What is there to say? I'm not very interesting. I'm not a good writer. I don't even dress well. If you insist on knowing something about me just wander through the archives. It's all there.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

On buying a toaster

As I noted in the earlier post, I had to buy a new toaster yesterday. I got a really nice one. It has a kind of chrome retro styling to it, a sort of PT Cruiser of toasters. Buying the toaster made me think of the physics of heat transference. The physics of heat transference made me think of the end of my sophomore year of college. During the last semester of my sophomore year, I had taken a Physics class on energy theory. This reminded of a surprising man with a toaster under his arm.

(The above paragraph is an example of why my attempts at “stream of consciousness” writing have been so unsuccessful. There are just too many eddies in my mental stream.)

The first day of that physics class, I was a bit disconcerted when a very elderly gentleman entered the room and stated in the most incredibly thick German accent that, “Your usual teacher is at a conference. He will return before the next class. I am here to teach you today.” I was young and very full of the disdain that most youth feel toward both advanced age and substitute teachers. Here was this very frail looking gentleman standing in front of the class. Even now, I can almost hear my internal sneers of youthful derision.

I was, however, perplexed.

This elderly gentleman who had introduced himself as a Professor Emeritus of Physics was carrying a toaster under his arm. It was just a standard silver toaster that he then set down on the table in front of him. In his heavily accented voice, he proceeded to take attendance. Without offering any explanation, he sat down behind the table, produced a small pile of tools from his pockets, and started disassembling the toaster. We all sat there for several uncomfortable moments, looking at each other, unsure of what to do. He seemed oblivious to our presence. After several minutes of removing parts from the toaster, he looked up and announced that when his wife had started their breakfast that morning; their toaster had suddenly stopped operating. He had promised her that he would repair it before the next breakfast. He started talking about how the toaster was made. He held up various components and explained the way each part worked in the way it transferred heat, channeled electrons, or changed forms of energy. Finding the fault in the heating coil, led to a discourse on electrical resistance and the mechanics of electron flow. His removal of the insulation that backed the faulty coil was accompanied by an explanation of the differences between radiant and conducted heat. He suddenly stopped his tinkering, looked up at us and announced that the time had run out and that class was over.

I was actually startled.

Where had the time gone? I had been absolutely mesmerized for an hour and a half!

How had he done that?

In one session with a great teacher and his broken toaster, I had learned more than in many of my semester long courses. I later learned that the “Professor Emeritus of Physics” had escaped from Hitler’s Germany just prior to WWII. He was a very well known scientist who had a model of the atom named after him.

You can find a whole universe in a toaster.
You just need someone who knows where to look.


Blogger Vest said...

Seriously, may I ask, "what do you do for your crust"

15/11/05 7:29 AM  

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