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The Physics of Physics

Studies in television physics reveal that modern man is just as primitive (and hairy) as his ancestral cave brethren. Popular survival-themed shows regularly round up scantily-clad campers and pyromaniacs on sun-baked islands equipped with flint, tinder and blowtorches in an environment more brittle than the inside of a kiln, yet no one seems able to conjure enough heat to melt a marshmallow. (By the way, nothing says entertainment like despondent castaways weeping over inert kindling.)

In real-world physics you scarcely need more than to point a flashlight at the draperies before becoming engulfed in flames. Simply doing the Twist or a lively rumba over carpeting unleashes sparks with the incendiary power of a pyrotechnics display.

According to actuarial tables, chances of starting a fire increase considerably if a homeowner has no insurance and escalate to one hundred percent certainty if you have been paying heavy premiums for years that have just now lapsed. In the time it takes to recognize the oversight and reach for the phone to notify the insurance company, you will spontaneously combust, setting off a blaze that consumes not only the neighborhood, but the nearby fire department as well.

Thanks to the irony of physics, someone in an asbestos sweater is twice as likely to catch flame as a chain smoker wearing a matchstick necktie.

Naysayers are encouraged to try this experiment:

Safely immerse your house in a large tank of water on the Fourth of July. Then observe aghast as your intoxicated neighbor shoots off illegal fireworks in oblivious proximity to his barbeque propane tank.

Dear student of real-life physics, I need not tell you the results of this experiment as you are probably woefully aware from your vantage point in the emergency room where they are mistakenly applying salve to your singed toupee or wiglet.

Your Neanderthal neighbor will be unable to compensate you for the damage to your home, the contents of which now resembles a Friday night fish boil, while the interior of his house, decorated from a hoard of oily rags and old newspapers, remains unscathed.

The ironic minutia taunts: your oven mitts were burned beyond recognition while the gas can in the garage is the only thing that didnít catch fire.

This principle applies to other disasters as well: the only day you donít tie down the cow, the tornado strikes. Your tender gesture to relocate a family of frogs is mocked when a flash flood carries them back to your basement. You leave mother in the car just as a cold-snap sets in.

This is a game you canít win, so wave the white flag of surrender (keeping the pointy stick away from your eye). According to the laws of irony, the health fanatic will drop dead before the circus fat man, and the alcoholicís pristine liver will be put on display at the Smithsonian.

So, eat drink and be merry. Just donít leave mother unattended outdoors again, particularly on the Fourth of July.