Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Alles in Ordnung.

The Fabric of the Cosmos will be the last spacey pop-physics book I read for a long time. I have spent the past year devouring one after another and it has been rewarding. But so many of these 500-page tomes reach the exhausting conclusion that we may never understand what the universe is made of, where it came from, or how it really works. By and large, I'm optimistic about it. We might never understand the universe, but I'm sure that computers will figure it out within our lifetimes. And if they're friendly computers, maybe they will do us the courtesy of explaining it in simple terms, like we're a classroom full of pre-intermediate Polish students.

An understanding of the fundamental structure of the universe is not something that is likely to reveal itself to me on some bleary random morning while I'm taking a dump. It's much more likely to reveal itself to some string theorist while he or she is taking a dump. And even if I did chance upon the fundamental structure of the universe easily explained and diagrammed in a little yellow leaflet handed to me as I passed through the Stare Miasto for a kebab, I would still have to live with myself, wouldn't I? I'd still have to clip my fingernails and tie my shoes and fumble with the keys every time I try to unlock a door. Cosmology collapses under the mundane weight of existential baggage. Tomorrow, I'm going to get on a train and curl up with some Kafka.

But on my field trip into the lonely realm of stoner physics, I have learned much about practical thermodynamics. Entropy is the way of the world. If you let things go to shit, to shit they will go. If you tear the binding off of your copy of The Brothers Karamazov and toss the pages up into the air, they will not land the way Dostoevsky would want them to, and never in a billion billion years would they sort themselves out. Fabric unravels, but it doesn't ravel. Likewise, eggs don't unbreak, people don't undie, and when you cheese off your British flatmates by leaving a festering bottle of grapefruit juice in the fridge for two weeks, they will not spontaneously start acknowledging your existence on the last day of your CELTA course. Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall ...

"Man has a tropism for order. Keys in one pocket, change in another. Mandolins are tuned G D A E. The physical world has a tropism for disorder, entropy. Man against nature ... the battle of the centuries. Keys yearn to mix with change. Mandolins strive to get out of tune. Every order has within it the germ of destruction. All order is doomed, yet the battle is worthwhile."
- Nathaniel West

2 comments:

Kevin Beasley said...

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/5015518.stm If you didn't see this already.

Kevin Beasley said...

I have taken a few "out there" calls, but I think this one has been my favorite. The issue was a simple password reset but the password has to meet certain complexity rules, so I suggested a few different passwords she could use.

Me: "Well, if you have a husband you could..."
Her: "No, I don't have a husband!"
Me: *figuring he hit a nerve* ...
Her: "Are you married? Maybe we could get together!"
Me (caught off guard, stammering): umerhm... *blood starts to rush to face*
Her: Are you cute?
Me: I'd like to think so
Her: Does your mom think you're cute?
Me: What mom doesn't think their own children are cute?
Her: True
Me: You could try "School1" as a password
Her: I'll never remember that, it has to be something in my world
Me: Well if that's the case, you could try "Kevin1"
Her: I think I got it now
...
Me: What school are you with again?
Her: XXXXXXXXXXX
Me: Okay
Her: So now you know my name, where I work, and my phone number. What other personal information do you have?
Me (lying): That's about it...
Her: *changes password*
Me: Okay now click on the link to take you to the mail site
...
Me: Then just enter in the username and password.
Her: *laughing* ...I forgot my password
Me: You what?!
Her: I'm kidding, I'm just having fun with you.
Me: This has been the most interesting call I've taken.

In the end she was able to reset her password. And I think I'll have to keep that ticket number I have handy in case I ever want to date a 35 year old.