Your metaphor police in action

James’ reflections on the fate of bubbles provokes me to poke at the implode bubble itself. For some reason this word, which specifically refers to the sudden inward collapse of something resisting external pressure, has floated into careless use to describe all sorts of destruction and failure where explode would be a more appropriate metaphor. A TV tube would implode because of its internal vacuum; a submarine similarly from external water pressure. But a bubble explodes because it’s under tension; a balloon either explodes when punctured or collapses if the internal pressure falls, as from a slow leak.

Etymology helps keep us on the right track: a tennis ball is so called because they were bouncy on account of internal pressure that kept the shell in tension (careless enunciation of tense ball), hence the hissy pressure can they used to be packed in. Now they work by the bending stiffness of the shell (you can puncture a tennis ball and it’s perfectly playable) but the name endures. Please do not write in correcting this paragraph; I like my story better than whatever truthy facts might be offered.

Author: Michael O'Hare

Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy, University of California, Berkeley, Michael O'Hare was raised in New York City and trained at Harvard as an architect and structural engineer. Diverted from an honest career designing buildings by the offer of a job in which he could think about anything he wanted to and spend his time with very smart and curious young people, he fell among economists and such like, and continues to benefit from their generosity with on-the-job social science training. He has followed the process and principles of design into "nonphysical environments" such as production processes in organizations, regulation, and information management and published a variety of research in environmental policy, government policy towards the arts, and management, with special interests in energy, facility siting, information and perceptions in public choice and work environments, and policy design. His current research is focused on transportation biofuels and their effects on global land use, food security, and international trade; regulatory policy in the face of scientific uncertainty; and, after a three-decade hiatus, on NIMBY conflicts afflicting high speed rail right-of-way and nuclear waste disposal sites. He is also a regular writer on pedagogy, especially teaching in professional education, and co-edited the "Curriculum and Case Notes" section of the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management. Between faculty appointments at the MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning and the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, he was director of policy analysis at the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs. He has had visiting appointments at Università Bocconi in Milan and the National University of Singapore and teaches regularly in the Goldman School's executive (mid-career) programs. At GSPP, O'Hare has taught a studio course in Program and Policy Design, Arts and Cultural Policy, Public Management, the pedagogy course for graduate student instructors, Quantitative Methods, Environmental Policy, and the introduction to public policy for its undergraduate minor, which he supervises. Generally, he considers himself the school's resident expert in any subject in which there is no such thing as real expertise (a recent project concerned the governance and design of California county fairs), but is secure in the distinction of being the only faculty member with a metal lathe in his basement and a 4×5 Ebony view camera. At the moment, he would rather be making something with his hands than writing this blurb.