Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Resistentialism or Les Choses Sont Contre Nous (Otherwise Known as the Graduated Hostility of Things)

You know all about it. You go to brush your teeth at the ungodly hour you've had to wake up, and sure enough you've leaked a line of Preparation H on the toothbrush instead of the travel size toothpaste that you must resort to using since you keep forgetting to buy a new tube of the right stuff.

Lesson: Put your glasses on first thing. Keep them right by the bathroom sink, is our recommendation. Look before you leak.

And read here why it happened in the first place. That Clark-Trimble guy was no dummy.

"A convenient point of departure is provided by the famous Clark-Trimble experiments of 1935. Clark-Trimble was not primarily a physicist, and his great discovery of the Graduated Hostility of Things was made almost accidentally. During some research into the relation between periods of the day and human bad temper, Clark-Trimble, a leading Cambridge psychologist, came to the conclusion that low human dynamics in the early morning could not sufficiently explain the apparent hostility of Things at the breakfast table - the way honey gets between the fingers, the unfoldability of news-papers, etc. In the experiments which finally confirmed him in this view, and which he demonstrated before the Royal Society in London, Clark-Trimble arranged four hundred pieces of carpet in ascending degrees of quality, from coarse matting to priceless Chinese silk. Pieces of toast and marmalade, graded, weighed, and measured, were then dropped on each piece of carpet, and the marmalade-downwards incidence was statistically analysed. The toast fell right-side-up every time on the cheap carpet, except when the cheap carpet was screened from the rest (in which case the toast didn’t know that Clark-Trimble had other and better carpets), and it fell marmalade-downwards every time on the Chinese silk. Most remarkable of all, the marmalade-downwards incidence for the intermediate grades was found to vary exactly with the quality of carpet.
The success of these experiments naturally switched Clark-Trimble’s attention to further research on resistentia, a fact which was directly responsible for the tragic and sudden end to his career when he trod on a garden rake at the Cambridge School of Agronomy. In the meantime, Noys and Crangenbacker had been doing some notable work in America. Noys carried out literally thousands of experiments, in which subjects of all ages and sexes, sitting in chairs of every conceivable kind, dropped various kinds of pencils. In only three cases did the pencil come to rest within easy reach. Crangenbacker’s work in the social-industrial field, on the relation of human willpower to specific problems such as whether a train or subway will stop with the door opposite you on a crowded platform, or whether there will be a mail box anywhere on your side of the street, was attracting much attention."

(From 'Report on Resistentialism' by Paul Jennings)

As it happens, I've since learned here all about the Jewelweed, which "contains two methoxy-1, four napthoquinine—an anti-inflammatory and fungicide that’s the active ingredient of Preparation H."

So if you find yourself in the Great Outdoors, having forgotten your toothpaste, all you need to do is find some Jewelweed and lay it on the toothbrush.

Or wherever.

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