Monday, November 14, 2011

Terry and The Man

(Pre-Script: This post should be read as the song, "Superman," #2 on the playlist, plays in the background. Go down to the playlist, click on that song, then come back and resume reading. I'll wait...)(...still waiting...)

I am once again driving home from work while listening to NPR. I listen to NPR because I enjoy talk radio, and also because my singing-along-at-the-top-of-my-lungs-like-I-am-the-superstar-and-the-actual-singer-is-just-my-backup stations are all playing commercials or songs I dislike. Terry Gross's guest on "Fresh Air" is an Astrophysicist. (The last interview I heard of hers was with one of the cast members of Saturday Night Live. ) This man has won a Nobel award of some sort, because apparently, he studies supernovas that have exploded. This is, according to him, a tricky thing to study, because you need very special telescopes, and because the nature of the supernova is that there is no way of predicting when one will explode, so I guess you sort have to watch and find one by chance when you are looking at the sky through your super lens at the exact right time. The thing that the Really Smart Man has told Terry, and that she has regurgitated for us, her listening audience, is that "The universe is gradually getting larger."

Well Duh. (I could have told her that...)
(...only I don't have the degree to back up my claims; just children, by whom the entire universe is measured.)

What is bothering me about this conversation is that Astrophysicist Man can tell Terry Gross anything, anything at all, and Terry, and all of us, the listening public, will just listen and nod like we believe what he was saying, even if we don't understand it, because he is the one with the title and the degree, and because we have not studied it ourselves, nor do we care to do so, anytime soon.

Therefore, we have no way to disprove any of it.
Astrophysicist:"The universe is getting larger."
Listening audience: nod nod
Astrophysicist: "I study exploding supernovas because I can see them through this very specialized equipment I own and know how to properly operate."
Listening Audience: nod nod
Astrophysicist: "I am careful to only operate this highly technicalogical machinery when I am absolutely sober and have had a good night's sleep."

Listening Audience: nod nod
Astrophysicist: "Last night, I saw rainbows exploding into actual Skittles, only they did not land on earth, they landed on Pluto, which you know is no longer a planet, it is now a star or a comet or a figment of the collective imagination of the entire intergalactic wing of NASA. We just like to add a little blue dot on the map of the planets sometimes when we get bored."
Listening Audience: nod nod


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