Two New Yorker cartoons

A Mick Stevens from the December 21st/28th issue (illustrating some cartoon conventions) and a Ben Schwartz from the January 4th issue (showing, once again, just how much you might need to know to understand what’s going on in a cartoon):



The Stevens. He’s just had a haircut: you can see that he’s leaving a barbershop (the barber pole identifies the place, in the real world and in cartoons), and he has a trendy new ‘do and a smile on his face, indicating satisfaction with the barber’s work.

The cartoon conventions have to do with the way the fact that he’s a caveman is conveyed: he’s coming out of a cave, he’s dressed in an animal skin, and he’s carrying a club — all things that are associated in popular culture with cavemen.

So we get a comic incongruity: a cavemen visiting a modern barbershop.

The Schwartz. None of this will work unless you connect the name Heisenberg for a scientist with the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, a principle articulated in 1927 by the German physicist Werner Heisenberg stating that

the position and the velocity of an object cannot both be measured exactly, at the same time, even in theory (link)

The woman in the cartoon says that she knows their position (in their relationship) right now but is uncertain about the direction their relationship will take. Ok, that’s not velocity, but it is uncertainty, and that’s close enough for cartoon work.

It turns out that there’s a whole genre of Heisenberg uncertainty cartoons. Google on {Heisenberg uncertainty cartoon} to get a sampling of them.

(Oh yes, both Stevens and Schwartz now have their own Pages under “New Yorker cartoons” on this blog.)




One Response to “Two New Yorker cartoons”

  1. jlundell Says:

    Velocity here is IIRC a vector, speed and direction both. So more than close enough, according to me…

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