by Joe Coluccio, Parsec President
I’ve been obsessed with books on popular science for as long as I can remember. As a toddler, I carried a copy of Fred Hoyle’s “Frontiers of Astronomy” in the back pocket of my diaper. Willy Ley’s “Rockets, Missiles and Space Travel” in the front basket of my bike. “One, Two, Three… Infinity” by George Gamow tucked away under the covers of the Latin Mass Missal Sunday mornings. The Abbé Georges Lemaître meant a whole lot more to me than did Father Gildea at St. Joe’s swinging a boat of choking incense to cleanse the altar. Those books contained and informed the totality of my imagination. They were each a sweet adventure.
So why is it that works that purport to be popular explanations of science today are much like listening to your parent’s sobering advice on life. Endless lectures on sex and morality and manners and the sociological importance of the people who can further you. I feel like my folks could have written the old testament. Lots and lots of rules. Passed on from dark ages via folklore and outdated experience. Unforgiving rules. Rules designed to limit your access to any but the most practical aspects of imagining.
Time Travel. Can’t happen. Modern theory allows, maybe with a large amount of energy, something to occur on the molecular level. Interstellar communication. How would you do that? Communication over such an unthinkable distance would take beaucoup energy and the beam, if beam it is, would be attenuated by clouds of dust, and propagation losses are proportional to distance squared. Wormholes? A humbug. Faster-than-light travel. We’ll throw up Einstein and the limiting speed of the universe in your face.
It is hard to have Albert Einstein, the man who started his exploration of physics via thought experiments, touted as a limitation to what you can think and achieve. Headline from February 11, 2016, from https://www.ligo.caltech.edu/news/ligo20160211 “Gravitational Waves Detected 100 Years After Einstein’s Prediction.” Maybe it’s time for me to go back to “The Evolution of Physics” by Albert Einstein and Leopold Infield for a recharge (carried in my book bag, ninth grade, next my Algebra II textbook) because I surely am not finding surcease in the cautionary tales coming from the barren ideas of any but a few theorists of modern cosmology.
I’m full of wishful thinking? You bet. It is also fruitful reflection.
I can and must face the hard reality of the world as-it-is with the rest of you. We manage every day to make decisions, just and unjust, in a welter of muck and confusion that faces all of us. Or, maybe, it’s all Maya, an illusion that forms a reality, ever changing, that is apparent, not actual.
Trouble trouble boil and bubble. There is a whole horrifying world of opinion aimed straight at your soul. Try not to believe everything you think.