Monday, July 30, 2012

Is God Really Nothing More Than A Mere ...Particle?

A belated hats off to the brainiac physics geeks at CERN's LHC (Large Hadron Collider) for their recent discovery of the Higgs particle, a.k.a. the Higgs Boson. (A boson, for those interested, is a subset of the elementary particle maelstrom distinguished by the fact that many of them can occupy a single quantum state. Think of the entire population of a medium size city fitting comfortably into a single Japanese compact. Sounds like a state of quantum hell on earth, unless of course you happen to be a boson.)

*See related article: Can a person actually be a boson, and vice versa?

*Also of interest, a question proffered by Harold Doorkjam of Bismarck, North Dakota:  "If the Higgs can only exist for a billionth of a second at Earthly low energy levels, is it really fair to go on blaming moronic, mean-spirited white men with guns for the wanton slaughter of the great North American Boson herds during the 19th Century?"

Thanks for that, Harold, and the best of luck in your continuing efforts to get that high school equivalency diploma.

Anyway, using enough energy to keep the lights on in Topeka, Kansas for a year, the CERN nerds apparently got a single Higgs to appear for a full billionth of a second. Which in wacky theoretical physics world is actually quite a long time. Interestingly and coincidentally enough, in a follow-up survey the people of Topeka were asked whether they would be willing to live in darkness for a year if it ensured the discovery of the Higgs. A whopping 67% answered in the affirmative. How is this even possible, you're probably asking. It's Kansas, after all; quasi-Bible belt, fundamentalist swarming, ain't gone Democrat since 64. That Kansas. Quantum Mechanics, as far as most Kansans are concerned, are small people, most likely from third world nations, who work on the engines of foreign cars.

So what goes? Are the people of Topeka actually capable of juggling Born Again, End of Days, Creationist fervor and the complex, highly abstract concepts of theoretical physics? Well, not exactly.  Turns out that the devious, left-wing elitists who made the survey referred to the Higgs by its colloquial designation, namely, the God particle.  It may even have been insinuated that during that glorious one billionth of a second the face of Jesus was clearly visible on the particle's front flap (note: sub-atomic particles generally do not possess flaps)  Call it manipulation, call it bold-face lying, call it politics as usual. After all, continued public support for further funding does matter.

Not that this story has a particularly happy ending. Apparently a number of Muslim clerics got wind of the face of Jesus story and are now demanding - based on worldwide religious demographics - that the face of the Prophet Muhammad must appear on the Higgs' 'flap' 21.5% of the time. The situation is further complicated by the fact that certain extremist Islamic factions, most notably the Taliban, have already outlawed the existence - theoretical or otherwise - of all sub-atomic particles, claiming them to be nothing more than yet another example of insidious Western propaganda. Muslim girls suspected of cohabiting with bosons, quarks, or even random electrons are subject to death by stoning.
(By comparison, men suspected of the same crime are forced to face the awful humiliation of having their beards trimmed in public by a Hindu barber.) Take that, so-called double standard!

*Of related interest:  In Israel, Romney declares that, as President, he will do whatever it takes to keep the God particle out of the hands of terrorists.

So what, if anything, have we learned?  The God particle is real, the source of matter's mass has been confirmed, Rick Santorum now claims to have discovered a reference to the boson in the Bible and will name his next kid Higgs, and even as we figure out the incredible mysteries of the Universe stupidity continues to run rampant here on planet Earth.
If nothing else, this blog is the living proof of that.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Bad News, I'm Afraid

The Greek philosopher Philoteradactyl reportedly said: "For everything under the sun there is an associated fear, and none greater than the haunting fear of our own being."
Mind you, this was like 2000 years before the discovery of psychology and the subsequent pouring out of all the creepy/scary stuff percolating in the human mind. Freud, of course, intervened in this tidal wave of terror, reducing its terrible impact by reminding us that all our fears are reducible to one preoccupying fear: namely, the fear of our parents engaging in sex. Ugh! and Yuck!
Anyway, the question remains, what exactly is there to be afraid of?  Well, everything, apparently. Not only does virtually everything provoke fear, but every fear has a name. Which is probably a good thing, because what's scarier than a fear to which we cannot assign a label? All therapists, by the way, are required to commit to memory the names of all fears before being given a license to practice.

