Posted by on Sep 16, 2011 in Blog, Uncategorized | 0 comments

I drew this picture for my old friend Elliot Kaplan, a physicist at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. If anyone I know can answer the timeless question “Magnets, how do they work?” it’s probably Elliot. He currently works with the Madison Dynamo Experiment. My understanding of this is limited by my own feeble brain and not by Elliot’s lucid explanatory skills, but here’s the gist: The earth has a magnetic field. The earth’s mantle is full of circulating molten metal, and its circulation is what generates this field. In Madison they’ve built a large, hollow globe, which they fill with liquid sodium (a convenient approximation of the earth’s mantle, which I think is mostly silicon and magnesium).

They blend the sodium around with fans and pass magnetic fields through it, measuring the results. And here’s where I get a little shaky. Lightning crashes and all the scientists start laughing maniacally, God get furious, Galactus shows up hungry, and before you know it the Dynamo kills your wife on your wedding night.

Okay, so what’s this have to do with my drawing? Apparently, it’s a tradition for Elliot and his crew to get Chinese food before every run of the experiment. In some cryptic way, the fortune cookie fortunes have so far always predicted the outcome of the day’s run. Elliot commissioned a cartoon depicting physicists divining the future from fortune cookies, suggesting that their safety gear would make for good “cultish regalia.” I couldn’t agree more!

… in bed!