Friday, August 15, 2014

Physics of Phoxhounds

I don’t have any grandchildren yet, but I am fortunate to have a wonderful "granddog." This weekend, my wife and I are taking care of Auggie, the lovable foxhound that my daughter Kathy rescued from an animal shelter in Lansing, Michigan. Auggie gets along great with our Cocker-Westie mix, “Aunt Suki,” my dog-walking partner who I’ve mentioned often in this blog (here, here, here, and here).

Do dogs and physics mix? Absolutely! If you don’t believe me, then check out the website dogphysics.com. I plan to read How To Teach Physics To Your Dog with Auggie and Suki. In fact, according to this tee shirt foxhounds are particularly good at physics. Once we finish How To Teach Physics To Your Dog, we may move on to Physics for Dogs: A Crash Course in Catching Cats, Frisbees, and Cars. Apparently there is even a band that sings about dog physics, but I don’t know what that is all about.

Auggie is a big fan of the 4th edition of Intermediate Physics for Medicine and Biology. His favorite part is Section 7.10 (Electrical Stimulation) because there Russ Hobbie and I discuss the “dog-bone” shaped virtual cathode that arises when you stimulate cardiac tissue using a point electrode. He thinks “Auger electrons,” discussed in Sec. 17.11, are named after him. Auggie’s favorite scientist is Godfrey Hounsfield (Auggie adds a "d" to his name: “Houndsfield”), who earned a Nobel Prize for developing the first clinical computed tomography machine. And his favorite homework problem is Problem 34 in Chapter 2, about the Lotka-Volterra equations governing the population dynamics of rabbits and foxes.

How did Auggie get his name? I am not sure, because he had the name Auggie when Kathy adopted him. I suspect it comes from an old Hanna-Barbera cartoon about Augie Doggie and Doggie Daddy. When Auggie visits, I get to play doggie [grand]daddy, and say “Augie, my son, my son” in my best Jimmy Durante voice. I’m particularly fond of the Augie doggie theme song. What is Auggie’s favorite movie? Why, The Fox and the Hound, of course.

Our dog Suki has some big news this week. My friend and Oakland University colleague Barb Oakley has a new book out: A Mind for Numbers: How to Excel at Math and Science (Even if You Flunked Algebra). I contributed a small sidebar to the book offering some tips for learning physics, and it includes a picture of me with Suki! Thanks to my friend Yang Xia for taking the picture. Barb is a fascinating character and author of an eclectic collection of books. I suggest Hair of the Dog: Tails from Aboard a Russian Trawler. Her amazon.com author page first gave me the idea of publishing a blog to go along with IPMB. To those of you who are interested in physics applied to medicine and biology but struggle with all the equations in IPMB, I suggest Barb's book or her MOOC Learning How to Learn.

James Herriot--the author of a series of wonderful books including All Creatures Great and Small, which will warm the heart of any dog-lover--loved beagles, which look similar to foxhounds, but are smaller. If you are looking for an uplifting and enjoyable book to read on a late-summer vacation (and you have already finished IPMB), try Herriot’s books. But skip the chapters about cats (yuck).

Auggie may not be the brightest puppie in the pack, and he is too timid to be an effective watch dog, but he has a sweet and loving disposition. I think of him as a gentle soul (even if he did chew up his grandma's shoe). Below is a picture of Auggie and his Aunt Suki, getting ready for their favorite activity: napping.

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