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A new Alice in the old Wonderland and a physics textbook

“Mr. Sham and Mr. Hem, I believe,” said the King. “Very able professors, both. And so is Mr. Jappet, but I don’t see him.”
“What do they teach ?” asked Alice.
“How should I know ?” said the King.
“Whatever there is to teach, I suppose.”
He seemed for some reason to be a trifle displeased, and, opening a book he had, turned over the pages in silence for some minutes, making odd grimaces to himself.
“You might care to look over this,” he said, at last, to Alice.
“Thank you,” she replied. “It isn’t your Memorandum-Book, then? I thought it was.”
“I should think not, indeed !” he answered, loftly. “I found this book on the end of the bench here when I sat down. I fancy it’s his.” And he turned his head with a nod towards the owl.
Then he laid the book on the bench and strolled away. Alice thought it was rather odd she had not noticed any book when she sat down. There was nothing at all promising in the appearance of it nor in its title, which was “College Examinations.” At home she would not have opened it, but she knew that a book which belonged to an owl in Wonderland must have something worthwhile in it. She opened at the preface, which was in very large print, and had the long words in it divided by hyphens, as in the “Second Reader.” It was addressed to “Col-lege Fac-ulties who ren-der knowl-edge un-at-ain-able by the mass-es,” chiefly it appeared because of their neglect to furnish answers to the “vex-a-tious and spite-ful ques-tions” contained in examination papers. The author stated his belief that many of the professors were not themselves aware of the proper answers, and in this case his present work would be a “boon alike to teachers and taught.” The first chapter in the book was “Test Questions on Physics,” of which Alice read a page or two:
1. What was formerly the theory concerning Physics?
Physics was formerly supposed to be a name for medicines. When it was gradually observed that Physics did not cure the sick, scientific men made investigations with a view to discover their true nature and use.
2. Did they succeed?
They did. It was discovered to be useful stuff for school-books.
3. What are the chief properties of Physics?
Dryness and hardness.
4. What is matter?
Matter is a variable quality depending for its existence on circumstances.
5. Explain this, with diagram.
Take the case of A and B. If A should fall heavily from the platform C, landing suddenly on the ground at D, it would be NO matter to B. Likewise, if B should fall heavily the same distance, it would be NO matter to A; though it would be equally matter to A and B respectively.
6. What is momentum?
The force with which anything strikes you at the moment.
7. To what is momentum always equal?
It is always equal to the occasion.
8. Give an instance.
If a ball propelled at a given moment should strike the head of a professor of Physics, the resut would be more momentuous – i.e. have greater mamentum – than if a similar ball at that moment should strike the head of a very small boy.
The momentum in each instance would be equal to the occasion, plus the square of the difference in importance.
9. What is as lever?
A species of stick.
10. How was it discovered?
Two workmen were once endeavoring to lift a heavy boat. Not being able to do it, one of them cried, ‘Let us leave her!‘ ‘Lever! The very thing,’ said the other. And he took up what was formerly supposed to be only a crowbar, and moved the boat with surprising ease.
11. What is a porous substance?
One that you can pour water through, such as sieves, colanders, strainers, etc.
12. Are tea-pots, pitchers, and jugs porous?
Only partially so.

Alice, although she did not know anything about Physics, could quite appreciate the absurdity of the owl’s book. There were several pages more about Physics, followed by an examination in Chemistry. But just then she heard the loud ringing of a bell, so she immediately shut the book and put it on the bench, looking round at the owl, who still sat blinking on his perch without appearing to take the slightest notice of anything.
(“A New Alice in the Old Wonderland” - Anna Matlack Richards, 1895)
More about the book plus the link to a free digital copy on:
A free Librivox audio version is available here:

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