Monday, March 28, 2011

Thank You, Chubby Checker

I'm rushing back from a client meeting to get started on other work, enter the rheology lab to hang up my coat (yes, it is still Winter here in Minnesota), and three people are already in the lab staring at the rheometer - two girls, ages about 8 and 10 [1] [2], and the head of sales. The girls are the new VP's daughters, they want to know what the dynamic mechanical analyzer does, and the sales guy is spouting his usual BS about how I'm a world class expert in the matter [3].

I've complained before about the difficulty of trying to explain rheology to most people, even those with a technical background. It's really tough and I don't think the situation will improve in the coming decades. (Look at the videos that are linked on the left-hand side of the blog for an hour-long tiny little introduction to the subject.) All told, there are really good reasons that it's a graduate level subject.

An 8- and 10-year old? Quick John, you gotta think fast or you will lose them. They ain't going to wait for me to hem and haw, and they certainly won't understand any mathematical description.

"It's like dancing," I said, "an old dance called the twist". They smile. "You start twisting your hips and then we see how much your shoulders move." At this point, the sales guy jumps in [4], and starts talking about how we also see who's leading and who's following. The girls are happy, twisting and make for the door. I'm relieved and am grateful for my appreciation of older music.

[1] The summer interns around here look younger and younger every year.
[2] No, we don't hire interns that young. There are child labor laws around here.
[3] Don't even try and tell me that your sales people are any better.
[4] A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, he worked as a chemist. He still thinks he's a chemist. Come on, he's gone over to the dark side. Was Darth Vader still considered a Jedi Knight?

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