It’s late October, which means that the thoughts of small children and adults who have never quite grown up turn to selecting appropriate costumes for Halloween. In the spirit of these literary suggestions and these abstract concept suggestions, I thought it would be useful to offer some suggestions for physics-themed costumes, for those who want to dress as something from the greatest science.

Of course, there are some really obvious choices for physics-themed costumes (Einstein: rumpled clothes, white hair, distracted manner, German accent; Feynman: black pants, white shirt, brushed-back hair, bongo drums. Both of these are accentuated by shamelessly hitting on every woman at the party.), but here are a few ideas for costumes that might not be so obvious, to add a physics flavor to your Halloween party:

The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle: As soon as you arrive, hide in a secluded place and remain perfectly still. If anybody sees you, run really fast in a random direction.

The Pauli Exclusion Principle (Requires two people): Dress in identical outfits, and refuse to be in the same room with one another. If circumstances force you to be close together, one of you must stand on your head.

Schrödinger’s Cat: Wear an ordinary cat costume, but when you get to the party, go hide in a closet. When somebody opens the door to check on you, flip a coin, and if it comes up heads, pretend to be dead.

The Higgs Boson: Stand in a narrow hallway, and impede the motion of anybody who tries to get past you.

Isaac Newton, Alchemist: Wear a long silver wig, and babble to people about the transmutation of elements and the nature of God. For the Method-actor version of this, drink a bunch of mercury a week before the party, and then just be yourself.

P. A. M. Dirac: Dark suit, thin mustache. Don’t say anything.

Suggestions are welcome in the comments.

Comments

  1. #1 Captain C
    October 27, 2010

    Naked Singularity: Self-evident, though you may want to be sure you’re at the right kind of party, otherwise trouble could result.

    Add to Richard Feynmann: Drink orange juice, wear something Tuva-themed in addition to the outfit above (or carry a Tuva-themed postcard), and pick every lock in the house.

  2. #2 Anna B
    October 27, 2010

    Wolfgang Pauli himself: dark suit, chain watch, lots of critical remarks, and be sure to break all electrical equipment in the vincinity. Should match v. well with candlelight decoration themes.

  3. #3 Sean Carroll
    October 27, 2010

    The obvious choice is the Doppler effect.

  4. #4 Kengi
    October 27, 2010

    Dress as a tree and keep dropping apples while muttering “9.81 meters per second per second…” As a bonus, the apples can be used for bobbing later.

  5. #5 NoAstronomer
    October 27, 2010

    Love those ideas.

    How about going as a neutrino? Barge through the front door without knocking (bonus points for not opening the door first). Move around constantly. Don’t eat or drink or talk to any of the other guests.

  6. #6 Rich Y
    October 27, 2010

    Nonsimultaneous observables: Requires two people. Repeatedly ask everyone for ride to party. Refuse to commute with the other one.

  7. #7 Raskolnikov
    October 27, 2010

    Albert Einstein: Don’t wash and don’t comb your hair for a week, put on an old ragged sweater and pair of trousers. Bonus points for a lit pipe.

    Archimedes: Go to your friends’ house party and take a bath. When they come in, jump out and run around screaming “Eureka!”.

    Entropy: just be very messy in every conceivable way, eat messily, drink messily, just transform the cleaners’ task into a hell.

    Entanglement: take a straitjacket and wear it together with a someone else.

  8. #8 Kengi
    October 27, 2010

    The Big Bang: Point at an empty space and ask what people see there. Any time someone says “Nothing” set off a firecracker.

  9. #9 yud
    October 27, 2010

    Muon: Dress just like an electron, only bigger. Don’t stick around for long.

  10. #10 Randomfactor
    October 27, 2010

    Three of you go, dressed in appropriate colors and encircled by a hula-hoop. Claim to be quarks. If two of you smile and the third frowns, you can be a proton.

    You’ll have to go to the bathroom together, though…unless you decay first.

  11. #11 Tommy Ogden
    October 27, 2010

    Graphene: Requires extreme dieting beforehand, and enough sticky tape to cover one side of your body.

