The path of least resistance

I hate math.  I’ve always hated math.  The irony of my being an accountant is not lost on me however, and I can only argue the point that while I do work with numbers on a daily basis, it’s not really math.  It’s easier.  It’s tangible.  I have a calculator.  It has a tape.  Ask me to calculate the amortization of a fixed asset over 36 months.  No problem.  You want to see YTD PTOI?  Sure, here you go.  What I cannot fathom is why anyone would enjoy studying say, differential calculus.  Or linear algebra.  Or any derivatives thereof.  The thought alone gives me hives.  I’m sure both play very important roles in the development of rocket ships and ergonomic toilets and stuff, but my advanced math career ended in highschool, and that’s where it shall remain.  Forever.

Science on the other hand, I like.  Biology, chemistry, and yes, even physics.  I know some would argue that I should hate physics based on my aforementioned revulsion to all things math, but I’ve come to realize that physics has practical application.

Take, for example, Newton’s Laws of Motion.  Physicist or not, anyone can apply these theorem to the world around them.  Consider the next time you help a friend move.  The couch won’t pick itself up, (the first law).  Your other so-called friend is a no-show, so you’re now left to lug it up 4 flights of stairs alone, thereby causing you to sweat profusely and use muscles you didn’t even know you had, (the second law).  And finally, as you near the top, the couch slips from your grasp, topples down the stairs, and smashes through the wall of a third floor apartment, scaring the crap out of the little old lady who lives there, (the third law).  Note: though not based on any scientific formulae, Murphy’s Law could also be applied to this scenario.

In a recent study however, I’ve determined that Newton’s Laws can also be applied in the workplace.  The laws encompass the reactions of objects to external forces, the same can be said of individuals at work, in an office for example.  Findings are published below.

Newton’s first law states that an object in a state of rest will remain in that state unless an external force is applied.  Similarly, a lazy colleague will continue to be lazy, unless otherwise motivated by the time of day.  In this case, the object is the lazy colleague and the external force is a clock changing to 4 pm.  Until those three digits are displayed, the subject in question will remain in a semi-vegetative state doing as little as possible to justify a paycheck.  The only variant to this behaviour was observed when the individual was asked to perform a duty outside the scope of their normal job function, such as answering an email or retrieving a document, (this is the force), prompting the individual to walk over to another coworker’s desk and proceed to bitch for 30 minutes about how busy they are.

The second law: F=ma or Force = mass x acceleration.  The change in the velocity of an object is directly proportional to the amount of force applied and inversely proportional to the object’s mass.  Examining another individual in a leftover-goodies-from-a-meeting type scenario, the speed (a) at which the object (m) walks is directly proportional to the number of goodies remaining on the tray, in which case the object’s greed (F) is the driving force.  If there is only half a sandwich and a pickle remaining, the velocity increases exponentially, giving the individual a greater chance at procuring the lone morsel.  Most instances of the second law in action involved free food of some sort.  Future study being planned to determine the salivary flow rate to free food ratio of colleagues when a lunch tray goes by.

For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.  This is Newton’s third law.  A bird pushes the air down while in flight and the air pushes back on the bird, keeping it aloft.  Similarly, an individual who is asked to take on a new task will blatantly refuse the additional duties.  The more they are asked, the more the individual will protest.  This was also accompanied by acts of belligerence.  Conversely, the subject making the request to the individual, will provide perfect example of the law in effect whilst beating their head against a wall.  (All damage to office property was repaired prior to the conclusion of this study). 

There are many scenarios in the same environment that would also qualify.  Any technical difficulties with a jammed photocopier, and the clearing thereof, could encompass any or all of the three laws.  Slapping your coworker, (see previous blog posting “Catharsis”), displays a good example of law number 3.  The amount of force that needs applied to a heavy stack of paperwork when carrying it to the shredder; laws 1 and 2.  Practical application at its finest.

In conclusion, (because my teachers always said that lab reports always have to follow the proper structure), the laws of motion are in evidence all around us.  My workplace was the perfect environment to see them in action, but any working environment could be substituted for an office.

As for my career as a physicist, I’m afraid this is where it ends.  There will be no Nobel prize in my future.  But more importantly, I’ve realized something about myself.  I’d much rather study inanimate objects.  They’re far less annoying.

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