Monday, November 30, 2015

It's A Quandary

If your car could travel at the speed of light, would your headlights work?

That's the kind of question that gives me an instant headache, as I try to grapple with the science.  It only takes a moment for my brain to realize that the person it inhabits has failed to internalize the physics it once learned.  If it's in there, I can't find it.  

And so, I move on.  

I am bemused, realizing that your headlights are probably the least of your problems if your car suddenly began traveling at the speed of light.  Or, perhaps, it's a specially designed car, and then wouldn't the engineers and other smart people have figured out the solution, if there is, in fact, a problem?  And there I am, back at the science, again.

Big Cuter and I spent several hours driving to and from the Mesa Airport.  As always, time in the car is the most valuable. We talk.  We disagree.  We laugh.  And he teaches me things which are complex and deep and profound and presents them in such a clear and interesting fashion that it's really a shame that I can't replicate his explanations here.

Or were they explications?  We spent some time on that distinction, and I was much more comfortable with that conversation than the one surrounding it.  That was the conversation that really gives me a headache, the same headache I've had since I first thought about it, in elementary school.  

What's outside our universe?

Image result for atlas holding up the world rockefeller centerBig Cuter was very clear about the inflaton (no, it's not a misspelling, there is no "i", it's a different word, apparently) field, the fabric of something-or-other which oscillates and when it oscillates a certain way a big bang occurs.  At least, that's what I think he told me.  I could be wrong.  It doesn't really matter, because it doesn't answer the original question:

What's holding our universe up?

I asked Atlas Holding the World the same question as a teenager.  I did.  I remember standing at Rockefeller Center, wondering if people would understand if I started screaming at the sculpture.  What was he standing upon? Did anybody know?  It made my head hurt just to think about it.

It's a quandary.


  1. Don't get me started on time travel. It boggles my mind and I get so darn confused. And I'm going to have to look up inflaton. I've never heard that term.

    Hope you had a lovely Thanksgiving.

    Megan xxx

    1. I love it when The Burrow can expand your horizons! Have fun researching.... and let's leave the head aches to those who enjoy the pain <3

  2. What holds the universe up? Its turtles all the way down. From Stephen Hawking's Brief History of Time:

    A well-known scientist (some say it was Bertrand Russell) once gave a public lecture on astronomy. He described how the earth orbits around the sun and how the sun, in turn, orbits around the center of a vast collection of stars called our galaxy. At the end of the lecture, a little old lady at the back of the room got up and said: "What you have told us is rubbish. The world is really a flat plate supported on the back of a giant tortoise." The scientist gave a superior smile before replying, "What is the tortoise standing on?" "You're very clever, young man, very clever," said the old lady. "But it's turtles all the way down!"

    — Hawking, 1988

    Regarding the origin of the universe:

    "In answer to the question of why it happened, I offer the modest proposal that our universe is simply one of those things which happen from time to time."

    Edward P. Tryon

    1. Oh, Sextant, you've made my evening!! I love these tales... especially "from time to time."

      Thanks for sharing!


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