Flan O'Brien

In The Third Policeman, Flan O'Brien presents an "Atomic Theory of Matter." Everything consists of small particles of itself. For instance, a sheep is made of small bits of sheepness. These little bits are not tremendously tightly bound together. For example, a person who has spent a lot of time riding a bicycle over rough roads gets some of her or his atoms interchanged with those of the bicycle. Consequently, the person becomes more bicyclelike, and the bicycle more personlike. The person is unable to stand still without resting an elbow against a wall or a foot against a curbstone. Similarly, in cold, wet weather the bicycle keeps turning up in the kitchen, near the warm stove. Food mysteriously disappears from the kitchen.

One of our students described an overly simplistic view of fractals held by his roommate. The roommate believed fractal geometry implied mountains are made of little pieces that are themselves mountains, and dogs are made of little pieces that are themselves dogs. This view is not correct, of course, but it is a cute metaphor, developed very homorously by O'Brein.