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October 2013

Written by Christie McMonigal

My name is Christie, I studied Physics at the University of Sydney. At the start of the year I made a post on Reddit which went viral, prompting a media frenzy. This is the story of how that post came to be and how without physics none of this would have happened.
It starts with a meeting.

I met Brendan, in my first few weeks of uni, in the line for a free BBQ from SciSoc, the USYD Science Society. Free food is a fantastic mechanism for attracting university students and so for a first year who didn't know anyone, it was a great way to meet new people.
It was the rainiest day of the year, and so only the hardiest (poorest) students were braving the weather for a free sausage. Fortunately for me, Brendan was one of those students.

We hit it off immediately. We both were studying Physics and Maths and so it turned out we had quite a few classes together. We studied together as well helping each other out when we got stuck or didn't understand a topic. Our relationship was very nerdy and unique, neither of us was particularly interested in the standard romantic gestures relationships were 'supposed' to have. Rather than expensive dinners, we went on dates to conventions, rather than watch the big blockbuster movies we stayed in and watched sci-fi TV shows, and Brendan introduced me to Ultimate Frisbee and I introduced him to Karate.
So it was only fitting that when Brendan decided to propose, he would do his best to make it as different and unique as possible. And he definitely achieved that.

The Setup
I was going away for a few days so Brendan asked me to read a physics paper while I was away that he wanted to discuss with me. However, he 'forgot' to give it to me. When I got back we met at uni, to head out for dinner. Just before we left he asked if he could give me the paper, so he didn't forget again. He got down on one knee, got the paper out and handed it to me. So I promptly put it in my bag, As I was doing so I noticed two things:
1. It was only one page, very short for a paper
2. Brendan was giving me a very odd look.
So I looked again, and realised the paper was by him.

The Proposal
The paper described a physics study about a '2-body interaction', (our relationship), and the results upon introduction of various variables, such as extra bodies and co-bodies (housemates and partners) and annual separation (Brendan spends two weeks every year at the National Maths Summer School in Canberra).

Click here to see the proposal.

The paper concludes by asking if the subject (me) wishes to continue the study indefinitely, with a yes/no check box. So of course I checked 'yes'.

Internet Explosion
I put the proposal up on Reddit a few weeks before the wedding and overnight it went insane! When we woke up the next day, my post had made it to the top spot on Reddit, and we had heaps of requests from around the world for interviews. We hadn't put our surnames on the post, so originally the reporters contacted us through the University, as we had put that information up there. And it was useful at least initially having the USYD media team help us keep on top of it all. Eventually our names were published though and people started contacting us directly. We did interviews for newspapers, magazines and radio stations around the world. Finally, Women's Day contacted us, wanting to do an exclusive article on the wedding. They conducted a number of interviews and we sent in our favourite photos of the day. The article came out while we were on our honeymoon but we had lots of willing family and friends at home who bought many many copies of the magazine.

All in all it was a pretty awesome experience. I had a lot of fun and gained a lot media experience.
Brendan and I are still very happy together and Physics still plays an important role in our lives, he is a PhD student in gravitational astrophysics and I am a science communicator at Sydney Observatory. The media frenzy has died down, everyone has mostly moved on, but even now, months later I still get the occasional person recognising us, which is always fun.


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