Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Can’t Fight the Physics

Some interesting graphics popped up in my Twitter feed last week from The Meta Picture. I found these graphics… telling.

Are they my scientifically-based horoscope? Probably. Yeah… Science… Bitch? Ugh…

It started with this one:
It is so true. Everything is relative.

On Sept. 27, 1905, Albert Einstein published his paper titled: Does the Inertia of a Body Depend Upon Its Energy Content? Short answer: yup. Oh, sorry. Spoiler alert.

Longer answer: This equation tells us that mass and energy are two forms of the same thing. It’s a little like H2O, which can move into steam from its solid state of ice. Capture that steam vapor and chill it, and it once again becomes ice.  Same with mass and energy. (Except, it is really nothing like water. Water is just an analogy that doesn’t hurt my already-damaged brain.)

So under certain circumstances (such as an object nearing light speed), mass can become energy, and energy can become mass.

There are some measurable consequences of approaching light speed. And they don’t all involve breaking time records of the Kessel run. They do, however, involve mass.

The faster you move, the heavier you get.

And this is why I won’t run. Science tells me running would be contrary to efforts to lose weight. If you see me running, you better run too, because something bad is hot on my heels.

Right now, I feel like my life is moving a breakneck speed. And that is feeling like a very heavy burden.  A very concentrated effort from me is needed to slow things down and take things in.  But I have to slow things down. I have to. When I go too fast, I make mistakes. My heart outdistances my brain. My emotions gain more mass than my logic.

Last week, I sat in a chair receiving IV steroids that dripped at a mind-numbingly slow rate. So I sat. And I thought. And I allowed my mind to wander and then become numb. And that was—well—kind of awesome. I just did nothing.

And I found a touch of gratitude as well. The woman sitting next to me was receiving chemotherapy in her little drips. It was simultaneously poisoning her cancer cells and her healthy cells.

I told her that I was sorry she had to go through that, that it just sucked, and that I thought she was a warrior.

And you know what she was said? She told me that she was sorry to hear about my MS. That she was going to beat her cancer and move on with life sans breast. And how she couldn’t imagine sitting in that room knowing that she would have to get infusions for the rest of her life.

And that, friends, is known as special relativity.

Aside—Jackie Cancer and MS Elys are now email buddies. And I am this close to getting her to join me for the next Red Rockettes derby session. She is just badass enough to do it, too.
The law of universal gravitation was born from the mind of the good Sir Isaac Newton. He tells us that any two bodies in the universe attract each other with a force that is directly proportional to the product of their masses and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them.


Don’t worry about the math. Isaac is simply pointing out that everything in the universe attracts everything else in the universe. This is what gives the universe such great power. This is the source of both beauty and chaos. Of both creation and destruction.

I just love it when science smashes headlong into philosophy. It is almost like they are being drawn together by a gravitational pull.  Oh, wait…

Newton’s law is sometimes reassuring. It lets me know that the moon will not be floating away into space. But it is sometimes infuriating. It keeps that moon exactly out of reach.  Stupid, beautiful moon.

The greater the distance, the lesser the force of attraction.

As a friend once told me: proximity matters. I think the hardest part of knowing this is the awareness of the inevitable outcome.  (See also: entropy) As something drifts away—which is an absolute in this life—it becomes harder to hold on to. The distance doesn’t have to be physical either. I have never felt so alone as the times when I sat knee to knee with someone who was drifting away.  Everything drifts. Most things drift away.
Time dilation is scary/awesome.

You have probably learned about this one in middle school. It is explained like this: Two people synchronize their watches so they keep the same time exactly. Then one person goes up into space, where she is traveling away from the earth at a high velocity. When he returns to earth, the two watches that were once synchronized are now showing two different times. The earth watch’s time is ahead of the space watch that was traveling near the speed of light.

This is also the reason that Captain Kirk never aged. Well, that and Botox.

The faster you move through space, the slower you move through time.

I guess, in a way, space and time are antonyms. The more you have of one, the less you have of the other.

Except, that isn’t really the human experience, is it? Sometimes, time goes maddeningly quickly. It happens both when you are with your kid at Disneyland (Except for the line to the Indiana Jones ride. Time stands still there.) and when you are late to an 8:30 meeting. Tempus fugit to the max.

