Murphy’s Law

This law states that “anything that can go wrong will go wrong.” A hypothetical example might be when you forget your sandwich, your bicycle gets a flat on the way home at lunchtime, and when you finally get there, sweaty and hungry, your girlfriend dumps you for your best friend. “I certainly won’t get arrested for breaking Murphy’s Law today,” you might joke. “Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha.”

Occam’s Razor

“Occam’s razor” is an expression used to convey the opinion that the simplest explanation is usually right. For instance, one might be tempted to explain a certain recent turn of events by thinking, “Most likely, Wanda just needs some time to think over how much I mean to her, and is ignoring my phone calls and saying she has a new boyfriend so that her meditation on my virtues will be uninterrupted by visitors.” In actuality, a much simpler explanation is probably correct, such as “She is a total hussy,” or even “I no longer have a reason to live.”

Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle

This principle claims that one cannot know both the momentum and the position of any given thing at any given time. This, of course, is because anything with momentum has a constantly changing position. The principle derives its name from the sobering tragedy of the Heisenberg, a German zeppelin that caught fire in 1937. (The pilots of the Heisenberg knew their position1 but not their momentum.) This principle affects everything from other forms of transportation to personal relationships. One might, for instance, use the H.U.P. to rebut the claim “This is headed nowhere,” only to hear “Drew, our relationship is a flaming wreck.”

Newton’s Law

As legend would have it, Newton was sitting in his orchard, thinking about important science things (pendulums, Bunsen burners, incarcerated rodents, etc.), when an apple fell and hit him right on the noggin. This led to two important things: the invention of chairs, so that one could sit in the safety of one’s home, and the replacement of the apple orchard with fig trees. Newton’s preference for figs over apples eventually manifested itself in the form of a delicious cookie treat. “Newton’s Law!” is an exclamation used to describe comparisons in which there is a clear preference, such as “Figs are superior to apples in every way,” or “The deliciousness of this cookie treat sure would be compromised were it to be made from apples,” or, sadly, “Brian isn’t better in bed than I am, is he?”

Schrödinger’s Cat

According to many physicists, minuscule things (atoms, electrons, some splinters) are in two places at once until you observe them, at which point they are (obviously) only in one place. To test this, Schrödinger locked up a cat in a box with a little electron that would kill the cat if it were in the first place but not the second. Until he opened the box, the cat was simultaneously dead and alive, a state that is at best frowned upon. This actually does not come up in everyday conversation much, but I wanted to point out that this is an inefficient way of enacting revenge upon your former best friend. A much more effective method is to wait until Brian goes to work and then sneak into his house and put rat poison at the bottom of Whiskers’s food dish. You can also save up your toenail clippings for a while and then put them in his bed.2

Theory of Relativity

One might be tempted to think that Einstein spent all his time posing for funny pictures and not getting his hair cut, but in actuality his contributions to the modern world are staggering. Perhaps the most famous of these contributions is his theory of relativity, which purports that there is no universal moral law and that morality is relative to one’s culture and society. Wanda and Brian, for example, must come from a culture where it is OK to stab those closest to you in the back with a chainsaw. Unfortunately, this cultural subset does not recognize the moral fiber inherent in other, more traditional ways of expressing affection, such as showing up drunk and crying at Wanda’s door last night, calling her names, and punching Brian in the nose when his butt-ugly ass of a face appeared behind her.

String Theory

Things really got going, though, when Brian told me he had been seeing Wanda for months, on the sly, so I popped him in the face again, and then Wanda came at me with a frying pan, and, before you know it, you’re in the back of a police car with your hands cuffed behind you and blood in your eyes and you’re trying to think what led to this string of events, but you can’t come up with an answer, not even a hypothetical conjecture. Which is pretty much the point I’m trying to get across here. No one has all the answers, not even science. But now maybe you’ll at least be able to talk like you do.

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1 Up shit creek.

2 Brian’s, not Whiskers’s.