New: Practical Physics

Outside the San Francisco main library, there is a bin where one may return borrowed things. I walked up to it, ready to return a few books. A lady was already there, looking inside, noticing something amiss.

She said that the bin was too full to put anything else in. I thought Oh well, guess I'll bring these books around again when I pass by this evening and got ready to turn around. But she wasn't turning around. She kept looking at the bin. Maybe she didn't go past a library that often. Maybe her stuff was due today. Whatever. Not my problem. Then I noticed that one of the things she was carrying was a My Neighbor Totoro DVD. Hmm, was she the kind of awesome lady that introduces her kids to Totoro? Maybe I should help her out. I looked inside the bin.

The door of the bin was a sort of counterweighted see-saw. The door swung down, you could put books on it. When you let the door swing back up/closed, the books would slide down the see-saw into the holding area. But the holding area was mostly full. With the door open, you couldn't reach the holding area, but there was a grating through which you could see it. Books were piled up in the middle--but there was room at the sides. However, the pile was high enough such that the see-saw couldn't swing all the way. Thus, books might not fall down into the holding area. There was already one book stuck on the see-saw.

So I shifted the book to the side. I swung the see-saw up and down, got its rhythm. Kept swinging, reached inside, twisted the book, kept swinging--and the book slipped down into the holding area, going along the side, away from the high/full part of the pile.

I had this thing figured out. I turned to the lady and said, "Give me--"

And then the nice librarian lady walked up and said, "Oh, is it full? I can take those for you." And for an instant, I was disappointed. Getting books into the overfilled bin was a fun game! Why was she spoiling my game?

But I got over it, and handed over my books. And I thanked the nice librarian.

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Posted 2005-07-22