Conceptual Physics Costumes for Halloween

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.

More like this

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.

By Captain C (not verified) on 27 Oct 2010 #permalink

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.

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.

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.

By NoAstronomer (not verified) on 27 Oct 2010 #permalink

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

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.

By Raskolnikov (not verified) on 27 Oct 2010 #permalink

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

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

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.

By Randomfactor (not verified) on 27 Oct 2010 #permalink

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

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.

By Philip Langmuir (not verified) on 27 Oct 2010 #permalink

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

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

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.

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

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?

By CCPhysicist (not verified) on 27 Oct 2010 #permalink

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.

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.

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.

By PrimeMoverX (not verified) on 28 Oct 2010 #permalink

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:

Those ideas aren't even wrong.

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

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