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Conservation of Momentum During Collisions

Born under the sun sign of Leo, Serena Jayne is naturally a cat person. Her short fiction has appeared in The Arcanist, Lost Balloon, Rock and a Hard Place Magazine, Shotgun Honey, Space and Time Magazine, and other publications. Her short story collection, Necessary Evils, was published by Unnerving Books. She tweets @SJ_Writer.

Two people A and B, having different but unknown masses, collide elastically. A is initially at rest while B has a speed of v. Which direction does A move after the collision? What is the kinetic energy of B?
Assume you have a solid B in 255L: Modern Physics Laboratory and a C+ in 255: Modern Physics. Calculate your grade after boning the hot, blonde teaching assistant. Take into account that one of your fraternity brothers, the jerk whose room stinks of weed, festering bologna, and existential angst, flings a pair of thong panties at you in the middle of Modern Physics. You're hung over and half-asleep, wearing clothes scavenged from your laundry bag.
This happens while the professor blathers on about impulse, momentum, and the magnitude of force exerted on a body after collision. While you extract those lacy undies from your face, Teach stops speaking and glares as though he wishes you were the unlucky version of Schrödinger's cat.
Questions to consider: Did the panties belong to the lab assistant, the professor's wife, or some rando? Did the professor observe the unassigned physical chemistry experiment created by you and the teaching assistant? Did you happen to be the Door Dash driver who brought the professor's wife caramel swirl cheesecake during his office hours? Were the collisions in the problem accidental or planned? Did they really happen or are they cannabis-induced fantasies? What was the effect, if any, of friction?
Imagine you're married and while you can't remember shit about momentum, your life is the embodiment of inertia. You wonder if a horny delivery dude drives caramel swirl cheesecake to your wife while you're stagnating in a corporate cube at your nine-to-five nightmare. You wonder if the direction you moved after that collegiate collision is to blame for your lack of kinetic energy. You wonder which part of the physics problem transformed you into the unfortunate feline darling of quantum mechanics, existing in some sorry state between life and death.
The End
This story was first published on Wednesday, November 2nd, 2022

Author Comments

Even the smallest decision has the potential to change the trajectory of a person's life, making them wonder how they ended up at a particular destination. Looking back and trying to put together the puzzle is often futile due to the malleability of memory. The need for a person to be the hero of their own story can result in blaming something innocuous--perhaps a slice of caramel-swirl cheesecake--for their troubles. Life is a physics problem that we spend our lives trying to solve.

- Serena Jayne
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