09 September 2008

Ready, Steady...Bang??

Okay, I will admit I'm a bit slow on a lot of the more technical things in life. The finer intersection of architecture and engineering, as just one example of many. Instead of getting into the 'whys' of things, in exact detail, I have just settled into looking on at the final product in a state of amazement, awe, or complete disdain. If I do go researching, analyzing, and digging into every component that really captures my attention about a 'thing', daily annoyances and responsibilities like the job gets ignored, my treasured friends and family go unnoticed, the too-many bills go unpaid...and I frequently give up in frustration most of the time anyways. Those that have had the (dis)pleasure of traveling with me throughout the world know all too well that I can easily spend hours and hours taking photos of porticoes, domed ceilings, hand-crafted Georgian style columns, and a million other small and large building details in between. (Kathy, I again apologize for practically abandoning you in Rome, really.) And don't even get me around the actual building materials like brick, tile, wood or countless other things as I'll forever be putting one thing against the other, creating some mental version of an architectural Nirvana all my own. For better or for worse, I was quite the child honors graduate of Lincoln Logs®. And that's just for the building fetish I have...there are, unfortunately, many more I follow.

Some simple things...learned the hard way either through experience, hard knocks, or through reading countless books to properly identify things I've captured either on film or digitally...I can explain to you and perhaps at even to an exhausting length if I've really sunk my fangs in. The more technical things, especially those involving higher science or mathematics...I absolutely haven't a clue. In many ways, that 'higher technical learning' represents a door that is very tightly locked to me, and I have never even seen, let alone been able to try, its key. Instead of banging myself against said door, though, I will refer you to books or museums or specific writers for your answers (and maybe even to the Web if I'm feeling lazy). Knowledge may be power, but so with it also comes freedom. So, yes, I am a woman seeking both influence and liberty.

I don't have to know the methods of the exact construction of the Pantheon in Rome to understand its immense beauty and accomplishment. I don't have to adore the final product of Cubist paintings to stare in wonder at their compositions and colours. I don't have to be able to diagram the output of an internal combustible engine to devotedly follow and understand all the hubbub about the performance cars tested on "Top Gear" (hell, I can't even parallel park well). Some things are not mutually exclusive; instead, some things just 'are'. As they damn well should be.

I wish I knew all these finer definitions, and in fact I wish I could learn about so many more of these things that intrigue me so, but I'm slowly beginning to accept my limitations and move on despite them. The list of unknowns is long...architecture, ancient languages, pharmacology, geography, how to make a decent animated film, the appeal of Vegemite to Aussies...but I'm hopeful I may just stumble across the answers by dumb luck if I can't get them through a proper self-education. That's the reason why I adore all things Leonardo da Vinci-related, and not so much because he was a genius...arguably The Genius of All Time...but instead because he never gave up learning. Never stopped, even when the knowledge had no foreseen nor immediate applicability to him...but instead he just kept learning for his own sake. How many of us can say that nowadays? I have a hard enough time remembering to stop at the grocery, let alone learn anything new just for the hell of it all.

So, to that end and without any actual benefit to me at all other than just being a curious citizen of the world, I have been strangely and intensely intrigued with the new 'Big Bang' experiment that is scheduled to fully engage sometime tomorrow (September 10). One hundred meters under the French and Swiss Alps, in a very complex circular tube that is 17 or so miles in circumference, scientists of all stripes (but namely a lot of physicists who understand all that 'cool' science stuff from all the "Star Trek"® series) are going to try and recreate The Big Bang with the LHC (large hadron collider), which (depending on your religious views) may or may not have been when the universe as we know it now began. It's an ambitious project to put it mildly and it has cost billions of dollars and decades of time to even get the LHC this far. (You can even take a virtual tour of the Experiment from their website here.)

Now this is where research on the Internet (should I be thanking Al Gore? lol) gets extremely entertaining, albeit also a bit bewildering: from one point of view, there's a chance the scientists will find something called 'the God particle' and we'll all learn what makes up matter and anti-matter. (Questions? Follow your own research on why that's important from here, as I never did comprehend even the easiest of physics lessons.) Then another view posits there's a chance nothing of significance will come from it and it will all be a great loss of money now and for many years to come (and the French will want an additional week of vacation by the time this all concludes). Then, from the rather glass-half-empty group, there's also the chance that a black hole could open up tomorrow (yep, just like that "Star Trek"® episode, but without the pesky Borg firing torpedoes at us...maybe) and the world as we know it will come to an end.

To their credit, the good people at the BBC News have tried to explain it all for the rest of dimwits, although they don't seem to be reporting on the 'end is near' angle so much, which is probably good since, if that bleak theory holds true, that means our hours remaining are very limited indeed. Cheers!

And to think all of this time...while these calculator-proficient, higher-thinking, endearing egghead types have been deep in the heart of Europe, possibly creating both the greatest and worst moment of discovery in our world...I've been worrying about what Dubya and his legacy has done to the global landscape. Or the elections even. Or even how much the cost of food has gone up since the first of the year. Talk about missing the memo...sheesh. And is it just me, or does this LHC collider look like a cousin of 'The Machine' from the movie "Contact" with Jodie Foster??

Cuing the greatest song about time travel gone a bit problematic..."'39" by Queen. (Video...well, audio anyway...from YouTube, as always with me.)

Slight sidebar: My favourite song ever from Queen (and I'm quite the Queen fanatic), and it's a damn nice one to celebrate with and/or go out on. Lyrics to "'39" can be found here. (Bet you didn't know Queen's lead guitarist, Brian May, is now Dr. Brian May, astrophysicist, did you?? Bless the Great Bri, he actually understands all of this stuff, and he even addressed this whole LHC 'switch-on' in his "Bri's Soapbox" column today. It wasn't only Freddie who wanted to reach for the stars, folks...Brian's journey has just been a bit more of a scientifically-grounded one.)

I personally like to think positive: the world as we all know and sometimes love it will not end, a separate universe will not be created (or, if it does, I'm sure all the "Dr. Who" fans, Bless them, will gladly sign up to populate that one), I will still make it out to see the Carolina Rollergirls play their opener this weekend, and maybe I will someday take that long-dreamt after trip to Tuscany and the countryside of Italy.

But, on the off chance something does go haywire on Wednesday and we all find ourselves hopelessly adrift somewhere 'else', let me quote the wonderful Truman Burbank from the equally brilliant "The Truman Show":
"Good morning, and in case I don't see ya, good afternoon, good evening, and good night!"

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