Thursday, November 22, 2012

Einstein's World

Words are flowing out like 
Endless rain into a paper cup
They slither wildly as they slip away across the universe.

-- John Lennon, "Across the Universe"

There are two kinds of people in the world: (1) Those who care and (2) those who don't. People belonging in the first category usually get famous for doing something big, scientifically or culturally. Like Einstein, who always thought something was wrong about the trajectory of Newton's apple, just a teensy-weensy bit off the mark, y'know, but it itches something bad. So Einstein had to learn calculus -- "The language which God talks," according to Feynman, another genius but a more fun type of scientist -- to understand how tiny atoms and huge planets move around.

Even planets, like women, are hard to understand. For example, Mercury, the nearest planet to the Sun, wobbles in its orbit, just a fraction (about the ratio of a dime to, say, a million dollars), a piddling accounting error even to the strictest IMF banker, but enough to blemish the elegance of Newton's formula of how the Universe works.

In Newton's time the level of mathematics could not meet his requirement to explain the movements of the sun and planets and a block of wood sliding down at an incline in Physics class -- yes, problems that give monumental headaches to the second type of people was not enough for the Great Dweeb -- so he invented calculus, thus making fortunes for laboratories who produced migraine pills for students who have to cram for the finals.

There's differential calculus, for computing very tiny elements, like the nucleus of an atom, the amount of real beef they put on your Big Mac, the waistline of Heidi Klum. And there's integral calculus, which deals with big bodies: the stormy Red Spot of Jupiter, Schwarzenegger's philandering phallus, and the difference between J. Lo's and Kim Kardashian's butts.

So, after going through Newton's Principia Mathematica and universal mechanics, he studied Faraday's and Maxwell's theories on electromagnetism; Euclidian geometry, which did not seem to apply to the real three-dimensional world, which he discarded and replaced with non-Euclidian geometry, so he can make everything four-dimensional. He also delved into Brownian motion, which predicted the paths of small particles; and Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle, which basically said that if you believe Mr. Brown's notion about motion, you ain't nothing but a hound-dog.

Before learning many more things, Einstein had to unlearn what schoolbooks had tried to lodge into his mind. He found out that Aristotle's approximation of the Sun's distance to the Earth (5,000 miles more or less) was off by about more than 92,000,000 miles; that the moon is not made of green cheese but of cheddar (kidding!); that the world is not supported by Atlas or by a giant turtle; that in his Space-Time universe parallel lines eventually meet in blind dates, and the sum of the angles of a triangle (whether of the love kind or of the geometrical kind) do not add up to 180 degrees.

And oh boy! what this man gave to the world! If a body is massive enough, he said, it is capable of warping the space around it, like a heavy basketball placed on a trampoline, and light passing through that warped space will bend. That slight bend, seen and eventually proved after a solar eclipse in 1919, disposed of the centuries-old discrepancy in Newton's law of celestial motion and explained Mercury's wobble. This, in an extremely simplified way, is what Einstein's Special Theory of Relativity is about. So it's not about his mother-in-law at all; that problem even an Einstein or a Hawking cannot solve. Some matters in the cosmos remain formidable.

Speaking of matters: Einstein realized that matter is just energy coagulated, that is, lazy energy that stopped moving fast enough and turned from fiery light-force into slow or inert material thing. I suppose that explains humans. Inversely, energy is matter sufficiently excited and heated to transform into a supercharged force. That, of course, resulted in the creation of the atomic and hydrogen bombs. And sex, speaking from another level of existence. In a lazy nutshell way, this illustrates Einstein's General Theory of Relativity. E = mc².

Believe me, we have skipped truckloads of scientific personalities, theories, principles, equations and headaches just to talk about -- what? (1) The people who cares, who at at the top of the heap are the scientists who spend their lives thinking about and tinkering with all things in existence, from the origin of the universe to the infinite possibilities of existence. (2) And the people who don't, who make up the heap upon which the scientists are on top of. I noticed that since the appearance of man, his technology leapfrogged by lighty-ears while his dude-attitude or sense of life remained merely one step away from the cave, near where horny dogs hump to make God's little puppies in the summertime. For instance, photography, TV and Video were developed by the heap-toppers, and the man in the heap used them marginally for the advancement of knowledge -- What did Jesus really look like? Was Da Vinci really a gay fop? Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, how heartfelt did it sound on that windy, silent field of fallen Blue and Grays? Extensively, the new technologies were used in the billion-dollar sex industries -- Playboy, Penthouse, Hustler, nude celebrity photos in sleazy tabloids and magazines; pay-per-view X-rated films on TV and video, cybersex, and we expect 3-D and hologram sex soon.

But, thinking thoroughly about this stuff, I can only see that this earth, forlorn but still lovely, simply teems with life. It's full of species intelligent and dumb, heaped top to bottom with organic lives while up above the stars die of old age and explode violently, sending more life-giving heat to distant planets. In the never-ending cycles of life and nonlife, matter and energy, what does really matter? Those who care, in their own way, are enjoying their stay, and play with God's cosmic dice. And those who don't, in their brute perception, are equally having fun. It all evens out, from Newton's Apple to the Beatle's Apple and, now, to Steve Job's Apple.

Just have fun. It doesn't take a genius to do that. Life is short. Have fun.