Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Crank (Wacko) Science and Grade School Kids

Leave aside for now the legions of garage inventor  loons-- those with a smidgen of education and a shaky command of science jargon--who are always claiming to have invented an invisibility cloak, telekinesis brain-augmenter, anti gravity and perpetual motion machines, and water-powered personal helicopters and vacuum cleaners.  Real physicists and biologists look forward to the daily mail bag with a mixture of dread and giddy anticipation:  the spill of mail both snail and digital always reveals a bunch of pasty folk with engineering or nutrition certificates who've used "quantum" principles and their own "divine light circuits" and "bio-angel control fields" to allow "silent command" of that busty girl behind the donut counter who won't give them the time of day.

Every now and then a reasonably distinguished scientist will publish a book that seems on the surface to be a staid, rational work purporting to the explain life, the universe, and our ultimate destiny as sentient meat-beings on a dust ball orbiting an undistinguished yellow sun in the cosmic doldrums where no respectable alien would buy a home or send their kids to school.  Two recent hilarious examples are Frank Tipler's Physics of Immortality, and Ray Kurzweil's The Singularity is Near.  Both of these goombahs think future technology is racing exponentially toward an inconceivable explosion/implosion or something that will very soon allow things like downloading of human consciousness into digital mediums and the ultimate resurrection of the dead--meaning your awful cousin Jocko who used to chase you with his boogers is waiting for you billions of years ahead.  No escape, compadre.

There is also a scattering of think tanks around the world working with little success so far on invisibility,  personal anti gravity machines, and other such wish-fulfillment fantasies. (My favorite thing in the otherwise forgettable movie Mystery Men was the Invisible Boy, a hero who could become invisible to fight evil--but only when no one was looking at him.)  Good luck to these guys, who seem less deluded and more tech-savvy than others. 

However, to all of the above I say:  Look no further than a 3rd grade classroom to find powers far surpassing any hoped for in the wildest flights of scientific or SF fancy.   The most attentive teacher will be astonished to find children with names like Galaxy, Stardust, Joseph, Mary, and Nabisco (real, I swear it!) with teleportation abilities that allow them to be at the reading station one microsecond and found digging a hole far away on the kickball field the next.  The same applies to their instantaneous control of objects like pencils and scissors--they vanish into wormholes opened by the adepts--and paper cut-out squares of alphabet letters which will variously be found pasted to the high ceilings ("How the hell did you get it up there! Show me!") or stuffed down John-John, the Runny-Nosed Kid's pants or pasted all over the class mascot, a large rubber octopus named Big Mama.  "And where did all the Girl Scout cookies go!!!?" "How did you get all that candy!!!?" Government cabals and ultra-secret spy orgs:  start sending out your minions with contracts and pay perks.

Contrast to the wandering or temporally settled homeless who,  having no special powers other than scary stares, nostril-clearing smells, and flailing blows, must hoard their possessions and procure them through mundane means.  They must also do things like spend huge percentages of their lives securing their possessions:  tying up walking shoes each night to bed poles, using knots of Gordian complexity on packs, satchels and even plastic bags;  some folk have so many mini-locks attached to their outside packs they sound like Santa's sleigh hovering along at ground level.

My dear, deceased friend Matt from Texas (check out his posthumous novel, Hook Man Speaks), had everyone beat with his invention of the 4th dimensional portal.  Math geeks like Rudy Rucker, eat your heart out.   I met Matt at a writing program in Baton Rouge where we had several classes together and drank a lot of coffee and beer.  Matt read every new novel published, attended all new films, even bad ones, three or four times, read all newspapers and journals, enjoyed Broadway musicals, and still found time to watch all new TV shows.  In his spare (spare!) time he charmed, wined and dined the lassies, took time out for long lunches with friends, donated time to helping me with various writing projects.   

How did he do it?  He spent weeks or months in a 4th dimensional space that allowed him to accomplish gargantuan amounts of work, never age or tire, then descend to our dirty, arduous plane, rarin' to go.  He left voluminous papers, mostly his entertaining and inventive fiction employing folktales and bits of magical whimsy, but sometimes I fantasize that buried within that stuff or crated away--think the end of Citizen Kane--is a machine or set of blueprints that will allow its finder the power to remake the world.  Better that a basically decent fellow like Matt probably burned the whole lot.  Think of the damage the next Saddam Hussein could inflict if he got his paws on it.

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