Field of Science

Schrodinger and Hawking in the Starbucks line

This list of entries entitled 'literary Starbucks' speculates what different well-known writers and fictional characters would order based on their personalities if they were to suddenly turn consumerist and appear in the Starbucks around the corner. Here's a sample involving "To Kill a Mockingbird" star Atticus Finch:
"Atticus Finch goes up to the counter and orders the one drink on the menu that no one else was brave enough to get. As he walks out, everyone else stands up in solidarity."
Naturally (yes, naturally) this got me thinking about what certain physicists would utter if placed in the same situation.

Newton slowly walks up to the counter and is thinking of ordering some biscuits instead of a drink. Before he can say anything he sees a few biscuits in the display window named "Leibniz". He grows red in the face, curses loudly and storms out.

The portly Pauli waddles up to the counter and offers up a precise description of ingredients which he wants in his exclusionary latte. The barista furiously scribbles the order and makes the drink. Pauli takes a sip and screams "This is not even bad". The barista tries to stammer an excuse. Pauli puts both fingers in his ears and runs out.

Dressed in his impeccable bow tie Schrodinger elegantly walks up to the counter. First he orders a caramel macchiato, then switches to a green tea latte, then contemplates a pumpkin spice drink, then reverts back to simple coffee, then finally asks that the barista make him a drink with a superposition of all possible ingredients in the coffee shop. When served this drink he takes a sip and throws up.

Bohr walks up to the counter and mumbles his order. When the barista says she didn't understand, he repeats the order with a different version of mumble. When this happens three times he retreats to the corner and sits there smoking his pipe and mumbling to the stranger next to him.

Dirac hesitantly steps up to the counter. The barista asks him what he would like. Dirac asks him what's on the menu. The barista spends about five minutes describing the several offerings. Dirac finally asks for a cup of water and leaves.

Einstein orders a tall vanilla latte. When he takes a sip he feels obliged to point out to the barista that it's the worst drink he has ever had, and that includes the "English" tea served at the Institute for Advanced Study. The barista drily points out that taste is a very relative thing. There's not much Einstein can say to this and he retreats to a corner seat, trying to smile and look sage-like but fuming inside at being hoist by his own petard.

Feynman walks in with a pair of bongos and makes such a din that he is indignantly asked to leave. Five minutes later he walks out of the cafe with two free macchiatos, and the baristas have no idea what the hell happened there.

Szilard walks up to the barista and asks her if they have a pastrami sandwich. The barista says they do and quickly realizes it's a bad idea when Szilard likes the sandwich so much that he lodges himself into a comfortable chair and refuses to leave even when the cafe is about to close. He says this is where he is going to live for the next one month. 

Fermi walks up to the counter and offers a very precise description of his drink. While the drink is being made Fermi comes up with a theoretical formula to maximize the taste and flavor of an arbitrary caffeine-based beverage as well as a new, cheaper and more efficient design for the espresso machine. He is offered a job as manager on the spot.

Hawking whirs around to the counter in his electric chair and orders up some English breakfast tea in his digital American accent. For some reason the baristas are all looking very offended and seem reluctant to serve him his drink. It doesn't take long for Hawking to realize the reason - for the last few minutes he has been saying something to his scientific colleague about a "black hole with no hair".

Looking erudite and self-important Gell-Mann ambles up to the counter. He only seems interested in two qualities of the drinks in the cafe - flavor and color. After picking his favorite combination of the two he proceeds to correct the baristas' pronunciation of every item on the menu as well as their own names.

Witten orders his usual grande chai. And he ends up being the only one among the physicists who offers unadulterated praise for the drink, saying that it excels in every possible dimension.


  1. Wolfgang Pauli alternative: Pauli decides he wants an espresso, but the machine breaks down as he walks through the door.


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