  12. #12 Grad
    October 27, 2010

    I’ve actually been to a party where someone came as a dz^2 orbital.

  13. #13 Philip Langmuir
    October 27, 2010

    Three of you go, dressed in appropriate colors and encircled by a hula-hoop. Claim to be quarks. If two of you smile and the third frowns, you can be a proton.

    Why limit yourselves to nuclear matter? If one person introduces themselves to everyone and the other two don’t say anything, you can be a charmed Omega baryon.

  14. #14 quentin
    October 27, 2010

    Everett’s many world: try to have as many different conversations at the same time as you can.

  15. #15 HP
    October 27, 2010

    Red suit, horns, and a pitchfork. Stand at the door and selectively allow only “hot” guests to come in.

  16. #16 Tom
    October 27, 2010

    I once went to a costume party as a Quantum Mechanic.

  17. #17 cygnus
    October 27, 2010

    Another take on Schrodinger’s Cat: Wear a low-backed black dress, cat ears and a tail, and write the Schrodinger equation on your back.

  18. #18 Chad Orzel
    October 27, 2010

    A late addition:

    Zitterbewegung: Drink fourteen cans of Jolt, so you twitch and jitter rapidly all the time.

  19. #19 Andrew
    October 27, 2010

    You could turn The Pauli Exclusion Principle into a drinking game if there’s a keg…refuse to be in the same room as each other and if the person walks into the same room as you they have to do a keg stand

  20. #20 CCPhysicist
    October 27, 2010

    I recall one memorable year where two students came dressed up as members of the faculty: myself and another prof. It was VERY funny. Once we realized what was going on. And don’t pretend that you don’t have certain, er, sartorial tendencies that wouldn’t be easy to emulate. Or that you couldn’t pull off pretending to be your department chair.

    I think Tesla would have a lot of potential. (Pardon the pun.) Could you design a Jacob’s ladder that could be worn as a hat? Or a Tesla coil hat while carrying a fluorescent light bulb?

  21. #21 andre3
    October 28, 2010

    I thought the Doppler effect would be someone wearing all blue in the front and all red in the back and constantly moving forward. Then, switch your clothes so you are wearing them backward and constantly move backward.

  22. #22 Spencer
    October 28, 2010

    Be an electron, but with a twist for accuracy. Run around really quickly in a room, but never, ever leave the room when someone can see you. This would mirror how nobody is yet sure of how electrons switch orbitals. A variation would be with running in concentric circles, but this may be difficult and impractical.

  23. #23 PrimeMoverX
    October 28, 2010

    Large Hadron Collider: dress in silver/black, carry around a roll of duct tape and some magnets, run up to people all excited and start to tell them about the most amazing thing you’re right about to discover, stop abruptly mid-sentence, rip off some duct tape and use it to patch another magnet onto yourself, sigh and say, “oh, not yet,” then walk away dejectedly.

  24. #24 Neil B
    October 29, 2010

    Well, surely by now I can touch back on a touchy subject, just for Halloween: Two people go to a party as “quantum decoherence.” They run around the room at various speeds and directions as they avoid or bounce from walls etc. in differing ways. Then they announce, that somehow (despite merely being put into a more disordered relation within the same room) they aren’t really together there! One of them is in one room, and the other is in a copy of that room … “somewhere else”, just because … which nobody can clearly explain.

    Heh, still on top:

  25. #25 Ariel B
    October 30, 2010

    Those ideas aren’t even wrong.

  26. #26 Neil B
    October 31, 2010

    Spencer, they really don’t know how electrons switch orbitals? If you meant, even in the QM sense rather than just imagining it intuitively, that’s odd. I’ve seen descriptions of how one wave function replaces another with an idea of the time frame and intermediate states, how the oscillating WF corresponds to the expectation values of the emitted photon polarization (more like classical radiation in that sense than you’d expect), etc.

    Ariel B, I hope you meant the ideas I was criticizing via costume idea – if you want more analysis, please see http://tinyurl.com/2eu9qh3.

  27. #27 Mike F
    November 2, 2010

    Religion: Walk in, claim to be the host of the party and then set lots of silly rules for all the drinking games.

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