We’d been working on the problem set all night, and we’d gotten all of them except for number 9. I was convinced that you started the problem by treating the entire system as closed and using some handwavy thermodynamic arguments to get an answer, and Joe was sure you started by integrating the force on a single particle. We were both sure our respective approaches were right, but neither of us could quite get the answer either.
The chalkboards in the corner classroom were filled. It was already 1am and class was the next morning at 8, and still this last problem refused to budge. I put my head in my hands and tried to stay awake. Joe put his feet on the wall above his head and started humming. I was getting ready to give up and head back to the dorms and just take the grade hit when Joe said, “Wait,”
He rushed over to one of the chalkboards and erased my math. “Hey!” I said.
“I’ve got it,” he said. “I’ve got the sonofabitch.” He began drawing force diagrams. “If you assume the force is invariant with time, and I’m pretty sure you can, you get…” and here he drew out the equation.
I looked at it. “But you’re ignoring particle-particle interactions,” I said.
He grinned at me. “Let’s act as if they don’t exist.”
I meant to answer him, but before I could I felt the particles in my fingers dissociating from each other. I watched as Joe’s grin turned into a sudden frown for only half a second before oblivion came, and with it an endless darkness.
Written Summer 2015 for a fellow Allegheny College Physics Alum
009 Joe Physics (Downloadable mp3 – right click the link and choose “Save Link As…”)