Bill Clark

Hillsborough resident and retired scientist Bill Clark shows a couple of the signs he’s posted in his yard during the pandemic, in hopes of bringing smiles to the faces of his neighbors and people passing by.

 

“Data shows 6 out of 7 dwarfs aren’t Happy.” This statement is based on unscientific information. It is, in fact, a joke that was written on a sign by a former scientist and placed in his yard. The joke from a couple of days ago was better. And if you don’t like this one, swing by in a couple of days for a different joke, pun, or oddball observation.

Bill Clark started putting the signs in his yard more than a year ago as a way to bring a smile to his face, and make the pandemic seem less heavy. He hoped the signs would have a similar effect on others.

“COVID was all around and I mean just the atmosphere was …. I think I was feeling a little depressed,” Clark said. “I thought maybe everybody’s depressed and I thought people needed something to cheer them up.” 

It turns out Clark, who was an Army research scientist for 37 years, wasn’t wrong. The response from neighbors and others who have noticed the signs has been largely positive. He even has neighbors who have “egged him on” to continue putting out the signs.

While the pandemic has definitely affected his mood, Clark said what seems like a growing disregard of science has left him frustrated. So much so in 2017, he took part in the March For Science, a non-partisan movement that was created to celebrate science and the role it plays in everyday lives. Clark carried signs with similar sayings during the march.

Clark has realized that adding humor to sometimes complex subjects and issues can help people to lower their guard, and maybe do a little research if they don’t understand the joke that’s on the sign.

“One person told me he ‘Googles’ stuff on my signs,” Clark said. “That’s good, in my opinion.”

Some examples of his signs:

• The Optimist says the glass is half full. The Pessimist says half empty. The Engineer says it’s twice as big as needed;

• When the tectonic plates collided it was all their fault;

• The only thing flat-earthers have to fear is sphere itself.

“My favorite is probably ‘Entropy ain’t what it used to be,’” Clark said. “Most physicists would probably appreciate that one the most. I’m not sure entropy is a well-known term among the general population.”

For the record, entropy is a thermodynamic quantity representing the unavailability of a system’s thermal energy for conversion into mechanical work, often interpreted as the degree of disorder or randomness in the system.

Obviously, that’s not going to fit on a sign. 

And where do these jokes and observations come from?

“A lot of them I had learned about from when I was a graduate student at Duke,” Clark said. “A lot of them are just jokes that we had done and heard throughout my career.”

Clark said he plans to continue putting witty and funny signs out so long as the pandemic is hanging around.

“This summer, I paused a little bit because I thought it was going away. And then people started asking where the signs were. Then the Delta variant came and so I decided to start them up again,” he said.