Wednesday, February 22, 2017

May as well be Magic

I haven't written anything in while. A long, long while.  There are things to catch up on, but not today.  Maybe not ever.  It depends on how much I want to pick that scab.  I do like picking scabs though.  And squeezing whiteheads and watching people cut open and drain various cysts on you tube.  Goddamn, I'm disgusting.

Anyway.

I was sitting in traffic the other day, idling my life away with the rest of the suburbanites commuting slowly towards our inevitable deaths, when I realized what a remarkable thing I was sitting in, being powered by one of the greatest feats of engineering that has ever existed: the internal combustion engine.

Think about it for a second.  Engines are everywhere:


Lawnmower?
     You know it, baby!

Rocket ship?
     YES! (times 1,000) Literal rocket science!

Ten trillion cars and SUVs and vans and motorcycles and buses and semi trucks and go-carts and trucks?
     OMG, so much yessing.

The motherfucking Titanic?
     Um ....Maybe?


I like the study of etiology, or origin stories for you comic book geeks.  I remember in sixth grade science class we were studying the color spectrum and wavelengths and such, and I had a hard time grasping the concept.  I eventually got the basic rules, but it wasn't until I was an adult, and I read how this amazing piece of science was discovered, that I finally, whole-heartedly got it.  I guess what I'm saying is that I can't just take someone's word for it that something is true.  In fact, I love learning how someone figured something out way more than the actual thing that resulted from said figurings.

Sometimes, the inspirations and computations of a regular-style scientist may as well be magic; ideas are plucked from the air, new math is created (or discovered, depending on how you look at it), and things that didn't exist are now things!

There's a great book about the history of astrophysics that really dug deep and explained some serious science; it turned a part on in my mind that I didn't know was there.  Sometimes, in that old brain-attic, where it's always musty and dark (and a teeny bit spooky because the overhead light (that's just a naked bulb on a string) is always wafting pendulously from some unknown draft leaking in through an old creaky rafter), there are amazing things hiding just beyond the shadows.  One day, whether it be out of desperation, boredom or drunken meandering, when you sneak up there, inch by terrible, horrifying inch, and shakily reach your arm up directly over your head to pull that beaded chain-string, your life is never quite the same.  I guess my long and rambly metaphor is trying to say that I didn't used to be super interested in sciencey and/or mathmaticalesque things, but I am now.




Back to engines.

I looked up some information on the internal combustion engine. I wanted to know how someone could have figured, invented and designed such a meritorious tool! There's so much mechanical engineering involved: formulas and graphs and diagrams; I had no idea what I was reading about. I downgraded my readings to a turbine, which is, as best I can figure it, akin to a windmill:  'something' (i.e. wind) pushes 'some stuff' (i.e. blades), which creates 'movement' and then 'some energy gets made' and it's all very mathematical and interesting.  I've got much more to learn. The point is, it's something that revolutionized the world, and we don't even think about how remarkable a thing it is.

Then I got to thinking about other stuff, like running water.  Think about this shit for a minute: we get clean, temperature controlled water DELIVERED inside our homes for practically nothing.  How many people in the history of the world can summon drinking water on command in their underpants at 3 a.m.?  There are places in the world, TODAY, this very moment, that do not have access to clean water and here we are, complaining that it doesn't get hot enough, or that it gets too hot, or that it 'has a taste' and is therefore unworthy of being ingested without being filtered using some fancy reverse osmosis process or charcoal bits or something.

Sewers!  Can you imagine what is was like some hundreds of years ago, when there was no indoor plumbing?  Our shit is whisked away, never to be thought of again.  Transported directly from our own homes, practically for free.  People used to shit in the gutters. Or if it was in the middle of the night, they'd shit in a small pot, then fucking toss it out the window in the morning.  TOSS IT OUT THE WINDOW.  Also, ever heard of Diptheria? Typhiod? Disentairy? Cholera?  Typhus?  Poo diseases. Sewers, man, they've saved millions!

And like, how many people did it take to map out those sewers?  Planning which pipes go where? How does that never get messed up and the outgoing pipe crosses with an incoming one and we get piss water?  That never happens!  Rain water even has a place to fucking go! Roads and gutters are designed in such a way to minimize flooding and maximize kicking ass.

There are so many wonderful, miraculous inventions that have made our lives longer, easier, and healthier! But it seems we just acclimate and remain unsatisfied and miserable with different things. Examples: I want a newer, shinier car, with a better engine! My co-workers get fed up with the climate controls in my office so quickly: 'omg, it is always way too hot in here and it's the worst- unless it's too cold and then that's also the worst.' (I should include myself in that complaint-athon, I'm not above hating that thermostat's guts). Are we so spoiled and privileged that we greedily snatch up the newest video game then immediately demand the sequel (version 2.0 has twice the disimbowlings!!) or newest and most expensive fad item?




"NO, Mom, you idiot! I have Bloodstorm, and Bone Squad and Bloodstorm II, Stupid!"



(I added the picture so people younger than me will understand the reference. And also, people older than me... Ok, if you're not exactly the same age as me, you probably won't get this and therefore don't know and love the Simpsons like I do and honestly I've lost some respect for you.)

It is entirely possible we are a species of limited appreciation, that we're spoiled and greedy and selfish, always out to take it all, at any cost.  But that's the easy answer.  The Matrix answer.  The Wall-E answer.  

That's right, we're not headed towards an apocalyptic future where everything is super fucked and we lost the battle with the machines because we greedily push the limits of AI for our own desire of domination and ultimate control of everything.  Nor are we headed towards a life so convenient and catered-to that we fill the earth up with trash and use up all the natural resources so we have to go on a spaceship and hang out in hover chairs with cupcakes-in-a-cup and leave some cute little robot behind to clean up our mess for 500 years (you wouldn't really expect that coming from Pixar, but that movie is sooo dark underneath the robot love story.  But then again, maybe you should expect it.  Ever seen Up?  Makes you want to pry your eyeballs out with a dull and rusty ice pick so you can stop witnessing the sadness that is making you cry like a baby. In the first five minutes).   

Our future is going to be Star Trek.  A peaceful, non-impoverished species dedicated to intellectual pursuits and exploring and understanding the universe so as to better understand ourselves.  And also having freaky sex with humanoid-aliens.

Us human folk, we're seekers.  We explore, we discover, we advance and grow.  We acclimate to the next best thing so quickly not to latch on to a shinier misery, but so we can be inspired and motivated and then invent another wonderful thing.  It pushes us up the evolutionary ladder, one rung at a time, for infinity.  I have hope bordering on reverence for our future.  

Maybe you think I'm being naive, imaginary reader of mine (yes, I am aware of the current POTUS, and also yes, I have seen what we've done to the shrinking rain forest and the melting ice caps). Maybe you think everything is so fucked up right now that we have crossed the tipping point and are sliding into annihilation.

Maybe you're right.

But I can see magic.