May 31, 2002

Family Physics

We take the stately laws of physics—laws which mathematicians and scientists have spent centuries discovering and verifying—and apply them to the realm of human relationships, to see if they shed useful light on our daily lives.


We hear two stories of everyday life which are more easily understood if one knows some of the laws of physics, specifically the Mediocrity Principle and the Casimir Effect. Then Particle Physicist and Planet Money correspondent David Kestenbaum explains why physicists hate it when non-scientists try to apply these laws and principles to their daily lives. (7 minutes)
Act One

Occam's Razor

In Los Angeles, Cris Beam reports on a family named the Paladinos that had a theory that explained their lives. And then, at some point, that theory came to seem inadequate. It didn't seem to match the data and evidence at hand. So they switched to a different theory. Cris Beam is the author of several books including To The End of June. (30 minutes)
Act Two

The Trajectory and Force of Bodies in Orbit

Jon Ronson tells the story of how his parents decided to commission a family portrait, and how things went awry because of the brilliant but troubled local artist they hired for the job. In the story, Jon circles in a reluctant orbit around his parents, and his parents are in a rather energetic orbit of their own. Jon's books include The Psychopath Test and So You've Been Publicly Shamed. (13 minutes)