Thursday, October 11, 2007

The Power of Eyebrows

One of the more important, if less appreciated, aspects of being a high school physics teacher is drawing sweet diagrams on the board and on tests. It is a medium that few artists have really explored, but it is one that I took very seriously. One lesson that I learned through this exploration was that eyebrows are everything.

Let me demonstrate. Here is a problem that involves a man riding his motorcycle over a cliff. Notice the effect of the direction of the eyebrows. In figure 1, the man is smiling and his eyebrows are up. This implies that the man is uncomfortable with the situation at hand, and may not make it through.

figure 1

A simple switching of the eyebrows can change everything. Compare with figure 2, where the man is still smiling, but his eyebrows are down. This implies that he is a slightly crazy kung fu master, intent on living life by tasting death. He may not make the jump, and therefore succumb to the alligators with African killer bees in their mouths that reside in the pit of unending fire, doom, and despair. But he doesn’t care.

figure 2

I suppose the correct usage of the eyebrows would be to start the man with eyebrows down at the beginning of the jump. Then, if the calculations say that he doesn’t make it, the students could answer by filling in the eyebrows. If he doesn’t make it, the correct solution would be:

Figure 3

If he does make it, the eyebrows could be one up one down, indicating surprise and slight pain in the crotchital area:

figure 4

Nearly the whole range of human emotions can be captured by simply permutating eyebrows, smiles, and frowns. See figure 5 below:

Figure 5

This palette of stick-figure emotion has served me very well in grad school so far. I have found that the answers to most of my physics problems turn out to be a combination of all the possibilities:

Figure 6

1 comment:

April said...

heh. I love doing stick figure drawings, too. My first summer physics research talk was full of them... no alligators, though. ;)