You want a physicist to speak at your funeral

Charles 22 Comments



You want a physicist to speak at your funeral. You want the physicist to talk to your grieving family about the conservation of energy, so they will understand that your energy has not died. You want the physicist to remind your sobbing mother about the first law of thermodynamics; that no energy gets created in the universe, and none is destroyed. You want your mother to know that all your energy, every vibration, every Btu of heat, every wave of every particle that was her beloved child remains with her in this world. You want the physicist to tell your weeping father that amid energies of the cosmos, you gave as good as you got.

And at one point you’d hope that the physicist would step down from the pulpit and walk to your brokenhearted spouse there in the pew and tell him that all the photons that ever bounced off your face, all the particles whose paths were interrupted by your smile, by the touch of your hair, hundreds of trillions of particles, have raced off like children, their ways forever changed by you. And as your widow rocks in the arms of a loving family, may the physicist let her know that all the photons that bounced from you were gathered in the particle detectors that are her eyes, that those photons created within her constellations of electromagnetically charged neurons whose energy will go on forever.

And the physicist will remind the congregation of how much of all our energy is given off as heat. There may be a few fanning themselves with their programs as he says it. And he will tell them that the warmth that flowed through you in life is still here, still part of all that we are, even as we who mourn continue the heat of our own lives.

And you’ll want the physicist to explain to those who loved you that they need not have faith; indeed, they should not have faith. Let them know that they can measure, that scientists have measured precisely the conservation of energy and found it accurate, verifiable and consistent across space and time. You can hope your family will examine the evidence and satisfy themselves that the science is sound and that they’ll be comforted to know your energy’s still around. According to the law of the conservation of energy, not a bit of you is gone; you’re just less orderly. Amen.

— Aaron Freeman “You Want A Physicist To Speak at your Funeral” Source


  1. Charles

    Wow! This was pretty awesome and beautiful if you understand physics. Granted, not everyone will understand the concepts of it unless explained. BUT still pretty cool. Maybe we should have a physicist speak at our funerals.

    1. Charles

      Yes, it’s the Brian Cox syndrome isn’t it? The irritation you feel at the know it all enthusiast who can explain everything, but you feel, hasn’t really comprehended what the experience means.
      Having said that, this is like a crucible for future poets (and celebrants) – a place where the concepts and explanations can be turned into meaning and poetry.

    2. Charles

      My mum died on Tuesday and I’m so glad that I’d read this before as this is what was going through my mind when I went to see her body. It is more comforting than anything I’ve ever come across before. I have no notion of a deity. This, I understand.

  2. Charles

    The funeral is surely too late for this – it’s a splendid context in which to look at the end of someone’s physical being, but I can’t imagine anyone finding it helpful at a funeral, unless perhaps a physicist at the funeral of a physicist! Or at least, in a context in which the family had already reached this sort of perspective. Otherwise, it’s magnificently disconnected!

    Vale, I like the idea of this as a crucible for our own word-making, but just by the by, why do so many people have it in for Brian Cox? I think he does show understanding of the significance of what he’s saying. Is he suffering from what the Aussies call the “Tall Poppy” syndrome, or as people used to say, “too clever by half?” Or “too successful by half?” He’s certainly extended my understanding of physics and astronomy – which, fair play, wouldn’t have been too difficult given my starting point!

    1. Charles

      I found it a great comfort when I unexpectedly lost my soul mate in November 2015.

      I found it really difficult, and still do, to be parted from his mortal remains and this gave me the certainty that he hasn’t gone.

      The afterlife, as posited by many religions, is a nebulous affair lacking in concrete proof. The first law of thermodynamics is solid and grounded in reality not in hope.

      I’m not much of a physist but this gave me a real sense of hope in a very dark time and still does. His consciousness may have gone but Damien survies.

  3. Charles

    Gloria, where to start. Is it his foppish hair, his into-the-distance gaze, or is it his absolute assuredness at everything, explaining the entire cosmos, before ending with a throwaway ,”Of course, 90 percent of the universe is comprised of dark matter, about which we no absolutely nothing.” Whaaaaaat?
    He’s the new pope.

  4. Charles

    I’m coming into this one late, but I assumed it was a joke when I read the post the other day. Surely no-one could consider it a serious idea? If matter and physical energy compose our entire being and experience, as here implied, then I’ve very probably just eaten my great-great-great grandson for breakfast. He was delicious.

    1. Charles

      And how do this Brian Cox chappie and his ilk manage so effortlessly to get under everyone’s skin? I had to be told who he is – I tell you, it’s so liberating since I got rid of my telly!

  5. Charles

    According to the law of the conservation of energy, not a bit of you is gone; you’re just less orderly. Amen

    and some of you lot are already dead according to this definition…..

  6. Charles

    Thanks for the video Richard, great fun.
    As for you, young Callender – come on man, it’s the hair, isn’t it? But relax – I find, as my atoms hurtle towards an increasingly and then ultimately less orderly state, that such trivia matter less and less. Contact me via the Person Displacement Beam Generator I’m sending you and I’ll explain about dark matter, and brain redistribution via TV documentaries. Entropy rules. E=MCsquared. Heat death of the universe. Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle. GloriaMundi’s unprincipled certainties…..

    Help. I’ve just been Coxed.

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