Grey day. Rainy, drizzly, damp.
A bit of color sparked up from the sidewalk – a patch of oil shimmering on a puddle.
I took physics in high school. Everyone did, we were nerds. Do non-nerds take physics? Maybe everyone takes physics; I just don’t remember it that way. Our teacher seemed always on the brink of losing control of the class. Notes winged across the classroom, chaos erupted in the corners. He wore coke-bottle thick, black-rimmed glasses, and couldn’t see very well. “Legally blind”, we heard. And, “has tunnel vision”. Ah, tunnel vision – that might account for his inability to see objects tossed blithely from one side of the room to the other.
I remember nearly nothing from high school physics. I can’t remember what I got on the Regents. I’ve internalized some core piece of the first and second laws of thermodynamics, but that could be from having grown up listening to Flanders and Swann singing “heat is work and work is heat”.
You know that song? It’s excellent. Here, have a look:
Back to physics class. I guess I learned something about waves and periodicity. Surely we talked about gravity and velocity. Amps and ohms must have been on the syllabus, along with Planck’s constant.
|Picture by John, |
from the Wikimedia Commons
But the only thing I really remember? Thin film refraction. That’s what you’re seeing when the rainbow glints off the oily splotches in the road.
I said it to myself this morning – “thin film refraction” – as I walked from the subway to the office, and I thought about Dr. Goutevenier and his thick glasses, and about how you may learn things and you may know things, and how it’s really about the learning, not so much the knowing, because if you know how to learn, you can figure out the knowing.
Because honestly, I don’t really know what’s going on in that pretty oily rainbow – I just know what it’s called. But I can look it up.