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A spoonful of sugar might help this lesson in Newtonian physics go down

June 14th, 2011 · 47 comments

This physics lesson was posted in the communal kitchen of Oxford University’s department of psychiatry.

“You would think that these people would be masters of communication,” our submitter says. “Evidently, not so much.”

A lesson in Newtonian Physics: If a spoon is washed in water, something it is very right and proper to be done, it still has residual water on it, unless dried.  If the spoon is placed on the draining board concave side up, gravitational force causes the water to sink into the concavity forming a puddle that is dependent on evaporation to remove it. If a male (it could only be a male) uses the bepuddled spoon to make himself coffee, water may get into the coffee tin and cause aggregation of the grounds which are hygyroscopic. This is given by these equations which are examples of a chaotic system (a Henon map) [equations] The solution to this problem is possibly too complex for members of this Department, but requires people to leave spoons convex side up.

In Australia, meanwhile, it seems they prefer not to beat around the bush* — at least when it comes to wet spoons.

related: The Ph.D’s approach to air conditioning units

*bad pun intended

FILED UNDER: a little patronizing · Australia · coffee · college life · note wars · office · spoons · U.K.

47 responses so far ↓

  • #1   Allthatglittas

    I like how the Australian note became a community message board

    Jun 14, 2011 at 10:07 pm   rating: 25  small thumbs up

  • #2   FeRD bang

    Yes, but none of this answers the burning question: where do Australians prefer to beat… around?

    Also, what’s up with this burning sensation? Is there perhaps some sort of cream I can get?

    “…Why is my suit so big? Couldn’t they have taken it in a little at the store?”

    Jun 14, 2011 at 10:17 pm   rating: 2  small thumbs up

    • #2.1   AuntyBron

      The Aussies just like to beat it. They don’t care if it is around the bush or not. They’re kinda laid back that way.

      Jun 14, 2011 at 11:53 pm   rating: 6  small thumbs up

    • #2.2   Michael Jackson from the Grave

      I taught them well.

      Jun 15, 2011 at 10:49 am   rating: 3  small thumbs up

  • #3   Quite Contrary

    A male makes coffee for himself? What alternative universe is he from?

    Jun 14, 2011 at 10:29 pm   rating: 35  small thumbs up

    • #3.1   Seelie

      I didn’t think of that. You’re totally spot-on!

      Jun 15, 2011 at 11:00 pm   rating: 1  small thumbs up

  • #4   TickleMyBambo

    I guess the Aussies don’t like to beat around the bush with a wet spoon.

    Jun 14, 2011 at 10:56 pm   rating: 7  small thumbs up

  • #5   TickleMyBambo

    I get the feeling Miss “Newton” (Cause it could only be a female, it has to be a female!) is not a major supporter of using a wet spoon to scoop out ice cream. *Sigh* too bad the laws of gravity can’t help to work the stick out of this individuals stuck up butt.

    Jun 14, 2011 at 11:11 pm   rating: 14  small thumbs up

  • #6   TippingCows

    Something it is very right and proper to be done, convex me in the moonlight after work on Thursday. Wet my spoon, dirty it, and dip me in your sugar. Ooooooh, honey baby … I LOVE YOU ALL!!!

    Jun 14, 2011 at 11:25 pm   rating: 19  small thumbs up

  • #7   Mrs.Beasley bang

    I diagnose the Oxford psychiatric department’s post to be an aspergerian attempt at wit.

    The Aussie jar would get the sucrose monkey off my back right quick, considering there appear to be dark granules where I would expect only white.

    Jun 15, 2011 at 12:39 am   rating: 8  small thumbs up

  • #8   JR

    The Oxford psychiatrist is not as clever, witty or grammatical as she thinks she is.

    Jun 15, 2011 at 2:49 am   rating: 20  small thumbs up

  • #9   Grant

    Of course, that’s not the only solution. Putting them into a glass handle end down would work as well.

    Jun 15, 2011 at 4:06 am   rating: 3  small thumbs up

  • #10   The Elf

    “Bepuddled”? That totally makes the note for me. People, this is the word of the day. Try to use it at least once. As in “Someone peed in the water cooler, the bepuddled catch tray is nasty.”

    But don’t google it.

    Jun 15, 2011 at 6:49 am   rating: 16  small thumbs up

  • #11   Eileen

    That first note is a whole herd of teal deer. (TL:DR, otherwise known as too long, didn’t read.) Why does it take the note-writer forever to get to the point?

    Jun 15, 2011 at 7:00 am   rating: 1  small thumbs up

    • #11.1   Canthz_B bang

      It’s a physics lesson. Long, boring explanation is mandatory before the simple solution to the equation is revealed. And it’s the psychiatry department, so it has to take at least 50 minutes.

