Thursday, March 15, 2012


In spite of what you may have heard, I am not a genius. Nor have I ever claimed to be (at least not since I was seventeen and some young winner of the Nordic Combined was batting her eyelashes at me). I am not a physicist, I know nearly nothing of quantum mechanics, string theory, or Star Trek’s Warp Drive. Some time ago, as I contemplated a premise for a novel that could possibly involve scientific fact and theory so far past my meager knowledge as to fade into the far distance, a friend suggested I look into the massive, multi-billion-dollar Large Hadron Collider that lurks below the surface of the earth across the border of Switzerland and France. It has been built in the hopes of answering some really big questions. I looked into it. It frightens me.

Some questions are simply not meant to be answered. Is Lady Ga-Ga her real name? How much money does Charlie Sheen have? Is Al Gore really Gepetto’s illegitimate son? These and many others should remain mysteries. So should the big one. How was our universe born? And/or, how did we get here? Answers for that last question can be based on faith, indifference, religion, or science. At least one of those could prove to be dangerous.

If you are a person of faith, your answer could be one of many things, depending upon what your faith is based. If you are a Kahahari Bushman or a Beaver Creek socialite, your replies would probably be widely divergent, but who should care? It is your faith. It’s your business. If you are an atheist, indifference might dictate your reply, unless, of course, you were under fire in a foxhole at the time. Extreme stress can induce all kinds of leaps, even a leap of faith. If you are religious, you already know how you got here. If you are a scientist you are still looking for that answer, and not just for yourself, but also for the rest of us, so that someday you or others of your ilk might become missionaries for quantum mechanics and carry the good news to the cannibals. As for me, I don’t care how I got here. I am here. To argue and fuss about it makes no more sense to me than the Darwin/Deity battle that still continues to rage, a battle that is not based on science or religion, but upon ego and fear. The plain truth is, we cannot prove God exists. Therefore, we cannot prove God doesn’t exist.

If proof for the existence of God could be found, it would be a disaster. We’d all have to love one another. Professional football, NASCAR, TMZ, and the U.S. Congress would disappear. Who in their right mind could possibly want that?

If it could be proved that God did not exist, organized religion would have to admit that its clusters of worshipers were just social organizations and you could dispense with guilt and go to church simply because you wanted to. Scary, huh?

Let’s examine the situation from a different angle. You’re 25, out in the dating world, searching for that perfect someone and, all of a sudden, that person is there. Bright, funny, loving, caring, attractive, sexy, shares your interests, your desires, your hopes, and your dreams. The only thing out of place in this magical, one-time-only relationship is that your soulmate doesn’t want to talk about the past. Is it worth threatening the relationship to find out if great Aunt Effie had eleven toes? Is it wise to insist they tell you about Great Uncle Albert deserting the army in Korea? Are you prepared to screw the whole thing up because you won’t allow the person of your dreams to have a few secrets?

The scientific goal is to expose secrets and find out stuff. I remember the first time I actually realized that when I salted my mashed potatoes, I was really dispensing two poisons onto my food. And yet, I lived. Wow! Scientists yearn to explain stuff, but not too clearly, lest they be proved mortal. (Doctors and lawyers also fall into this group.) Spin that bucket of water around at arms-length fast enough and the water won’t fall out. That’s sorta why the earth doesn’t plunge into the sun, or something like that. Wow again. Water is made up of two gasses? Really? Far out! Another thing science likes to do is to screw around with stuff that might be dangerous, without taking the danger as seriously as it could and often ignoring the law of unintended consequences. Not to mention Murphy. Here we are. Back to the large Hadron Collider.

It’s up and running you know. Particle Physicists all over the world are bumping knuckles and slapping butts. The whole purpose of the thing is to spin particles called hadrons that used to be parts of atoms up to nearly the speed of light through an immense circular tunnel cooled to near absolute zero and then smash them together, just to see what will happen. That can create difficulties.

            “Hey, Mary. Junior’s been walking for a couple of days now. Stand him up on the kitchen table and turn him loose. I wanna see what will happen.”

The goal is to test out the most important theories in physics…the “Big Bang”, the Higgs boson or “God particle,” and dark matter. Those very intentions brought forth an unsuccessful lawsuit to get them good ol’ boys an’ their big ol’ tunnel to cease and desist before they induced a global disaster.

Into this equation come two words that, when you put them together, have a tendency to freak me out a little bit. Black and Hole. That’s right. Black Hole. Black holes eat stuff. Even light. Have these people never seen a sci-fi movie? Have they never heard of Gene Roddenberry? The Collider, by the admission of many scientists, has the potential of creating black holes. Very tiny black holes. Astoundingly small black holes. But black holes. If one of them is even big enough to get its mouth around a little-bitty piece of matter, France could disappear. And while that might not be a particularly bad thing, if the reaction was only slightly larger, so could Cleveland, and South Dakota, and the solar system, and me.

            “Hey Mary. As long as you’ve got Junior up on the table, hand him a butcher knife. This could get interesting.”

Think how interesting things could get if they gave the kid a shotgun.
Will it happen? Probably not. Could it happen? Could it?

If it did, it could sure screw up that whole God question.

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