Sometimes, I can actually control time.  The best example I have of this is when I read the last Harry Potter novel. I had been looking forward to that book being placed in my hands for such a long time that, when it finally was, I dove in with gusto. I read as fast as my brain would facilitate it. I had to know how it all ended. But, somewhere during that marathon reading session (I may or may not have taken a vacation day to read (totally did)), I looked at the stack of pages piling up on the left hand side of the book.

I was about halfway done. And it occurred to me. This was the last one. There would never be another Harry Potter book that was new to me. And I was plowing through it too quickly. I needed to slow down. To savor. So I did. I slowed down.

I controlled the pace of my time. Sometimes, we really can do that.  

We all know that space is not a constant. Time is not a constant either. One person’s hour can never be the same as another’s.
Remember that Disney movie from the late '70s called The Black Hole?  With both Roddy McDowell and Slim Pickens voicing the robots?  While lobotomizing space crew members to turn them into drones is not quite on the Disneyesque-par of shooting Bambi’s mom, it is still pretty fucked up.

But that movie was the introduction to the idea of black holes for countless kids of my generation.  I could not then—nor can I now—wrap my brain around the idea of a black hole. I get the basics, but… Where does the matter go? Where does the hole start? End?

The one thing I can understand (I think) is that black holes are much like diamonds. Black holes are forever.

The physics formula above is called the Black Hole Information Paradox. See? Even the smarty-pants scientists find black holes inherently contradictory. What this theory suggests is that physical information could permanently disappear in a black hole, allowing many physical states to devolve into the same state.

Still with me? Think of it like the California penal system. Things go in, but never come out. 

But this formula is special. It violates another commonly accepted scientific tenet: the complete information about a physical object at one point in time should determine its state at any other time. Like I have said time and again, things don’t change.

Until the black hole sucks in the object and changes everything about it. We think. Maybe. But who knows.

Maybe Stephen Hawking knows. In 1975, he and his research partner Jacob Bekenstein did some math stuff that proved black holes should slowly radiate away energy. There is quite a bit of interesting reading on this, most notably about the scientific conundrum that this created.  I’ll let you look that one up. I already have a pretty good headache. But I think everyone can get on board with this notion:

Information entering black holes is lost forever.

Maybe a black hole is like a cosmic dumping ground of bad energy. Maybe it is the great recycling center of the universe. Or maybe it is just one giant Ctrl+Alt+Del. Whatever it is, anything it grabs hold of is gone. Gone forever. I have had many things sucked into a black hole over the last year. I need to accept that I will never, never get those things back.

And that is (mostly) ok, really.

I think the key to surviving the gravitational suck of a black hole is to let go of everything it is taking in. Let it go, or be pulled in with it.

Now go watch The Legend of Hell House and Dr. Strangelove to cleanse your movie palate of that Disney monstrosity.
How’s that for an epitaph? It is carved into Ludwig Boltzmann's tombstone. 

It means "entropy is the logarithm of multiplicity." Or, in other words:

The tendency to move from order to disorder increases as time progresses.

It's a thermodynamics and statistical mechanics fact. It also seems to be a fact in my life. The disorder of my world is sometimes the only constant I can count on.

Entropy. Everything falls apart.

Wanna know something kind of interesting? In thermodynamics, entropy is categorized as a reversible process. Maybe it could be a reversible process for me? I’m not so sure. But I am willing to take on that experiment.

Maybe I can slow time down enough to get my shit in order. I need to at least try. Einstein or Boltzmann might think it’s possible.  That’s good enough for me.
This formula wins for coolest name: Coulomb's Constant.  It calculates the electromagnetism, or strength, of an object.  And this one might also be the most basic concept in this list. Quite simply:

Opposite charges attract, similar charges repel.

I won’t speak for all of you, but I know this to be absolutely true for me. I think I very naturally seek to be with people that have an opposite charge than I do.  I’m not talking about the basics or the superficial. Things like common education levels, economic background, or acceptance of global warming are important in a relationship. Those things are not the things I am talking about.

I’m talking about finding people that will fill me with energy. That will become part of my world and allow me to become a part of theirs. I need people that will help to complete my circuit, so that I can be of some purpose. That’s the kind of stuff that goes beyond whether or not you are a registered Democrat.

I mean, who the hell wants to hang out with another version of themselves? I want to learn, grow, explore. For that to happen, I need an opposite charge.  And I want to be a part of someone else’s circuitry.

OK. That loud crack you just heard was my brain. I need a nap.

For more cool Internet stuff, follow: @MetaPicture

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