APS News

April 2006 (Volume 15, Number 4)

Zero Gravity: The Lighter Side of Science

Find the Physicists!

Editor's Note: The following story doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but it contains within it the names of 22 famous physicists (all dead), spelled either forward (14) or backward (8), ignoring spaces and punctuation. How many of them can you find? For those who need a little more help, see an alphabetical listing of the physicists.

John Jacob Bausch and Henry Lomb, founders of the famous optics company Bausch and Lomb, were very competitive with one another, and one day Lomb bet he could catch more fish in a local pond than Bausch could. The loser would buy the winner some German pancakes, which they each loved to eat. Bausch said confidently, “I concur. I even will give you odds.” But he was not satisfied with the quality of American fishing rods, and he therefore sent for the Bausch rod in Germany, from which country he had emigrated a few years before. Lomb, meanwhile, was a stickler regarding his diet, and asked his wife, Lila, to cook him up his favorite bean dish to get ready for the competition. “Not lima, honey” he told her, “I just want navy and pinto. You can’t beat lovely beans.”

Bausch and Lomb agreed that Lila, who despite being married to Lomb was known for her fairness, could be the judge of the competition. “I’m refereeing this,” Lila said, “and I’ll make sure it’s fair and square.” On the day of the competition, Lila set off for the pond, but her wagon was stuck in a rut. Her Ford was out of gas as well. [Ed. Note: this is an anachronism, because Bausch and Lomb lived in the middle of the 19th century. Henry Ford’s car idea was far in the future]. With her wagon stuck and her car not working she was forced to go with plan C, known also as walking. She decided she would not wend her way through the meadow, but would take the main road instead. “Oh, my!” she exclaimed, “it’s very far. A day’s journey at least.” That was an exaggeration, but when the heel broke on her right shoe, Lila got even more upset. Finally, though, she made it to the pond in the early afternoon.

On the bank of the pond she saw four hoboes, in an arbor near the water. They were planning to steal a canoe there. She said “Scram!” peremptorily, and the hoboes ran off. Soon Bausch and Lomb arrived, but the competition itself was something of an anticlimax. Well into the second hour, Lomb had caught nothing, and Bausch was reeling them in. In desperation, Lomb told his children, “tie more flies, please!”, but nothing worked. Finally, Lomb conceded, and thus did Bausch win German pancakes.

APS encourages the redistribution of the materials included in this newspaper provided that attribution to the source is noted and the materials are not truncated or changed.

Editor: Alan Chodos
Associate Editor: Jennifer Ouellette
Staff Writer: Ernie Tretkoff


Ampere, Bethe, Bohr, Born, Carnot, Curie, Dirac, Faraday, Fermi, Galileo, Hamilton, Henry (twice), Maxwell, Meitner, Newton, Noether, Ohm, Planck, Rutherford, Schrodinger, Schwinger, Volta