A few of my favorites:
Ambulophobia / the fear of walking;  might this explain why so many people strenuously resist even this simplest form of exercise, or why I continually see legions of old people out on the street, trapped, apparently, in some sort of suspended animation?
Anablephobia / the fear of looking up; a recent survey asked Japanese high school students when the last time was they had looked at the sky. 70% responded that they had no memory of ever having done so.  Mnemophobia (the fear of memories) notwithstanding, we may now understand why.
Barophobia / the fear of gravity;  this one is serious, fundamental you might even say, gravity being one of the four basic forces sustaining the universe. Take away gravity and we're all just goo rapidly flying off into the void. Maybe it's the fact that gravity is not so much a thing pulling us down, as a warp in space/time constantly pushing on us like an obsessive bully.
Phronemophobia / the fear of thinking;  weird, right? Although it does go a long way to explain the continued existence of conservative Republicans.
Sinophobia / the fear of Chinese people;  hey, with 1.2 billion of them on the planet, 100 million of the nouveau affluent ones expected to travel abroad within the next two years, this is not so much a fear as basic common sense.
Hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia / perhaps no surprise, the fear of long words; you don't actually have to be phobic to be afraid of this word. The implied irony for long word phobics is that learning the name of their fear is most likely only going to make their condition worse.

Everyone is familiar with the famous F.D.R. quote: "We have nothing to fear but fear itself."
What most people don't know is that this is an expurgated version of the actual quote,
"We have nothing to fear but fear itself, and there are, as it turns out, a shitload of them."

Have a favorite fear of your own?  Please let me know.

Friday, July 6, 2012

The Moral Dilemma of Ratting out a Weasel

Update on animal sightings:

1: Speculation has been running wild that the weasels in the attic may not be weasels at all, but some other rodent family format, possibly in the guise of weasels. This courtesy of Mister Watanabe, the house fixer guy, who was called in to provide an expert assessment on what exactly has been running around in the attic all night.
I myself, by the way, am holding firm on the opinion that there's nothing in the attic more exotic than mice.
Mice, he informs me, with a quasi-dismissive laugh, could not possibly be producing the noise levels you claim to be hearing.
They could if they're up there jumping off miniature trampolines, I tell him, or playing some sort of full contact sport.
Home owners are often in denial when it comes to slender meat-eating mammals in their attics, he says.
Hold on a second. Weasels eat meat?
Who really knows anything about weasels?
Ask someone what a weasel looks like and he'll probably describe the creepy guy working at his office.
Would you go so far as to characterize this person as a slender, meat-eating mammal?
Come to think of it ... hey, do you know him?

2: A couple of black bears strolled out of the nearby woods the other day - woods that have been officially bear-free for the past 50 years or so. In response, the city office mobilized a team of bureaucrats, who descended on the scene with clipboards in hand and proceeded to stand at the base of the mountain taking copious notes. No bear sightings since, so we might presume that this bizarre behavior worked, although two of the bureaucrats did go missing, possibly captured by the bears.

Note 1:  I informed Watanabe in no uncertain terms that in the process of eviction no harm should befall the weasels.
Not to worry, he tells me. We intend to lure them out with colorful brochures depicting much more luxurious attics, a few of them right here in this neighborhood.

Note 2: According to Mister Watanabe, not only are there bears in the nearby woods, but also monkeys.
Any chance the mammals in the attic are not weasels, but monkeys, I ask him?
That same - who is this totally out of touch with the actual world person - laugh.
How would a monkey get into your attic? he asks.
No idea, I say. How would a weasel?
How would a weasel what?

Note 3:  Just a question.  Is anyone actually reading this blog?  There's no shame in leaving a comment, you know? No long term shame, at any rate. Do it anonymously. The more ludicrous the better. Remember, this is blog dedicated to fiction, implying that you don't even have to exist in order to have something to say.