ever looked closely at the cream in a cup of coffee?
don't keep the liquid well stirred, the lighter cream may separate
from the darker beverage.
were freshman physics majors at Oberlin College, my friend Jan
Olson became curious about the phenomenon.
good scientist, she decided to collect some experimental data.
access to photographs like these, she went home for Christmas
vacation. She prepared several cups of coffee, let them sit,
and then sketched the patterns that developed. Later she showed
me her notebook, and I copied this page.
was really going on? There were no theories, no conclusions.
century later, in early December of 1990, I ran across a short
article in a science magazine that discussed this very question.
(To read the article, click here.)
researcher was not Jan Olson but rather geophysicist Peter Olson (no
relation). He drew parallels between coffee cup convection and
movement in the interior of the Earth.
the article lacked illustrations of any kind, the coincidence was
sufficiently striking to inspire me to forward the magazine to my
college classmate. I also enclosed the following note, in which
I endeavored to achieve rhymingness.
Olsons, for three hundred months, have professed
with patterns you find in your coffee.
claim that you document clouds and the rest
your sketches and words but without photogroffy!
never use cream. I'm a tea drinker, so
my kitchen there's no coffeemaker electrical.
the proof that a photo would show,
no first-hand experience, I remain skeptrical.
then at all of your mugs, cups, and glasses!
swirlings deduce what goes on in Earth's mantle!
my part, I'll watch the convection of gases
light up the room with a bright Christmas cantle.