Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Baby Physics

You know how toast always seems to fall butter side down, despite the laws of physics which say that it should fall butter side up roughly half the time? Well, apparently that exception to the laws of physics also applies to dirty diapers, as I discovered this morning, much to my chagrin. But it got me thinking: what other laws of physics are violated by babies and their accoutrements on a regular basis? So I came up with a few rules of baby physics. Let me preface this list by saying I am NOT a physicist, but I did take some advanced physics in college. (I believe this falls into the category of “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing”.) So my understanding of physics is relatively basic. For that reason, and because I’m assuming that most of my readers are also not physicists, I am categorizing my physics into just a few basic headings: the laws of thermodynamics, the speed of light/gravitational attraction, and conservation of mass and energy.

The Laws of Thermodynamics
The laws of physics that define and explain heat are pretty complicated, but the bottom line is that in a closed system, heat is neither created nor destroyed. In other words, if you snuggle a warm baby, your body should, under the laws of physics, absorb a limited amount of heat so that your temperature becomes equivalent to that of the baby. However, any mother will tell you that holding a warm (i.e., less than 100 degrees Fahrenheit) baby can cause one’s internal body temperature to reach approximately 130 degrees Fahrenheit. This is particularly true when the baby is sick or cranky and any effort to move or remove said baby will result in wakefulness and screaming.

The Speed of Light/Gravitational Attraction
Under Einstein’s theory of relativity, the laws of physics state that no object with mass can accelerate to precisely the speed of light. Babies, however, especially those that have recently learned to crawl or walk, are in fact able to move at the speed of light. And they do so as a result of gravitational attraction between themselves and any object or situation which could cause bodily injury or major property damage. Not only mothers, but I suspect also emergency room physicians, can attest to the truth of this rule.

Conservation of Mass and Energy
The Law of Conservation of Mass and Energy states that matter can be neither created nor destroyed (although it can transform between mass and energy). In other words, to increase the mass of an object, you must add mass (or energy), and to decrease its mass, you must remove mass (or energy). Similarly, if you add mass to an object, its mass increases by the amount of mass that was added, and if you remove mass from an object, its mass decreases by the amount of mass that was removed. However, any mother can tell you that babies violate this rule all the time. For example, if you try to pick up a baby who does not which to be picked up, said baby’s mass will spontaneously increase to approximately double its original mass. So when I try to pick Ryan up and he wants to stay on the floor, his 30-pound mass suddenly becomes 60 pounds.

The food:poop ratio also violates this law. The mass of food that goes into Ryan is much less than the mass of poop that comes out of him. And yet, his overall mass is still increasing. How can that be? Once again, the Law of Conservation of Mass has no bearing on babies. I won’t even attempt to get into the additional complication of all the energy that he burns off while still increasing in mass. Einstein and Newton combined couldn’t explain that one.

And the final violation of conservation of mass is the Diaper Bag Phenomenon. No matter how much or how little you try to pack into a diaper bag, the mass will always be just slightly greater than the capacity of said diaper bag. And if you move the contents into a larger diaper bag, they will expand so that bag is also slightly overfilled. A corollary to this rule is that no matter what item you remove from the bag, it will be the one item that you actually need on that trip.

Which makes me think, maybe instead of Einstein’s and Newton’s Laws of Physics, babies must be governed by Murphy’s Laws of Physics.

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