Sunday, January 09, 2011


If asked to pick a favorite law, I would quickly and consistently select Hooke's.

Newton's second law is more impressive and equally elegant. I'm equally fond of the concept of inertia* and contrast** but who doesn't love Isaac Newton? I will instead spend my affection on Robert Hooke. For as soon as I turned to his page in the textbook or began an experiment with elasticity, I would smile.

Because I know springs.

I think I've told you at some point that I used to jump on my bed. My grandparents frowned when I was scolded and instead of forbidding the bouncing, went to purchase a mini-trampoline more suited for such activities. Therefore, for as long as I can remember, I have bounced. When I'm happy or sad, stressed or tired, I turn on loud music and jump up and down, weight balanced on a mat surrounded by metallic springs.

It has been a necessary escape from reality, those moments where I pretend I am beautiful and graceful, admired and elegant, sexy and sophisticated. And by the time I press the button to pause my iPod and slip the headphones off, I feel better about being me - cute and clumsy. I have no idea why it works on an emotional level. But from the physical perspective, it's quite simple.

Hooke's Law states that a force, F (in Newtons), is required to move the free end of a deformable object a distance, x (in meters) from equilibrium. The force and distance are proportional, related by a spring constant, k (N/m). So when I bounce, the springs stretch and energy is both created and released, physical for the springs, emotional for me, and there is a certain loveliness inherent in that concept.

Still, friction is as inescapable as it is problematic. And as I bounce, the springs sometimes squeak and stretch or snap - the reality of their construction not matching the ideal theory in textbooks. We therefore threw away multiple trampolines over the years - the large hoop of the frame resting forlornly next to the trash or tossed in a dumpster.

"If you'd replace the broken spring right away," Dad always says, "the other springs wouldn't have to compensate for the missing one and the trampoline would last longer. You're just throwing money away by being lazy."

"Yes," I'd agree and then ignore him. He and Mom had tried for years to stop the bouncing. But I would not be deterred - it is not, after all, drugs or alcohol or something illegal or immoral. It's odd, sure, and I'm suitably embarrassed, but if it helps erase anger or ease stress, it seems fairly harmless.

Not completely harmless though as my left ankle has been prone to injury of late. (I turned it again last week.) I realized - after hopping downstairs to do laundry - that my bouncy habit was partially to blame. Some springs had elongated past being useful. Others lay in pieces on the carpeted floor. I wrinkled my nose, bothered both because I couldn't jump now (my ankle is better but still hurts) and repairing the weak spots could be hard.

It took all of five minutes, making a mockery of my procrastination, and I rolled my eyes while slipping the broken pieces from their loops and snapping the new ones in place with the help of a screwdriver (acting as a lever - more Physics!) and beaming at the perfect springs circling the bouncy mat. I placed the broken springs in my shirt, holding the hem of my oversized top up to make a pouch from the fabric, and made my way carefully upstairs.

"They're kind of pretty," I told Chienne as she sat to scratch her ear as I slowly moved up the stairs. "Damaged, of course, but far more interesting and unique than the new ones." She sighed at me, pouting as she'd not been on her walks of late and I shrugged and told her that maybe we'd go tomorrow.

Summary Points
  1. Tasks are easier, and tend to be smaller, if I don't procrastinate.
  2. Repetitive stress may damage people and objects, but it also can make them rather fascinating.
  3. Robert Hooke, like me, knew springs.
  4. My ankle hurts; I don't feel well; I'm very bored.

*"Law I: Every body persists in its state of being at rest or of moving uniformly straight forward, except insofar as it is compelled to change its state by force impressed."
**"Law III: To every action there is always an equal and opposite reaction: or the forces of two bodies on each other are always equal and are directed in opposite directions."


An Oldie said...

I agree with your summary point #1, for me too, the more I think about a task that I should be doing, the more monumental it becomes, lol.

Shedding Khawatir said...

You've seen Boundin' right? The Pixar short before the Incredibles? A cute animal-loving bouncers dream! And the perfect way to cheer up if you can't do the bouncing yourself :-)

Amelie said...

A trampoline... I'm kind of jealous now :)

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