Dear Dr. Boli: Where are all my socks? I keep buying socks, and I am absolutely certain that they come from the store in matched pairs. I have taken the trouble to verify this fact by noting each purchase in my diary (for I believe that a well-rounded gentleman ought always to keep a diary, so that his descendants may read the improving and edifying record of his accomplishments, or, in my case, of my purchases of socks). Yet my socks drawer, in which I allow no other species of clothing, contained, at last census, one hundred twenty-three individual socks, no two of them alike. Where are the rest of my socks? ——Sincerely, The Gentleman on the Corner with One Checked Sock and One Mauve Sock.
Dear Sir: Identical socks, like identical magnetic poles, have a strong mutually repulsive force. Nature does not easily tolerate two identical socks in close proximity. With our strong human preference for categorization and organization, we attempt to keep matched pairs together, but nature rebels and separates the pairs at the earliest opportunity.
As to where your particular socks have gone, that depends on many variables, the most important of which is how long you have been missing them. The natural force of repulsion continues to operate as long as the socks exist. If you lost a sock yesterday, it may be in your neighbor’s house. If you lost it last week, it has probably already crossed the state line and may be beyond the jurisdiction of any local authorities. Eventually your missing socks will end up as far away from their mates as they can get, which in your case is a point in the Indian Ocean several hundred miles west-southwest of Kudarup, Western Australia. If you intend to search for your missing socks, that is the place Dr. Boli would advise looking first.