch and move in with the dogs and me up here to Santa Fe. I've already scoped out several ladies who might fit your interests and the weather is great.

    BTW--Schroedinger is a prick.

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    1. You know what? I think you're right about Schrodinger. What kind of jerk is so uncaring that he leaves it in a box - knowing that it might be dead (or dying)?

      Unfortunately, in the world I have created in "Lesbians in My Soup," there ISN'T anything outside the greater Houston area. Houston is all that exists. Everything else might have been wiped out by a meteor or nuclear war.

      It's unclear.

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  8. Last time I moved, the Couch Theory kicked my ass hard. I ended up throwing my couch over the balcony. No, really, I did. Don't worry, its fall was cushioned. By itself, of course.

    Also, easy up on that term The Intelligent Universe. We all know the universe is anything but intelligent. Some days I wonder if it has mental retardation.

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    1. For me, moving is generally an opportunity to get a new couch. I'll let the dudes delivering from the store it worry about how to get it in.

      Unfortunately, I am even MORE destitute than normal this time around.

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  9. Great post. There's a lot going on though. First, as a failed wannabe astrophysicist, I'm deeply impressed by references to black holes and dark matter. So, good job. Two, right on about couches...we should be able to disassemble and reassemble them as needed. Three, I'm partial to "Divan Principle" as that sounds way more pretentious than "Couch Theory", but I understand the need to make the theory accessible to more readers. Four, you should consider doing a blog post that's actually about dark matter and dark energy, as those phenomena is at least as baffling and annoying as the tendency of couches to expand when lifted...

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    1. Thanks, Alexander! This whole entry was a little Douglas Adams-y for my taste, but once I started it, I could not stop.

      I once wrote a bit where Lenny Bruce explains Einstein's twin paradox. It sort of sucked, to be honest, but it also made me realize that maybe I was never going to find an audience for the crap I write.

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  10. “When lifted off of the ground and put in motion, a couch will expand in size to fill any given space, no matter how large the space might be. With this increase in size comes a disproportionate increase in weight.”

    I moved a couch up to a second story apartment in the Galleria area with the help of a friend. Because of the railing, it was extremely difficult to maneuver the couch to the door. We removed the legs and with, my super powers, I was able to get the couch into the apartment. Of course, no mere mortal could accomplish the feat as the weight of the couch did indeed disproportionately increase in weight. I was much younger then, though, and my super powers have weakened so I doubt that I would be able to repeat the feat.

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    1. But you are Superman! If it takes Superman to get a couch into an apartment, something is wrong!

      The damn railings! Someone always ends up having to hold the couch over the side of the railing - basically in mid-air and then shove it in a different direction.

      I'm with Alexander Wolfe (above): Star making couches so they can be assembled and disassembled as needed!

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    2. I'm starting a petition if anyone's interested...

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    3. Also, fold-out sofa beds should be outlawed entirely.

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    4. Fold-out sofa beds ARE heavy. I would hate to have had to lift one of those up the stairs and into the apartment, but I don't think they should be outlawed entirely. They should just be outlawed if you have to go up steps to get to your abode.

      Making couches where they can be assembled and disassembled as needed is a good idea. I'll sign the petition, Alexander.

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    5. You can tell we're a bunch of dirty socialists around here.

      We see a problem with the mouse trap, we start a petition to get the mouse trap changed rather than building our own better mouse trap!

      Delete
  11. I hear thee. I had trouble with my previous futon/couch for long long time. Just put a post on craigslist for free, no disposal expense nothing. You get it loaded and thrown without a penny.

    The couch I bought for 700 last year already giving me contortionist lifestyle. Lame blackfriday - I paid for something that had to be thrown away.

    How did you bring it in?

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    1. My couch was delivered to the old place, so I didn't see how they got it in. We didn't have a lot of trouble getting it OUT of the old place, but... it took the better part of an hour to get it into the door of the new place this weekend.

      The problem was that the entryway wasn't wide enough to turn the thing around, so each time we miscalculated the angle, we had to either turn it around in midair (over the railing) or else carry it back down the stairs and try again.

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    2. Finding the proper angle is the trick. Sometimes even that doesn't work, though. My leather couch with a recliner on each end is always difficult to move. You have to have a minimum of three people to move it because it's in three pieces but they're connected by the back. The front tends to try to separate. It's a good couch, but I need to have it repaired from where the 300 pound+ lady plopped down on both recliners and stretched out the suspension.

