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TAM-Day Musings

On 7th August 2001, I received the following widely circulated e-mail from Hassan Aref, who had been President of ICTAM 2000 the previous year in Chicago: 

Dear Fellow Mechanician,


Last year, as part of ICTAM 2000, Governor Ryan declared Monday, August 28, 2000, "Theoretical and Applied Mechanics Day" in the State of Illinois. We propose that henceforth the last Monday in August be designated "TAM Day".


This year we encourage you to celebrate TAM Day on Monday, August 27. Please let us know how you plan to mark this occasion.  Your creative ideas will be featured on our website here .


Happy TAM Day 2001!


The Department of Theoretical and Applied Mechanics at University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

I was at this time approaching the end of my 5-year stint as Director of the Isaac Newton Institute, behind which we had recently installed a boules court as a recreational facility for the many visitors to the Institute (among whom at the time were Martin Kruskal and Vladimir Zakharov).  I responded to Aref's directive with the following poem.  Scots will find the rhythm familiar, and will appreciate the level of plagiarism!


TAM-Day Musings


A poem to celebrate TAM-Day, 27th August 2001


After Tam O'Shanter

With apologies to Robert Burns


When lecture rooms are growing stale,

And thoughts begin to turn to ale;

When blackboards thick in chalk are smothered,

With scarce a new truth there discovered;

When loud the arguments have railed,

But longed-for inspiration failed;

Why, that's the time to take a break,

To turn to coffee, tea and cake;

Or sip the vineyard's produce cool,

And contemplate the game of boules.


This truth was haply brought to mind,

By letter sent and duly signed,

Conveying tidings of great joy

Hot from the heart of Illinois;

There it was formally declared

What ne'er had hitherto been dared:

Mechanics as a worldwide art

Should henceforth have a day apart,

A day when man may ruminate

Upon the subject's vibrant state;

A day when blackboard toil should cease,

And staff should have a bit of peace!

Straight from the land of Al Capone,

Instruction came by telephone;

It seemed there was no time to lose,

Such offers one cannot refuse!


And thus it was TAM-day was born,

An August Monday to adorn,

A day this year decreed by heaven

To fall on August twenty-seven;

So three times three, again times three,

A date on which TAM holds the key

To open Archimedes' door,

And celebrate on every shore;

What time of day?  You well may ask;

The answer's plain:  from dawn till dusk.


In Cambridge town we heard the call,

And rallied to the central hall

Of mighty Newton's Institute,

Irreverently called by some the Newt!

He who bestrode the pebbled shore

Of Ocean's ever-mobile floor;

Here a pebble, there a pebble,

But was the system integrable?

Said Newton "If I shed a tear

Upon this ocean wide and clear,

Will this affect the rain in Laos?"

And thus were sown the seeds of Chaos.


But to our tale: the day dawned bright,

The weather forecast had been right;

The warming sun on boules court shimmered,

The overarching crane fair glimmered;

That day a child might understand

An awesome drama was to hand.


Well practiced in the laws of motion,

And fortified by vintage potion,

The gifted savants slow foregathered

Hard by the shed where bikes are tethered;

From every land and clime they came,

Experts of legendary fame;

From Russia, It'ly and Japan,

And every country known to man;

From Poland, Greece and USA,

A clash of titans underway!


But here my Muse her wing maun cour,

This glorious game made such a stoor;

The boules of glittering steel were round,

And sped unerring on the ground;

They rolled, they arched, they spun, they clickit,

More action here than seen in cricket!

The game might well have run till dawn

There by the side of Newton's lawn.

The cochinet brent new frae France

Was kissed with steel, and touched perchance,

Balls tossed with Zakharovian skill;

Then Kruskal clad in T-shirt still,

He who could aim a ball and roll-it-on,

Invariant as any soliton,

With concentration ever keener

Entered upon that tense arena;

And cast one ball, a crafty throw

That scattered those of every foe.

The cochinet was split asunder,

Th'encircling crowd was mute with wonder.


Now, who this tale o' truth shall read,

Mechanics of whatever creed:

When overwork becomes a grind,

And problems tangle up the mind,

Fill well the cup and fill it full,

Take refuge in a game of boules!

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