Wednesday, 10 October 2012

The Physics of Kicking a Bad Habit

A reliable source of frustration comes from drinking juice from those little boxes that come with a straw attached to the side of it.  The ones I usually get are small, and no sooner than I start drinking it’d finish.  I usually find out that it is finished when the sides of the little carton gets squashed in.  Thanks to my high school Physics I think I understand why that happens.

As soon as the liquid content is extracted it is replaced by a sufficient supply of air that maintains the equilibrium of air pressure inside and outside the carton.  When the fluid is complete but one continues to the suction motion air begins to come out.  As soon as the air extraction begins (creating a vacuum) the pressure inside the box is reduced below the pressure outside the box.  This causes the external air pressure to force the sides of the carton in, causing a crumpling effect.  Huh! It’s finished.

A similar mental effect of “crumpling” occurs when a certain technique of just trying to quit a bad habit is used to get rid of a bad habit is used.  This idea presupposes that as a living organism one always has to be doing something.  Hence to stop doing something without simultaneously replacing it with something else is to create a vacuum effect that is likely to produce effects that are similar to those seen in persons in a detox clinic.  A less traumatic and more effective way of kicking a bad habit is to not focus so much on the habit you want to quit, but to focus on cultivating the new habit you wish to develop. Note, you cannot create a vacuum; you must replace or displace the undesirable habit with a preferred one. It's like getting air out of a bottle.  You could try to pull it out, but it's a whole lot easier to displace the air with some... water.