      Jun 15, 2011 at 9:13 am   rating: 10  small thumbs up

    • #11.2   The Elf

      But how does that make you feel?

      Jun 15, 2011 at 11:39 am   rating: 15  small thumbs up

    • #11.3   Clumber

      Tell me about your mother. What age were you toilet-trained?

      Jun 20, 2011 at 3:45 pm   rating: 1  small thumbs up

    • #11.4   Canthz_B bang

      Toilet trained? Why? They have adult diapers, and mine fit comfortably enough!

      Jun 23, 2011 at 2:55 am   rating: 2  small thumbs up

  • #12   Nathan

    Sorry to break it to the poor sap at Oxford University, but hygroscopy has nothing to do with Newtonian Physics, or even physics at all. It is a chemistry concept.

    And the mention of chaos theory, and Henon mapping? Barely relevant. (Note the equations taken verbatim from Wikipedia).

    Somebody at Oxford University has way too much time to google things, and a desperate need to sound smart.

    Jun 15, 2011 at 7:17 am   rating: 12  small thumbs up

    • #12.1   Jimmy James

      A much more appropriate reference to nonlinear dynamics and chaos would be describing how the cream distrbutes in the coffee over time, if left undisturbed, illustrating why we need the spoon in the first place. Assuming we needed cream or sugar at all.

      Maybe the psychiatrist should stick to what she knows and explain how drying the spoons the wrong way is a manifestation of a latent desire to sleep with your mother?

      Jun 15, 2011 at 9:10 am   rating: 21  small thumbs up

    • #12.2   Who passed out the Haterade?

      Somebody at Oxford University has way too much time to google things, and a desperate need to sound smart.

      Or you could just say “is a junior psych professor” for short. ^_~ But yeah, you nailed it in one.

      Jun 15, 2011 at 9:22 am   rating: 9  small thumbs up

    • #12.3   Canthz_B bang

      LOL, Hater, a junior psych professor with a minor in physics is a dangerous thing.

      Jun 15, 2011 at 9:44 am   rating: 1  small thumbs up

    • #12.4   Danny

      You have confused “minor in physics” with “ten minutes searching Google”. It’s an easy mistake to make, as both of these things are similarly impressive on a resume.

      Jun 16, 2011 at 12:08 am   rating: 6  small thumbs up

  • #13   Elmo

    Real people don’t put sugar in coffee.

    Jun 15, 2011 at 8:21 am   rating: 5  small thumbs up

    • #13.1   The Elf

      They use Splenda.

      Jun 15, 2011 at 8:34 am   rating: 3  small thumbs up

  • #14   Lindsey

    Aussie Note’s comment makes a good point. What ABOUT wet clean ones?

    This seems like it would just be easier to offer people sugar packets instead. Community food is usually as gross as the community sharing it.

    Jun 15, 2011 at 8:40 am   rating: 4  small thumbs up

  • #15   Canthz_B bang

    Wet spooning is hot, hot, hot!!

    Jun 15, 2011 at 9:09 am   rating: 6  small thumbs up

    • #15.1   unsatisfied

      wet, DIRTY spooning, you mean.

      Jun 15, 2011 at 10:52 am   rating: 5  small thumbs up

    • #15.2   The Elf

      And the good stuff leaves a puddle on the convex side.

      Jun 15, 2011 at 12:09 pm   rating: 5  small thumbs up

    • #15.3   The Elf

      Concave! I meant concave!

      ….back to school for me….

      Jun 15, 2011 at 12:30 pm   rating: 3  small thumbs up

    • #15.4   Clumber

      No Worries, Elf. I presumed you simply liked things a little more… challenging. eyebrow wiggle the likes of which I have no IRL skills for

      Jun 20, 2011 at 3:46 pm   rating: 0  small thumbs up

  • #16   Kate

    I dislike the way it seems to have become acceptable to say sexist things against men now.
    Why does it have to be a man?

    Jun 15, 2011 at 11:39 am   rating: 8  small thumbs up

    • #16.1   dwasifar

      Thank you, Kate. On behalf of myself and all other tidy men, I salute you.

      My wife and I joke about my Felix to her Oscar. I’m the one who picks up the spoons left on paper towels with puddles in them. I don’t mind doing it, really. But that does make it irritating to see things like this, as if there are no girl slobs. I understand the ladies’ room is evidence enough for their existence.