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    3. Are we still talking about couches?

      Just checking...

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    4. My mind isn't creative enough to figure out what else you might have been thinking of but yes, I was talking about couches. The problem is that there's no room for the person supporting the middle piece to get through the doorway while trying to support that section of the couch.

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    5. There would be no problems if the people who design apartments acknowledged for even a moment that tenants have to move into the things.

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  12. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    1. I dont know if my link started this crap but I am not going to play this trolling crap

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    2. The good news is, your link did NOT start this.

      The bad news is that the two of them have been doing this for a LONG time.

      The bonus good news is that it's done. I've banned one of them from posting further comments, so... it's all good news now!

      Delete
    3. most cool -
      bad news first - the puppies got their yearly shots. They woke me up this morning at 02:45

      good news - unconditional love is a groovy - too much mushy stuff?

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    4. Good news about dogs: Unconditional love.

      Bad news about dogs: No free will NOT to give unconditional love.

      Good news about dogs: Won't generally leave you for no reason.

      Bad news about dogs: You have to follow them around on walks with one of those plastic bags over your hand.... Ew.

      Delete
  13. Heres a very good definition of someone being scum-of-the-earth: "Anyone who treats another person badly or disrespectfully for no good reason". Would you agree with that definition Katy ?. By the way Katy, i`d be really obliged if you`d give this one some really careful consideration and study rather than just dismissing the question with one of your usual smart-assed replys, thanks.

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    1. I am not sure "scum of the earth" has an exact definition - and I don't want to slander scum!

      However, I am a big believer in "Do unto others as you would want to be treated." Seems like a fantastic rule of thumb, and one I try and hold myself to, although I have obvious failings in that regard.

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  14. Katy, conversely of course would you agree that a very good definition of someone being the salt-of-the-earth would be: "Anyone who still wouldn`t do anything bad even if there was a 100% guarantee of them getting away with it" ?.

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    1. You Pedophiliac Imbecilic Hamster Dumb-Ass are a shameless asshole, aren't you!

      You just got banned from this blog page because you just posted that you want to molest Katy's five-year-old daughter, you mother fucker!!! Now you dare to post another comment here to play Dumb-Ass and to provoke Katy again?!

      You Pedophiliac Imbecilic Hamster Dumb-Ass is in fact the scum of the earth.

      So, Asshole, go get a real job or just slit your own throat to end your pathetic existence, and rid the earth a worthless no-dick white-trash that should have never been born.

      How about it, Asshole? Post your Dumb-Ass name and address here, and I will fly over to do the job for you.

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  15. WOW that is a tough comment to follow...

    In further proof of your Couch Theory (or theorum), we had a love seat sleeper sofa that was so heavy, it gave my father a hernia while moving it upstairs to our first apartment. When we moved, we did the only thing you could do, left it on campus.

    It took them 60 years to prove the Higgs-Boson particle existed, so don't be discouraged by the rejection. Finally, as you approach the speed of light, the mass of an object approaches infinity. So it stands to reason if you start moving objects with large masses, they get heavier. Hopefully you have a mantle at the new place to put your Nobel Prize trophy

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    1. I keep you around to tell me what I want to hear, Brent.

      I hope those Nobel prize things aren't very heavy, or else I am going to need help carrying it into the next lace I live.

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  16. Glad I can help. I suspect they are heavy. Rumor has it the physics trophies are made of dark matter. That sounds a little suspect, but I am no expert. I wouldn't quark if it came up and slapped me upside the face.

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    1. I am kind of coming at this Nobel Prize thing from a couple different angles.

      If the Physics thing doesn't work, there is always this:

      I have NEVER murdered anyone using a drone. Obama HAS, yet he's won a Nobel Peace Prize. Therefore, I ought to be a shoe-in for a Nobel Peace Prize.

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  17. as a practicing physicist, I enjoyed your musings thoroughly. For me, Schrödinger's Couch mysteriously comes to mind.


    And now for something completely different, thought you'd like this:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FmkHqUwa4zg

    Enjoy (don't soil the sheets)

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    1. Thank you, DrBobNM.

      The sentiment of the linked video is appreciated! Chicks with guitars always worked for me, at any rate.

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