BATAVIA, Illinois. As a nuclear physicist, Monroe Watkins is used to looking at incredibly small bodies, but even he is daunted by the task before him this morning as he fires up the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory. “Replication is the gold standard of scientific experimentation,” he says as he flips through the late August catalog for Chico’s, the specialty retailer of private branded, sophisticated, casual-to-dressy clothing, intimates, complementary accessories, and other non-clothing gift items. “The thesis propounded by this paper is extraordinary, so we may be witness today to a paradigm shift of the sort described by Thomas Kuhn in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.”
Watkins is referring to the claim, implicit in the size charts for the Tapered Ankle Pant and other “long, lean and everywhere in between” items currently offered by the chain, that a size 0000 had been successfully isolated in the Chico’s experimental clothing laboratory in Fort Myers, Florida, surpassing size 000, the size that had formerly been considered the smallest possible. “There are three conventional dimensions that can be perceived by the human senses,” he says. “With the coming of size zero to the fourth power, we may have entered a new realm of self-deception.”
“That was a great meal! I enjoyed it going down and coming back up!”
Sizing of women’s clothes is a scientific discipline that is on the verge of great breakthroughs, according to Women’s Wear Daily Physics Columnist Hanna von Ormand. “It is much like Heisenberg’s Uncertainly Principle,” she says as she sips an iced latte that is both tall and skinny at the same time. “Heisenberg said there was a limit to the precision with which certain pairs of physical properties can be known, just as a dress that is a ‘large’ at some frumpy store like Talbots turns magically into a size 3 at Chico’s.”
“God, I feel so fat!”
The task before the scientists at the Fermi Laboratories today is to place a skirt and sweater combo into the world’s second-largest particle accelerator and see if they can, by propelling the separates at high speeds into well-defined beams, cause them to be re-sized from normal size XXS to Chico’s size 0000. “It is an experiment fraught with peril,” says Watkins as he adjusts the dials on the “mother board” before him. “If we succeed, women around the world will be able to deceive themselves into feeling they are smaller than they really are, if we fail, it could be the end of life on earth as we know it.”
He is about to flip the toggle switch that will send a charge estimated at four hundred giga electron volts through the 3.9 mile circumference ring when he is interrupted by Stephanie Mikulsky, a University of Chicago undergraduate physics major who serves as his research assistant. “Excuse me?” she asks hesitantly as she cracks the door to the control room.
“Yes?” Watkins answers with suppressed impatience.
“I have a question,” she says as she enters.
She whirls a half-turn, causing her pleated skirt to flair suggestively. “Does this law of physics make me look fat?”