Friday, April 7, 2006

When Geeks Compete

My sister is a math geek - admittedly. Honestly, I am quite proud of her. She went through ROTC in college, got her commission into the Army, went to the Gulf War in the early 90s, went to Cuba to deal with whatever was going on there at the time, and has since been all over the world, in addition to getting a master's degree in mathematics at Georgia Tech. The only down side to all of this is that she thinks her big sister is ... not unintelligent, but not capable of understanding anything she does. I think it's a math/engineering thing, really, but it's resulted in a revival of our sibling rivalry.

She sent me this email (not original - I don't know who authored it, but I'd seen it before - and she didn't claim authorship only sufficient appreciation for it to recognize the humor and pass it along). The funny thing was, I think she thought I wouldn't get it:

New element discovered. The new element has been named *Governmentium*. Governmentium (Gv) has one neutron, 25 assistant neutrons, 88 deputy neutrons, and 198 assistant deputy neutrons, giving it an atomic mass of 312.These 312 particles are held together by forces called morons, which are surrounded by vast quantities of lepton-like particles called peons.

Since Governmentium has no electrons, it is inert. However, it can be detected,because it impedes every reaction with which it comes into contact. A minute amount of Governmentium can cause a reaction which would normally take less than a second to take over four days to complete. Governmentium has a normal half-life of 4 years; it does not decay, but instead undergoes a reorganization in which a portion of the assistant neutrons and deputy neutrons exchange places. In fact, Governmentium's mass will actually increase over time, since each reorganization will cause more morons to become neutrons, forming isodopes.

This characteristic of moron promotion leads some scientists to believe that Governmentium is formed whenever morons reach a critical concentration. This hypothetical quantity is referred to as Critical Morass. When catalyzed with money, Governmentium becomes Administratium - an element which radiates just as much energy as Governmentium since it has half as many peons but twice as many morons.

Being a genetic smart-ass myself (and having a whopping insecurity complex of my own to deal with), I wrote back:

That sounds an awful lot like Bureaucratium (Bu), although I don't believe the atomic mass has been identified yet. The number of neutrons necessary to maintain stasis varies so much, we may never know. However, it, too, is held together by morons surrounded by vast quantities of peons, and is also inert. Similarly, it impedes every reaction with which it comes into contact, albeit not to the same degree as Gv.

Bu is much more dependent for its existence on money; in fact, without money, the neurons split with cataclysmic force, the morons follow whichever neuron had the most access to begin with, and the peons evaporate.The big problem with Bureaucratium is that its half-life is unstable. It goes through cyclical periods of decay and regeneration, while maintaining the same basic particles as long as money is added. Generally, the morons tend to remain, while the peons are used up and evaporate.

The moron retention characteristic of Bureaucratium does not, in most cases, result in development into Governmentium, unless there is sufficient contact with Governmentium that the central neurons attract sufficient morons and peons to split and form their own individual units centering around a single neuron. Bureaucratium tends to become weighty with morons as money is added, but its tendency is to exhaust the existing peon supply before replenishing with only enough peons to keep the morons from collapsing under their own weight. If the influx of money cannot support the number of neurons per unit of Bu, it divides and forms another unit of multiple neurons.

She got it but had to say, "We think that these elements have something to do with string theory." I wrote back "open or closed?" I haven't heard anything since.

Yes, it would be nice if we could actually share and bond like normal sisters. (Sigh). Until we both grow up a bit more, I don't think it's going to happen.

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