The Infamous 123 Meme

That “post three sentences from page 123 of the book closest to you” Internet “meme” has come around again, with Bora calling me out in hopes of getting a short preview of Bunnies Made of Cheese (or whatever the book ends up being called). Unfortunately for him, I blog from a desk heaped with books, and that’s not the closest physical book to me.

The book at the top of the nearest stack is Volume I of Matter and Interactions by Chabay and Sherwood, and the relevant sentences are:

Tarzan hangs from a vine, swining back and forth in a gentle arc. At the moment when he reaches his maximum displacement from the vertical and is momentarily at rest, is the rate of change of Tarzan’s momentum zero or nonzero? If nonzero, what is the direction of dp/dt


Of course, the book at the bottom of that stack can also make a claim to being the “closest.” That one is Bob Park’s Voodoo Science, and the relevant sentences are:

Stanley Pons, after resigning his position at the University of Utah, disappeared for a time, then resurfaced in Nice, living the good life in the south of France. He had been hired to work on cold fusion by Technova, a subsidiary of Toyota. Martin Fleischmann later joined him there.

The stack behind my right shoulder, which is also pretty close, is topped by a book called How to Get Your Child to Love Reading (I doubt we’ll have a problem with this, but it was a Christmas present). It’s basically a catalogue of children’s books, with recommendations and “If you liked X, try Y” suggestions, and page 123 offers a suggested follow-up to Laura Ingalls Wilder in The Birchbark House by Louise Erdich:

A year in the life of an Ojibwa girl is told from the point of view of Omakayas, or “Little Frog,” named so because her first step was a hop. She is the sole smallpox survivor on Madeline Island, rescued by a strange and strong old woman named Tallow and given to a loving family. Then smallpox strikes Omakayas’s new village.


Also in that vicinity is The Cyberiad:

But when they had come within five or six million light-blocks of the Black Wastes, they began to hear rumors of some robber-giant who called himself The PHT Pirate. No one they spoke to had actually seen him, nor knew what “PHT” was supposed to mean. Trurl thought this might be a distortion of “pH,” which would indicate an ionic pirate with a high concentration and very base, but Klapaucias, more level-headed, preferred to refrain from such hypotheses.

Of course, those are just the physical books. If you count electronic, the relevant sentences from page 123 of the closest book in electronic form are:

This directly contradicts the quantum indeterminacy that we’ve talked about before, and suggest that quantum mechanics is incomplete. The theory is missing the information that would describe the definite properties of the two particles.

“That’s just what I was saying!”

So there’s your three-sentence teaser, Bora…


  1. #1 Coturnix
    February 26, 2008

    Thank you! These are great! ;-)

  2. #2 Peter Morgan
    February 26, 2008

    “The theory is missing the information that would describe the definite properties of the two particles” — an interesting way of putting the question. I’m curious whether you know of other authors who take an approach close to this? How does the author who was saying “just what [you] were saying” talk about three, four, and macroscopic numbers of particles? Does the concept of a single particle survive at all when there is more than one? Which, if there’s an experiment, there is.

    Insofar as a particle is a ‘container’ for properties, I suggest that the idea of properties being contained by a particle-pair, particle-n-group, etc., as well as by single particles, introduces a holistic element that is, shock, arguably nonlocal. If we accept that this is a form of nonlocality, is it a nonlocality that does (or might be constructed in a way that does) less violence to classical Physics than other ways of introducing nonlocality? Are other Physicists likely to think that it does enough less violence to take it seriously? I quite like your alter-ego author’s approach; whoever it is goes with my best wishes.

    I’ve added the birchbark house to my Amazon wish-list. Looks good.

  3. #3 Kate Nepveu
    February 26, 2008

    It may or may not help to know that “That’s just what I was saying!” is spoken by the dog.

  4. #4 Pseudonym
    February 26, 2008

    The tip of the arrowhead lies on the endpoint of the line opposite the reference point. This makes any normal-length arrow point away from the reference point. However, for an arrow of length zero, both endpoints lie on the reference point, so the tip of the arrow is the reference point.

    Silly me for having my closest book being the 1994 edition of Lamport’s “LaTeX: A Document Preparation System”.

  5. #5 wesmorgan1
    February 29, 2008

    I was going to do this, but page 123 of the nearest book is blank. Wait, I know! It’s a meta-comment on the banality of Internet memes!

    Oh, wait, I have an e-book open…e-never e-mind.

    “Although the details of the actual measurement techniques used for the first study were sketchy, the new measurements were to be made using techniques developed by the U. S. Navy for accurately measuring field strength of LF and VLF signals [49]. A specially constructed receiving antenna was purchased and used with a selective level voltmeter to take the measurements. The measurement sites were carefully chosen to avoid objects or terrain features that would interfere with the signal [44].”

    –NIST Time and Frequency Radio Stations: WWV, WWVH, and WWVB, NIST Special Publication 250-67

  6. #6 Lucas
    March 1, 2008

    “Theorem B. The upper, lower, and total variations of a signed measure $\mu$ are measures and $\mu(E)=\mu^{+}(E)-\mu^{-}(E)$ for every measurable set E. If $\mu$ is [totally] finite or $\sigma$-finite, then so also are $\mu^+$ and $\mu^-$; at least one of the measures $\mu^+$ and $\mu^-$ is always finite.”
    -“Measure Theory”, Paul R. Halmos.


    Actually Husemoller’s “Fibre Bundles” was closer, practically all the sentences were of the form: “…, and so the following diagram commutes:..”

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