Saturday, 16 April 2016

A SIM card that proved a fundamental principle

One of the more useful principles that have stuck with me from school physics is that “matter can neither be created nor destroyed.”

That’s a principle of the natural world, of course. I’m saying nothing about what’s possible supernaturally. I don’t want to get into an argument with my religious friends, so I can assure them I’m making not claim about the creation or destruction of matter by an all-powerful God to whom, of course, anything is possible.

No, I’m talking about ordinary, day-to-day life where, by natural means, nothing material can be created or destroyed.

Why’s this notion so useful? Well, if you’re like me and constantly prone to mislaying important things – glasses, keys, even that cup of coffee made with the last of the grounds, having forgotten to buy any more – it is a great comfort to remember that, being material, it can’t have been destroyed. I know that I left it somewhere, possibly somewhere sensible, more likely somewhere completely stupid, but wherever I left it, it’s still there, waiting for me to find it.

I had a reminder of the value the principle the other day. Two years on, the contract on my previous phone ended and I was able to take a new one. Fortunately, the upgrade I went for didn’t require a new SIM card. I just had to take the SIM out of my old phone and load it into the new one. 

Which sounds simple enough.

It might have been wiser to wait until the morning, when I would have been less tired. Instead I dropped the SIM card onto the carpet at my feet. Or so I thought. I spent twenty minutes hunting for it without success. I took a break. And then looked again, just as uselessly.

It was at my feet. How could it have gone anywhere else? The phones are mobile, but only if we carry them. How does a SIM card become mobile on its own?

I have little confidence in my ability to find things I’ve lost. But Danielle’s different. So when she also spent twenty minutes looking and failed, I had to fall back on the physics principle. The card had still to be in existence somewhere, we just didn’t know where.

We decided it had to be inside the dog. I hadn’t seen her getting close enough to swallow it, but it was hard to think of any other explanation. Still, I didn’t like the notion – it was much too reminiscent of the classic schoolboy excuse, “the dog ate my homework.” I wasn’t convinced.

And, indeed, the very next morning, my eye was caught by a glint of reflected sunlight. The SIM card! There it was. Lying innocently on the floor, as though it had done nothing to irritate me. In the kitchen, nowhere near where I dropped it.

So how did that SIM card travel so far? Was it hiding in a fold in my clothing? Did it attach itself to a shoe? Had the dog scooped it up and then sensibly dropped it (it certainly showed no traces of having been any further through her)?

Unlikely demonstration of the principle of conservation of matter
Ah, well. It showed up. It’s now my phone and working just as I hoped. Having proved, yet again, that though it can be mislaid, matter cannot be created or destroyed.

And that Im not good at keeping an eye on things. Or finding them when Ive lost them.

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