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The Say of the Week October 5, 2008

Posted by dorigo in physics.

You know what potential energy is: it is the reason why you avoid walking under a baby grand piano being lifted to the third floor“.

Taken from here.



1. Guess Who - October 5, 2008

That was a good post, but isn’t self-quotation a bit too much like talking to oneself? 😉

2. goffredo - October 6, 2008

Shouldn’t it be
“You know what potential energy is: it is the reason why you avoid WALKING A BABY under a grand piano being lifted to the third floor“.

I’ve heard the horrible expression “baby grand piano” for the more correct italian “mezza-coda”. Most people don’t know what baby grand pianos are while almost everyone would get the creeps seeing a baby under a piano of any sorts.


3. dorigo - October 6, 2008

Yes GW, sometimes I do that… I happen to read back some posts at times, and I salvage what is worth :-/

Goffredo, well, no, I never meant to talk about babies. Walking oneself under a piano is already scary enough. I never knew that “baby grand” is a slang expression.


4. goffredo - October 6, 2008

ciao tommaso.

Then what did you mean by “baby”?
Did you mean to use “baby” like a bomber pilot does telling his crew as they approach their target refering to their deadly payload “lets go and drop that baby!”

If yes then the pilot does not say “lets go and drop that baby bomb”.
So you wouldn’t say “avoir walking under a baby grand piano”. You should make a reference to a grand piano first and THEN say “avoid walking under that baby”.

By the way you can tell people what chemical potential is by refering to a deadly bomb: “it is the reason you should avoid droping that baby on its nose!”

5. carlbrannen - October 6, 2008

“Baby grand piano” is certainly perfect and accurate English.

6. Louise - October 6, 2008

Hi Tommaso: Does the piano have more potential energy from Earth or the Sun?

Most people will say that Earth gives the piano more potential, but the answer is the Sun. The piano does not fall toward the Sun because it shares Earth’s orbital velocity. There is still more potential from the Milky Way galaxy and everything else in the Universe, potentially leading to some surprising consequences!

7. Ross - October 7, 2008

I always feel I understand a lesson when the teacher tells me there are parts of it I don’t have to understand, which is the case with your explanation of the Goldstein Theorem. Yes, I feel empowered by it a bit and I might follow up with some research into this stuff, maybe even into the parts I don’t have to understand! I’m a Newtonian-physics kind of guy – spooky isn’t it! (I mean I’m not supposed to exist any more). However, hanging out here with a fully up-to-date science kind of dude like you Tommaso, there is hope for me yet.

Incidentally, the ‘mi scusi ma non capisco’ comment in an earlier post was a reference to Fred’s analysis of the bridge, which was (you might be pleased to learn) more difficult to understand than your Goldstein lesson.

8. Luboš Motl - October 7, 2008

A pianist is clearly needed to resolve those disputes. Pianos differ by the orientation of the strings: in “grand pianos” (which are flat), they’re horizontal while in “upright pianos” (which are compact and tall), they are vertical.

By size, grand pianos can be concert, parlor, or baby. Perfect English.

9. goffredo - October 7, 2008

of course I was trying to make a joke ad as making a proposal a more effective quote. But as you all insist…

BABY grand piano is perfect english and I never said it is slang or wrong; I said it was horrible. But that is personal. Another personal note (or maybe not): it must be that I am living on another planet because in the houses of all the lower, middle and several upper class friends I have and have had (years ago in the USA and today in Europe) I saw many uprights indeed and several grands (those with horizontal strings!), while I only saw baby grand pianos (mezze-code) in stores. I haven’t been to Tommaso’s house recently. I must be out of touch because I never had the impression that baby grand pianos are so wide spread enough to be effective in teaching physics concepts to lay people.

Tommaso could have used the words “upright” and “grand”. Had he used “grand piano”, the quote would have been quite effective. Everyone knows what a piano is and, even IF a person doesn’t know that the strings of a grand piano are horizontal, the word “grand” does evoke something BIG. Had Tommaso used the word “upright” the quote would have sounded oddly funny. That would have been fine as I am all for making people have after-chuckles (the first chuckle from the thought of a walk under a piano). But “baby piano”? In my opinion the punch is lost. It sounds artificial and snobby (at least to me that can afford only an unright or an electronic keyboard).

Basically I think the quote would have been perfect had he simply refered to a “piano”. Indeed I intend to the quote but I will use it my way.

bye bye

10. tulpoeid - October 7, 2008

Hm. I think the punch would have been lost had he not used the “baby” in that sentence.

11. goffredo - October 8, 2008

OK. bye

12. Ross - October 8, 2008

I appear to have misspelt Goldstone as ‘Goldstein’ in my previous post. I don’t suppose it’s important. What matters is the gist of the argument, which I understood surprisingly well.

13. dorigo - October 9, 2008

Hi Louise,

nice question, worth submitting to 1st year physics students…

Ross, thanks for the input – yes, names are not important, although if one is sensitive to precision one wants to avoid misspelling names. I continue to misspell KobaYashi for instance.

So, I understand “baby grand piano” is ok and it fits the bill in the sentence…. Good! As for Jeff’s preferences, I think their value is no greater than mine. He is bilingual, I almost qualify as one. We tend to have a peculiar way to interpret some nuisances of the language which does not match perfectly the interpretation of natives. So I accept the input from Carl and Tulpoeid…


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