Complex Matters

This has been a busy week for dihydrogen oxide (HOH.) I use that chemical name for the compound since water is ambiguous, designating, depending on context, compound, phase of compound, and state of compound.  First there was some research from U Pisa (where Galileo made the leaning tower famous, at least to physics nerds) of a new form of HOH that is liquid at temperatures below 273 deg K, but at high pressure. [Link] The other, out of England – which shul or lab got lost in the reportage – is about a new form of solid HOH at higher pressure and lower temperatures.[Link]

I have to admit to not being really surprised. Back when I was a junior in undergraduate shul at the campus of the Black Warrior under doubles tennis playing (allegedly state doubles champion somewhere along the way,) cigarette burning Professor Smith, a righteous thermochemist who proclaimed a fundamental disbelief in quantum mechanics while teaching us a course whose syllabus included such, [1] I got exposed to the phase diagram of HOH, as it then stood, and it was plenty complicated then. It has surely gotten more so since.

Nonetheless, the complexity did set a tone for viewing a few other articles that had mounded up, all dealing with topics and matters more complex than journalists and perhaps even humans can handle.

First, there is research out of U Massachusetts [Link] that women hammer better than men, at least weh the lights are on. Men are demonstrably better than women when it is dark.  I have to admit that my first though on this was what kind of human would use a hammer in the dark voluntarily? But then when I read on I became convinced that what these folks were measuring was not hammering; they were measuring people hitting some sort of mark on a plate.

My father spend years of my youth teaching me to use a hammer and that hammer, a finishing hammer, is only one of several different types, all of which have different characteristics and are used slightly differently depending on what one is doing and what kind of nail one is using. My father’s interest was in household repairs and hobby woodworking so that is what I first learned. And I subsequently taught myself how to do basic woodcarving, which is again different in many aspects. Oh! And I am not very good at either. Way not good enough to earn a living using a hammer.

So what these guys ere measuring can be called hammering only by irresponsible journalists.[2]

Next, from Northwestern U we find that people who are saintly in some way are almost surely to be sinful in some other aspects of their lives. [Link] In fact, quoting the article,

“The study suggests that people with ample moral self-worth in one aspect of their lives can slip into immorality or opposite behavior in other areas — their abundant self-esteem somehow pushing them to balance out all that goodness.”

This brings the immediate question of who decides which aspects are meritorious and which not? Obviously, if one lives in Nawth Alibam, the answer is a formal religious organization. And it being sunday the next obvious question is whether attending sunday services is more meritorious than observing the moral/ethical tenets of the organization?

Next, a report from England that waiters [3] are being pressured to get their customers to put tips on their credit card rather than paying cash tips.[Link] Apparently the restaurants are not paying the waiters the charged tips. Hmmm. Much as I berate the English for their only occasional bouts of sanity, I have to hypothesize that if English restaurants are doing this so are restaurants in the Yankee republic. Lesson Learned: never pay for food with a credit card. The card can get pirated and the waiter doesn’t get the tip. Besides if you separate bill paying and tipping you communicate with the waiter.

But the question is whether the tip keeping is sin or saintliness?

[1]  I have to admit to recalling little of those lectures. By that time I had seen a lot of chemical quantum mechanics starting with basic stick and ball stuff in freshman chemistry and basic molecular orbital hybridization and aromaticity in two semester of organic, and a modern physics course where we actually did solution stuff beyond what was in the physical chemistry textbook. Also, it was summer shul and I had lecture five days a week, lab three days a week, and was working on my bachelor’s research dealing with the hypothetical molecular structure of rare gas halides. As it turned out I would see a lot more quantum mechanics before I finished my dissertation.

[2]  Yes, I do know that is redundant. But journalists have to earn a living too. And it’s better than selling children into slavery.

[3]  I think the popular term these days is ‘server’. Since the average server does a mediocre to horrible job of serving compared to what I remember in my youth, I feel less hypocritical using the old term.