10 March 2014

A Straightforward Oxymoron?

The first time you saw or heard the word "oxymoron", what did you think?

Perhaps it's indicative of the time in my life when I learned it that I thought about a stupid kid with zits.  Back then, a product for treating acne that had "Oxy" in its name had recently been introduced.  Is that product still being made?

Anyway, being the sort of person who remembers examples better than abstract definitions, whenever I heard the word "oxymoron", I would think of "military intelligence", "dietetic candy", "authentic reproduction" and "business ethics".  Oh, and there was a sign I saw in a supermarket:  "Fresh frozen jumbo baby shrimp."

Here's another one to add to the list:  a riderless bicycle.   

From Wired.com

Now, such a thing may be plausible, at least in an etymological or epistemological sense.  (I teach college. I have to use words like those at least once a year.  There, I got it over with!)  After all, a bicycle is nothing more than a vehicle with two wheels.  So, I suppose, one could have a bicycle without a rider.  Of course, I have to ask:  Why?

Well, someone seems to have a reason:  research.  Yes, you can get away with inventing practically anything for research purposes. But I think this project may have practical applications:  The riderless bicycle's creators are trying to learn more about gyroscopic forces and what keeps wheeled vehicles stable.

Maybe one day, if I have money to burn, I'll buy one of those bicycles for someone whom I tried, and failed, to turn into a cyclist!


  1. Bikes do not stay upright due to gyroscopic forces.

  2. Hi Steve, Thanks for the clarification. I didn't mean to imply that bicycles stay upright due to gyroscopic forces.

  3. Those wheel things do have a degree of gyroscopic stability which helps.

    My small wheeled folder doesn't stay up so well...

  4. Coline--That was one reason I sold my Dahon. I never quite felt safe riding it in traffic.