Two words

August 15, 2008

Toenail clipper.

(This is actually the transcript to Bowl of Cheese podcast 47)

LISTEN        here

Are you kidding me about how this simple metal tool can project a tiny piece of dead skin cells across a room?

Sure, it sounds a little gross so put down your cereal or coffee or mid-morning snack or handful of M&Ms. While you’re at it, why don’t you ponder the real reason toenails have to be cut in the first place. It’s because you keep fueling the engine.

Let’s talk trajectory. I don’t have a math degree or a technical understanding of quarks and protons, but I do understand a little bit about propulsion, cause and effect and kinetic energy. A toenail is NOT of this earth.

As I see it, a toenail is at rest until some other force acts upon it. And until that point it remains at rest. This is probably the same way Einstein or Newton would have put it, although I don’t know how they cut toenails…or even if they did, so maybe they would have just ushered me out of their lab and back onto the street where I might get hit by a passing stagecoach or Model T Ford.

Continuing, the toenail is similar to a piece of carrot – maybe the stubby, ugly end with the hair and knot embedded in it. When you chop the carrot you get projectiles. Nothing on the order of a fleeting toenail, but you can achieve some distance with a well-placed chop.

Maybe that’s where I’ve underestimated the lowly toenail. Perhaps the issue I should focus on isn’t mass or size or even chemical make-up. I should look at perceptions. Here we are clipping a tiny nail from a tiny toe all the way at the other end of our body.

We’re crouched over and probably huffing and puffing – unless we’re flexible, which I’m certainly not. Then we attack a toe, try and align the clippers just right. And it’s all we can do to follow the path of the trimmed nail halfway across the room without blacking out.

From the nail’s perspective, it has gone about 50-100 times its length. From our perspective, the nail has taken on an evil persona dedicated to stabbing our bare feet or grossing out our housemates. There’s more urgency and fear in the eyes of the clipper than the clippee and that’s probably a mitigating factor.

I pulled a baby carrot out of the fridge and got out a pair of food scissors.

I also pulled my baby toe up and got out a pair of nail clippers.

Then I clipped.

You know what happened?

That’s right. Same distance. Almost the same angle of projection. The nail and carrot nub came to rest within a few inches of each other on the floor under the double recliner.

Since I’m already out of breath from bending over and doing all this work – on a Friday of all days – I’m going to leave them there. It will be part of another experiment in seeing if a carrot and a toenail are similar in their decomposition rates.

Until next time, just call me little Einstein – king of the toenail kinetic energy experiment.

More to come…