Sociology

The Physics of Homelessness



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"The Physics of Homelessness"
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The process of becoming homeless provides a wonderful lesson in physics. I sign a lease and, rather than pay month by month, I pay my rent for the full year in advance. So, I pay, at once, $12,000, which is the monthly the rent of $1,000 times 12. Soon before the end of the lease, I tell him that I would like to renew my lease. He hands me a lease extension agreement. I fail to notice the extra zero in the monthly rent. In other words, my monthly rent just increased from $1000 to $10000!

Suddenly, two days before my lease is due to expire, the building manager bangs on my door. He shouts, "You're out of here! You failed to pay rent for the last two months, so now I'm evicting you!" This can be explained physically as follows. As he yells, his vocal cords vibrate. He has a low voice, so his vocal cords vibrate at a low frequency. His voice is loud, so his vocal cords vibrate at great amplitude. The sounds waves travel through the air, as longitudinal waves, and strike my eardrums, which vibrate at the same frequency as his voice.

I respond, "Yes but I have a wife and twelve kids. We can't just be thrown on the street." Pointing his finger at me, he bellows, "Either you pay $2,000 for the previous two months plus $10,000 for the next month, or you're out of here!" This can be explained physically as follows. He is twice my size and one half of my IQ. Suppose the two of us were to put on football uniforms and then charge at one another. By the law of conservation of momentum, which equals mass times velocity, I would probably be sent into orbit around the earth.

I say, "Yes, but, but I already paid it all at the beginning of the year." He yells, "You're a liar! You are a lying cheat who is trying to pull a fast one! Whatever you paid at the beginning of the year ran out! I'm evicting you!" He storms off. This can be physically explained as follows. As he turns to walk away, his legs and feet apply a torque to the floor. This torque changes his angular velocity from zero to some nonzero value. He then applies a torque in the opposite direction so that he stops rotating.

Most people would move out and become homeless at this point. But I stay to fight, in spite of the fact that I am employed so I really haven't much time to spend on this matter. In court, the judge asks, "Do you have proof that you paid the full rent at the beginning of the year? I reply, "No your honor. I just trusted the landlord, so I never requested a receipt. I'm still waiting for my bank to send me proof that I paid my rent." The judge asks, "And what about the $10,000 you owe?" I reply, "It is an unconscionable rent increase. Furthermore, none of the other tenants had their rent increased by nearly so much." Rolling her eyes, the judge retorts, "Of all the nerve! First you lie about having paid the rent, and then you refuse to pay the rather modest rent of $10,000! I hereby order that you pay the $12,000 you owe, court costs, and legal fees and that you leave the apartment in five days." I say, "But, your honor, I can't find an apartment in so little time." She chirps, "Case dismissed." She turns to the attorney who hung my family and me and asks, "David, say hi to your wife and kids. Did Adam complete his law school yet?"

As the tears well in my eyes, the force of gravity pulls them down, so that they stream down my cheeks.




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