T-shirts are fine places on which to display quotations, but sometimes the message that an aphorism conveys is context-dependent, and not quite what the shirt-maker or wearer anticipates. Not long ago I spy a tee that reads:


on the front, and on the back:


Various sources attribute that advice to actor James Caan, or to lyricist Carley Coma of the urban/fusion/hardcore/meta-metal band Candiria. The saying presumably is meant to encourage a healthy contrarian attitude, an anti-madness-of-crowds skepticism.

For me, however, what comes to mind when I see the tee is a physics textbook—Theory of Elasticity. It's Volume 7 in the classic "Course of Theoretical Physics" by L. D. Landau and E. M. Lifshitz of the USSR. Lev Landau was a demigod; his Nobel prize was awarded for work on the theory of superfluidity, one area among many he advanced. Lifshitz was brilliant but a mere mortal by comparison, an amanuensis who translated notes from Landau's lectures into organized teaching materials.

Long ago I took a class on the laws that govern elastic media—stress and strain tensors, shear, torsion, Young's modulus, Poisson's ratio, and so forth. The equations for how nonrigid bodies respond to force are complex; I found the subject challenging. We used Theory of Elasticity as our text.

All that returns to me when I read the command "OBSERVE THE MASSES". And yes: the shirt is worn by a lady ...

(cf. NeedForSpeed (2002-08-10), MemorySupport (2002-10-31), AwesomeProwess (2003-07-17), BrainyJogbra (2004-05-07), ...)

TopicHumor - TopicArt - TopicScience - TopicPersonalHistory - TopicRecreation - 2005-06-13

(correlates: Theory of Flight, Stark Raving Mad, ReaderAsPerformer, ...)