Tag: Physics

The In-Between Doldrums

doldrums [ˈdōldrəmz, ˈdäldrəmz]
(the doldrums) a state or period of inactivity, stagnation, or depression.

While we’re on the topic of definitions, here’s another one that’s often misunderstood/misused:
a property of matter by which it continues in its existing state of rest or uniform motion in a straight line, unless that state is changed by an external force.

My default state of inertia can best be described as… sloth. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m usually a pretty active guy. Once I start doing stuff, that feeds on itself and the next thing I know there isn’t enough time in the week to do everything I want. Once enough force is applied and I get going, my inertia is a healthy level of continuous movement.

The problem is that if anything derails that inertia, I default back to sloth mode. This is where I introduce you to the doldrums. In my part of the world, this happens twice a year. Right now, we’re in the winter doldrums. Fall is over. It’s cold. It’s rained enough that the trails are a muddy, torn up mess. You can’t run on ’em or mountain bike. Did I mention the cold? This makes a motorcycle ride an extremely unpleasant experience. There’s no snow yet, so my standard winter activities haven’t started yet. Finding outdoor activities this time of year, while not impossible, are exponentially harder.

Day by day my motivation and inertia wanes. Adding to that, it’s the holidays which means food. There’s just food everywhere. At the hospital, well-meaning families of patients are constantly bringing cookies, cakes, and candy. The staff break room is a never-ending cornucopia of calories.

It doesn’t take many days of this, and I get into a bit of a funk. I didn’t go completely stationary… I managed to play golf a few times and did a couple of home repairs. But my default state the last few weeks has been couch-bound. And the more I sit the more my inertia starts resetting to sloth mode. It gets harder and harder to want to get up and do anything.

It needs to snow soon so I can resume my skiing activities. Otherwise, I might bust out the video games that have been in a closet for the last five or so years. If that happens, you probably won’t hear from me until spring. Unfortunately, what happens in spring? Doldrums part deux. The snow melts and we have a long period known as “the mud season”. You can see that this is a dangerous cycle.

Overcoming the moment of inertia – the force required to overpower the current mass and velocity of an object can be a complicated mathematical formula. The longer I stay still the greater the mass and friction coefficients become, and the required force becomes exponentially greater.

As Lewis Carroll wrote in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, ‘The time has come,’ the walrus said, ‘to talk of many things: of shoes and ships – and sealing wax – of cabbages and kings.’ The time has come to apply some force and bust out of the funk of the doldrums.