Pseudo-Scientific Rambling

The universe adjusts to accommodate us. As we move through space, the shape of the air around us adjusts to fit our forms. When the air moves to adapt to our motion, we do not propel only the molecules of air around us to change their positions; every molecule of air in every direction shifts, if ever so slightly, to make way.

If every one of these molecular adjustment were accompanied by a flash of brilliant, colorful light, the display would overload our senses. We would be dazzled by a constant rain of kaleidoscopic light, spectacularly vivid sparkles that would draw our attention away from mundane lives.

The butterfly effect, of chaos theory, pales in comparison to my theory that every atom of every substance—known and unknown—is in constant motion, making way for every other atom of every other substance. My theory, I’ll call it Steroidal Fractal Theory, posits this:  each movement of each atom causes every other atom to move an equal distance in a never-ending pattern that grows exponentially larger with each motion. In simple terms, if every atom in the universe were, at any given time, absolutely static, the movement of a single atom would cause simultaneous movement of every other atom; and their movement would cause identical movements of every other atom, adinfinitum. In other words, perpetual motion.

I find it fascinating to think that a single note of a whale’s song in the deepest part of the Pacific Ocean can trigger a volcanic eruption in Indonesia. Of course, it’s a bit of a stretch to say the note “causes” the eruption, but it’s more gripping to make that claim than to attribute the explosion to an impossibly complex interaction between every atom in the universe with every other atom. Speaking of every atom in the universe: how many are there? Can we even begin to conceive of a number large enough to encompass every atom? I have a hard enough time thinking of the number of all the leaves on all the trees in all the forests, let alone the number of atoms constituting those leaves. But, then, to attempt to go beyond that incomprehensible figure to grasp at a number…it’s too hard.

How efficient would a human brain have to be to catalog all human knowledge? To know every language, every mathematical equation, every historical event, all medical and biological and chemical data? Absolute knowledge of even a fraction of human endeavor would take up more space and/or require more efficiency than we’re capable of achieving, I think. Take metallurgy, for example; is it possible for one person to know absolutely everything about metallurgy, beginning with the very first understanding of metal to today’s enormously complex body of metallurgical knowledge?

The first paragraph of this post unintentionally suggests, I think, that the universe revolves around “us.” Humans, that is. Intellectually, I believe that is absolutely false; the universe does not revolve around humans. But emotionally I think we cannot help but make that assumption, even though we know it is a bad assumption. Yet, how else can we process this experience we’re living with? Our understanding of the universe is automatically processed through the lens of human perception; we can’t have it any other way, no matter how hard we try.

Although these topics intrigue me, they do not hold sufficient interest for me to explore them more deeply. That’s true of most topics, unfortunately. My interest seems to parallel my discipline; both wane quickly. It’s not with pride that I say my interests are as wide as the ocean and as shallow as the morning dew. I know very little about many things.  That’s the very definition of shallow, I think. Maybe shallow isn’t the right word, though. Shallow suggests there’s a motive toward ignorance. That’s not it, at least not with me. I’d like to know more; I just don’t have the mental stamina to do the work. I’d be thrilled to be enormously intelligent and knowledgeable; if I could achieve such a status with regular injections, I’d happily lift my sleeve and swab my arm with an alcohol-soaked cotton swab.

I have a very intelligent friend who refuses to write because she is afraid her writing would be embarrassing in its display of ignorance. Listening to her talk, one is immediately struck by her superior intellect. But she insists that she would embarrass herself by writing. I could slap her!  On the other hand,  I think I’m a pretty good writer. But my intellect is far inferior to my writing. If  I knew as much as my writing sometimes suggest I do, I might be pretty damn bright. Perhaps it’s not so much a paucity of knowledge as it’s a dearth of critical thinking capability. Or, if truth be told, outright laziness. I have the capacity to know more and think more critically, but I just don’t want to invest the energy and the time to improve. So I remain my slothful self, my communication skills sufficient to fake my way through intelligent conversations, forced to regularly admit enormous gaps in my knowledge.

Sometimes, I think writing fiction is simply a coping mechanism. Rather than invest the time and energy to learn new things, I can just make stuff up. Like Steroidal Fractal Theory, which allows me to cope with my ignorance of physics by manufacturing BS that may have some remote connection to facts, but only tangentially. I do the same thing with characters. Rather than engage with people on a level sufficiently deep to really know them (and vice versa), I manufacturer characters. It’s easier than wading through the debris and detritus of personal relationships. And it’s far easier to eliminate bad relationships; with writing, the delete key is readily available, whereas deleting in the real world is both immoral and illegal.

I wasn’t always this lazy. I suspect unpleasant outcomes in the past to my hard work might have something to do with my torpidity. That’s a topic for another time, perhaps in the presence of a trained psychotherapist. For now, it’s time for breakfast.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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