      Jun 15, 2011 at 1:11 pm   rating: 8  small thumbs up

    • #16.2   Rattus

      Heh! I am Oscar to my husband’s Felix. I do build furniture better than him, though, so it all balances. And you are correct about the relative levels of filth in public washrooms. My husband, myself and a number of our friends all did security work for a concert promoter a number of years ago, so we spent an inordinate amount of time in club cans and I can reliability assert that women were immeasurably more foul in there than men were. And presumably they still are.

      And I have to agree that the acceptance of misandry these days is appalling. My response to anyone who starts a sentence “Men are…” is to ask them how they feel when they hear “Women are…”. And yes, I am aware of the irony of this paragraph laid up against the previous paragraph.

      Jun 15, 2011 at 5:11 pm   rating: 4  small thumbs up

    • #16.3   TickleMyBambo

      Yeah, sexist remarks gets nobody anywhere in life. It could have been a man that left the spoon bepuddled, or it could have been a woman. Who honestly knows? Fact is, sombody or maybe a whole lot of people are doing it and it’s pissing the notewriter off but jumping to the conclusion of that a man is doing it just makes the notewriter look like an ass.

      Jun 16, 2011 at 1:28 am   rating: 3  small thumbs up

  • #17   James

    This is why they invented sugar cubes. (The only drawback is that people get tempted to eat them as candy so more winds up being used.)

    Jun 15, 2011 at 1:31 pm   rating: 3  small thumbs up

  • #18   berge bang

    I don’t pour water out of the water cooler right; I don’t dry my spoons right – I’M DOING IT ALL WRONG! I had no idea!

    Jun 15, 2011 at 5:19 pm   rating: 4  small thumbs up

  • #19   Seelie

    Or dry your spoon after washing…

    Jun 15, 2011 at 11:01 pm   rating: 0  small thumbs up

    • #19.1   Danny

      If you stack the spoons up, the upper spoon displaces the water of the lower. So you end up with just one sacrificial spoon that everyone knows to avoid. There’s some equations which describe displacement of water by a given body, but in the “physics equations which are irrelevant” spirit of the original note, I’ll instead note that the resistance of the stacked spoons would be equivalent to the difference in voltage divided by the current passing through the stack.

      Jun 16, 2011 at 12:15 am   rating: 2  small thumbs up

  • #20   Earl Hamsher

    a wet spoon in sugar can ruin it by making it a solid lump. however, a wet spoon in coffee wouldn’t ruin the whole canister especially if the lady would just fling most of the water off first. additionally, it’s better to have a scoop specifically for coffee that stays in the canister, not a spoon.

    Jun 16, 2011 at 2:00 am   rating: 0  small thumbs up

  • #21   Earl Hamsher

    i would be tempted to just scrawl the word “c$%t” in red marker across the lesson in newtonian physics

    Jun 16, 2011 at 2:02 am   rating: 2  small thumbs up

  • #22   Iri

    wtf is the Hénon map supposed to have to do with water in a spoon?
    As that’s part of chaos theory, one can only suppose it’s a veiled slur on the behavior of his co-workers…

    Jun 16, 2011 at 7:11 pm   rating: 0  small thumbs up

  • #23   English 101

    …inTO sugar…

    Jun 17, 2011 at 5:56 am   rating: 0  small thumbs up

  • #24   barista lifer

    huh. i was trying to think of a similar passive-aggressive note just today to put on our sugar bowl at work. people don’t give a crap about the clearly marked clean/dirty spoon containers. grrrr!

    Jun 18, 2011 at 9:27 pm   rating: 0  small thumbs up

    • #24.1   Clumber


      That’s my solution, I do not partake in work communal anything if at all avoidable… aside from being an anti-social louse myself, I have crawled under enough slobscum desks (I work in IT) to put me off trusting ANY OF THEM for even basic presumptive hygiene.

      Jun 20, 2011 at 3:50 pm   rating: 0  small thumbs up

  • #25   Somebody Else

    Reminds me of the great toilet paper debate: do you load it so that it comes over the top of the roll or so it hangs down along the wall?

    Either solution will work, but the first note-writer (it could only be a female) clearly has a decided preference.

    I love how she seems to think that insulting her audience will win their obedience … I’d like to see a graph showing the number of befuddled spoons over time … Bet you a nickel it increased after her thesis was posted.

    Jun 18, 2011 at 11:19 pm   rating: 0  small thumbs up

    • #25.1   Clumber

      “Hangs down along the wall” makes it harder for the kitten to unroll the entire roll of TP in a fit of catnip-induced glee. Other than that, no one needs to care! One of the debates in life that always makes me think that we have too damn much free time to be worrying about stupid things.

      Jun 20, 2011 at 3:52 pm   rating: 1  small thumbs up


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