It seemed worth grabbing some quick publishable results to make myself more attractive to employers, since this project of growing brightly colored tail feathers is going nowhere. Since there are two cats around the house the obvious thing for quick results is to try some animal testing. This may sound cruel but it's not as if I'm asking them to solve the three-dimensional Ising model on a random lattice structure. I tried asking them, but they run away, much as I would do from my thesis adviser.
The cats: one (1) gray (grey) cat (meow). She's approximately five years old and hasn't quite grasped the solidity of objects like furniture. 1 (one) white (with spots) cat (miaou). She's about two years old and prone to jumping onto things. The experimental group was the gray (grey) cat, to whom each day at 10 am I'll say a word and see what happens. The first control group was the other (white) cat, to whom I wouldn't say anything. The second control group would be an empty room without any cat, to which I would say something. I don't expect a response but if I got one you'd have to admit if there were one that would be worth noticing. The word chosen was ``Tchebyshev,'' for Pafnuty Lvovich Chebyshev, the 19th century Russian mathematician whose name will be remembered as long as polynomials are, although with less reliable spelling. His name was picked for the obvious reason as it is typically pronounced ``sheby-shev'', whether or not this is correct, because if you find yourself a backup singer for a late 50s a capella group and can't remember the words ``sheby-shev'' is a pretty good thing to try singing in its place.
Experimental results, day one: Didn't remember the experiment until part way through The Price is Right. The contestant was probably going to overbid anyway.
Day two: said ``Tchebyshev'' to the wrong (white) cat. Felt foolish after this. The cat hopped onto the kitchen table and rubbed against a 24-can box of soda (Diet Dr Pepper). The gray (cat) was eventually found nestling between pillows in the sun room's sofa. Decided to continue with the experimental and the control cats swapped.
Day three: said ``Tchebyshev'' to the grey (no longer right) cat. Cat had no response worth mentioning; realized later this was the wrong way around again. The white (other) cat was in the control (bed) room.
Day four: could not find either cat until after saying ``Tchebyshev'' in the control (bed) room, which was supposed to be empty, but instead had both (two) cats. The white cat then did this sort of somersault with her head on my foot, pushing her back against my leg until she fell over on her back. It was really very cute, but hardly reproducible, as she then swatted my foot with all claws extended. In future experiments socks are to be worn, though getting them on the cats may be trouble.
Day five: overslept. Grey cat pushed the bedroom door open, rubbed against a cardboard box, and then left.
Day six: father overheard the ``Tchebyshev'' and wondered what was going on. Any factual explanation seemed more ridiculous than anything I might make up, including this.
The results of the first week must be characterized as mixed. While the cats seem none the worse for the experiment they don't seem to have improved any either. I've come through with only mild embarrassment, and the discovery that the cats are quite adept at handling the pushing of doors. If I had an experiment in mechanics or physics this could be further investigated, but I feel compelled to confine my experiments to ones with obvious mathematical content.
Trivia: Michael Faraday, always ready to help the Royal Navy, put aside his research into electromagnetic induction in 1832 to test 32 samples of oatmeal suspected of containing adulterants. Source: Michael Faraday, L Pearce Williams.
Currently Reading: Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, Gregory Maguire.