Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Quarked: Campus Mysteries

Here is the most recent installment of Quarked, which covers a variety of things I have noticed around campus that I never quite figured out and figure I probably won't by this point. I'm not sure how entertaining some of the things are to those who don't know my university, but I write for a campus newspaper and figured I should cover a few more 'local' things as well.

Entertainingly enough, this column is not without controversey, due to the following passage-

Inscription plaque in Rockefeller - Our physics building was built in 1906,
but if you actually look at the dedication plaque, (between the two sets of
doors as you're coming in from the Quad) the dedication date for the building is
written as "MDCCCCVI." This is, of course, not the way you write Roman numerals
- you use subtraction notation, meaning you can only have three of anything in a
row and 1906 should actually be written "MCMVI."

I don't know what is more disturbing, the fact that the physics department doesn't know how to count, or the fact that I am the first person in over 100 years who has noticed this.

As it turns out, there is some controversey as to when exactly Roman numerals were "standardized" as we use them today- the Romans liked to use "IIII" for 4 instead of "IV" like we do due to superstition, but were fine with "IX" for example. Long story short, I now know more about this than I cared to know.

I mention this because it turns out some people writing to point out errors are not as nice as others, and one went as far as saying "the physics department is owed an apology by the snarky columnist." I always thought I was more curmudgeonly myself... Anyway, this led me to wonder who exactly I'd apologize to should anyone care. Myself? My friends, my professors, or my friends who are professors? The department chair who has shown up to my parties?

This is why letters to the editor are funny, by the way. They can take one person's opinion and totally blow it out of proportion so you'll remember it a long time even when everyone else has long forgotten the incident at hand.