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Spherical Chickens in a vacuum????????

  • Avatar of nogol37

    nogol37

    [1]Dec 25, 2008
    • member since: 12/25/08
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    I'm a Huge fan of the big bang theory and i like to think quite a smart guy, so far i've got all the physics references bar the joke about the chicken farmer in "The Cooper-Hofstadter Polarization" so just wonderin if anyone could shed a bit of light on the science behind the joke please?

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  • Avatar of Copioli

    Copioli

    [2]Jan 5, 2009
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    Ok, I think the funny thing is that scientists, specially physics, always say things that "If we have an object moving with x speed and blah blah, ASSUMING there is no other forces and blah, blah". Well assumptions are like "the object is a perfact sphere" or "there is no frictions, as if we were in vaccuum". Tnings like that.

    Corollary should be that physics are unable to translate theoretical, simplified problems to every-day, real problems.
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  • Avatar of sockpoodle

    sockpoodle

    [3]Jan 7, 2009
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    I think most people wouldn't have gotten it completely. Still, I couldn't stop laughing.
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  • Avatar of pradyot_g

    pradyot_g

    [4]Jan 7, 2009
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    I think it is a material science joke. When physics students simulate any material science plating, they assume perfectly spherical particles in a perfect vacuum.
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  • Avatar of Nashirathena

    Nashirathena

    [5]Jan 12, 2009
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    Dude, I was totally wondering the exact same thing today!

    The Joke:

    A farmer noticed that his chickens were sick, and called in a biologist, a chemist, and a physicist to help diagnose the problem. The biologist observed the chickens, concluding, "I can tell you there's something wrong with your chickens, but I don't know what's causing it." The chemist took fluid samples from the chickens back to his lab, and returned saying, "I can tell you what's infecting your chickens, but I don't know how they got it." Meanwhile, the physicist had been sitting on the floor, scribbling maddly on several notebooks worth of paper. Suddenly, he jumped up, exclaiming, "I have the answer, but it only works for spherical chickens in a vaccuum."
    Okay, okay, so it's not very funny, especially if you aren't in the middle of a physics class. But I think the joke has a good point: in all branches of knowledge, the only people who can be perfectly certain of all the answers are those who make vast simplifications and wildely inaccurate approximations. In my humanities classes we called them "vast over-generalizations," in chemistry "useful lies," and in physics simply "spherical chickens," but it's the same concept. In order to make any sense of the world, we must ignore and leave out a lot of inconvient details, or work only with very special cases that happen to work out.

    Basically, it's because classical physics doesn't really work in the real world, only in "perfect" situations where everything is uniform and without external factors such as air resistance. Although these things can be taken into account, physics problems generally simplify things to the most rudimentary level.

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  • Avatar of twitch283

    twitch283

    [6]Jan 15, 2009
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    Nashirathena wrote:
    Basically, it's because classical physics doesn't really work in the real world.

    That's incorrect. For a macro-scale, non-light-speed world, classical (Newtonian) mechanics does a beautiful job of describing to the world, past, present, and future. In fact around the turn of the century before the quanutm nature of matter was discovered, physics was considered a dead-end science because all of the major problems had been solved via Newtonian mechanics (or so they thought).

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