Do Good Things

By Sean Carroll | October 22, 2007 8:12 pm

The crazy kids over at ScienceBlogs have been doing a good deed: running a fundraising campaign for the DonorsChoose charity, an organization that helps out with numerous small-scale projects at public schools across the country. Chad Orzel at Uncertain Principles has been going all-out, drumming up support for a series of worthy proposals. Many of his fundraising pitches involve making fun of atheists such as myself, calling us cheap bastards and referring to St. Richard Dawkins as a doodyhead. But now he needs our help, to spread the word beyond the insular world of ScienceBlogs and ask people in the larger community to help out with the challenge. That’s what we like about Chad: shamelessness!

So let’s prove that we cold-hearted totalizing materialists can also go soft and squishy in the face of needy children, by opening our wallets and donating to a good cause, either to one of Chad’s challenges or to any of the others. Afterwards, you are free to return to your customary relativistic eudaemonic ways, savoring martinis spiced with the chilled blood of baby seals.

And speaking of things to do, Chad also brings up the topic of N things every person/man/woman should know/do/experience. These lists usually serve as cheap ways for writers who have run out of ideas to fill up a few column inches, and typically consist of a dizzy amalgamation of several things that are perfectly trivial, other things that are actually worthy, and many things that make no sense or are strictly impossible. With that paradigm in mind, some time back I whiled away the minutes during an especially boring seminar by constructing my own List of 25 Things Every Person Should Do Once In Their Life. I think it is just as good as anybody else’s list!

  1. Found a utopian colony.
  2. Integrate by parts.
  3. Decode the Voynich manuscript.
  4. Defy gravity.
  5. Recover lost treasure.
  6. Translate the pre-Socratics.
  7. Make love on the 50-yard line.
  8. Raise a pig and make sausage from it.
  9. Lead a witness.
  10. Outrun a bear.
  11. Raise a point of order.
  12. Memorize Paradise Lost.
  13. Swoon.
  14. Wake up in Vegas in a stranger’s house.
  15. Collapse a wavefunction.
  16. Run for public office.
  17. Resign in disgrace.
  18. Prove Fermat’s Last Theorem.
  19. Hack into NORAD.
  20. Problematize a binary opposition.
  21. Square the circle.
  22. Kiss in anger.
  23. Batten a hatch.
  24. Unscramble an egg.
  25. Donate to charity.

How many have you done?

  • Jeff

    26. The gallon challenge

  • Stuart Coleman

    Your list is preposterous.

    Incidentally, who hasn’t integrated by parts?

  • Bob Munck

    How many have you done?

    I notice you didn’t specify “successfully.” Lacking that proviso, I can claim about half.

  • mollishka

    Damn, I’ve only done #21.

  • Sean

    Bob, those bears are fast, aren’t they?

  • Jasper Palfree

    I’ve done numbers 2,15 and 18,
    or… wait,
    no, sorry, that was Andrew Wiles.
    My mistake. Just #2 and #15 then.

  • Low Math, Meekly Interacting

    I’ve kissed in disgrace and resigned in anger. Not sure where that puts me.

  • Allyson

    If you donate through tomato nation’s page, you can win neat prizes…like my book.

    It comes with a Barnes & Noble gift certificate so you can buy a better book.

  • Chad Orzel

    That’s what we like about Chad: shamelessness!

    Hey, if something’s worth doing, it’s worth selling out completely for…

    Thanks for the plug.

    If you donate through tomato nation’s page, you can win neat prizes…like my book.

    Yeah, well, if you donate through my page you can, um, make me write a post about a topic of your choosing (one topic for each $30 donated, to a maximum of five). And win a variety of prizes from the Seed overlords. Plus some other incentive that I’ll announce this afternoon, when I’m awake enough to come up with something sensible.

    So there.

    (Note: I’m not really indignant about people donating through other challenges. And, for the record, the militant atheist bashing was mostly a way to liven up the repeated charity appeals, which otherwise tend to get soul-crushingly dull… It did work, sort of, though offering to stab myself with a fork was more successful.)

  • Matt

    #2 – I’m with Stuart, who hasn’t?

  • Freiddie

    I think I did… one of them. Integrate by parts.
    I might do one more: collapse a wavefunction, once I am able (I’m still in high school).
    That’s me.

  • citrine

    I cannot turn a pet into sausage (#8).

    As an aside, the second law of thermo prevents one from converting the sausage back into the pet.

  • Rien

    Incidentally, who hasn’t integrated by parts?

    Well, my students, obviously…

    I could do all of these except #8, but as far as utopian colonies go, they are usually distinctly disappointing. Case in point: has anyone ever visited Arcosanti?

  • Aaron F.

    I think I’ll try #10 last. :)

  • Bob Munck

    #10 was actually one of my (partial) hits. As a kid in the Black Hills, I once saw several bears at the town dump while riding by on my bike. I got out of there, and they didn’t catch me, so it’s only a partial disqualification that they didn’t actually chase me.

    Fermat: well, I did know Ken Ribet in college.

    Collapse a wavefunction: aren’t we all doing this all the time?

    Hack into NORAD: jeez, they’re still using 64-bit encryption. How can you not?

  • spyder

    Don’t #2 and #8 go together in some way??? Oh, “by parts”, not by-products! Sorry.

    I might suggest adding something like: Participate in direct action to promote peace!

    and for the adventurous: Survive a rock-climbing fall because your belay worked!

  • Jason Dick

    I’m a big fan of #4 myself.

  • John Ramsden

    I heard of someone who achieved 10. But as it turned out he didn’t have to outrun the bear, only the person running with him.

  • Traums

    Don’t forget:

    “Experience faster than light travel” 😛

  • Abelian

    I love number 8

    Hilarious! :)

  • citrine

    Abelian on Oct 25th, 2007 at 1:51 pm
    I love number 8


    Obviously, I’m non-Abelian.

  • Melissa

    … if its on the 50 yard line can you really call it ‘making love’? More importantly can you convince her of that?

  • Q9

    Which gravity? – The Earth’s?

    Mix 7 & 8, and you could get ‘making bacon’

  • mihai andrei

    have done 4
    but not going to tell which 😀

  • Chanda

    #2 definitely, and I continue to think its cool.
    #11 probably uncountably many times, yeah Robert’s Rules!
    #13 yeah low blood pressure!
    #15 is probably debatable by PI’s Foundations group, so maybe
    #16 if student gov at a public U counts
    #22, of course, who hasn’t done that if they’ve been not-single?

    And probably someone has me down as person most likely to do #1. But they’re wrong because I’m too lazy to pull something like that off.

  • GBushII

    Got ’em–that there gravity thing took a little thought but the execution was easy once it all got right in my head. Anyone got a list of real challenges?

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About Sean Carroll

Sean Carroll is a Senior Research Associate in the Department of Physics at the California Institute of Technology. His research interests include theoretical aspects of cosmology, field theory, and gravitation. His most recent book is The Particle at the End of the Universe, about the Large Hadron Collider and the search for the Higgs boson. Here are some of his favorite blog posts, home page, and email: carroll [at] .


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