I tend not to tell funny stories when I’m leading CPD sessions: it’s the quickest known way of dividing an audience (me from them). I have been known to sneak in the occasional one liner – you can move on before they’ve realised what’s happened. I said to my children that I needed to get some new material, to which they responded that I needed to get some material.
Many readers will be familiar with the physicist’s analysis of Santa Claus. If you are, you’ll know it starts by making certain assumptions about the mass of presents to deliver, the time available and the average distance between homes. From this the acceleration necessary, the force to accelerate that mass and the number of reindeer required are calculated using classical physics. What becomes clear is that at the speeds involved the leading reindeer would reach temperatures at which they would vapourise and slough away, indicating that the whole enterprise would be less of a jolly jape and more a furious, though pretty rapid, spectacle of energy transfer.
If this kind of humour does work for you, here’s a suggestion as to what to ask for this Christmas: ‘What if’, by Randall Munroe, ISBN 978-1848549579. Munroe is a Physics major and has applied his knowledge, cartoon abilities, witty writing and research skills to answering questions that people have submitted. Try the one on flying a Cessna 172 aircraft in the atmosphere of various planets and moons in the Solar System (having fitted it with an electric motor to get round the lack of oxygen). Or the one about what would happen if you actually assembled cubes of each element in a particular period of the Periodic Table and put them next to each other. He goes through it period by period. I bought a copy in Southampton Waterstones after running an SLC course and read it on the train on the way home. Well, actually I had to stop as other passengers were getting worried about me (though admittedly the book might not have been responsible).
OK, you have to be keen on science. And to have a certain sense of humour. But, hey, you read this far. Merry Christmas.