Stress

(An excerpt from my book, Bonsai Coyote)

Catherine Shephard
Physics, Per. 1

Stress

Stress is a measure of how strong a material is, as defined by how much pressure it can stand without undergoing some sort of physical change. This can equally relate to stress on a material object and stress on a second-semester high school senior, bringing physics and quantum mechanics to a glorious convergence.

Scientists have declared that a crying baby is the most stressful sound known to man. Scientists enjoy these types of declarations: aluminum foil might give your dog an overbite, not enough sunlight makes you slightly worse at playing the guitar, that sort of thing. It makes one think that there are a few too many scientists out there, with a bit too much time on their hands.

But there’s something to be said about the stress caused by a crying baby. I babysat once and it was the most whiny, bodily-fluid-filled three hours of my life and I was in middle school at the time. I would argue that the most stressful sound in the world is an alarm clock. Not only do the piercing sound waves put undue stress on my eardrums, but the pressure to wake up when it is still pitch black outside has irrevocably altered my mind.

The term yield stress refers to the level of stress at which a material will deform permanently. Brittle materials, like concrete and my logarithm-leeched brain, strain easily. High school starts at 7:30 am. I’m fairly certain that my yield stress threshold is closer to 9:30. The tensile strength of an object is the level of stress at which a material will fracture completely. I’ve heard that college freshman crack under the pressure of an 8:30 am session of Biology 101—yet I’m expected to be out of bed and ready to study physics at 7:30? Followed by calculus? What cackling sadists scheduled that?