Some Notes on the Physics of Large Appliance Repair

Given the enthusiastic response of our readers to our recent article on the psychology of large appliance repair, we decided to see if physics has anything interesting to say about the matter. As you no doubt recall, the issue discussed in the earlier story was the statistical correlation between the hours separating midnight and 2:00 am and the incidence of men repairing large appliances in the privacy of their own homes. The psychologists whom we consulted did much to illumine the phenomenon in that earlier piece. Yet, given that appliances do not have souls—or at least so we tend to believe—we didn’t want to let psychology have the last word on the matter. Appliances are movable—even if not easily—bodies, so we thought physics might be able to add to our understanding of this correlation.

The most authoritative article on the topic was by physicist Bennett R. Owens. His tentative conclusion was, in part, that:

The fact that these correlations apply exclusively to large appliances strongly suggests gravitational interaction. It is, furthermore, significant that the mass of these appliances is similar to that of the average male. It is, therefore, almost certainly the case that this statistical correlation is an example of medium scale gravitational interactions. Since time of day is also part of the correlation, the sun, even though much more massive, may also be involved. Further study should investigate what affects, if any, the moon may have on this correlation.1

If Owens is right about his claims, then it should be true that the fatter you are, the more likely you are to repair a large appliance in the middle of the night. We suspect that physicists are actively researching this topic. In fact, the next time you find yourself fixing your oven or refrigerator in the middle of the night, pay special attention to the hidden cameras around you, and see if any of them show signs2 of having been put in place by physicists.3

  1. “Quantum Gravity, M-Theory, and Large Appliance Repair,” Science, Nature, and Appliance Repair 14 (2011): 123-563.
  2. What sort of signs, you ask? Small signs are most likely, possibly bearing words such as “property of the physics department of the International University of West Carolina”.
  3. And then what? Well, for starters, don’t take your clothes off while repairing that washing machine. Otherwise, the psychologists might have to be called in too.

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