Tuesday, January 30, 2018


There is a meme floating around, on Al Gore's Internet, on signs found stuck into lawns across America. It reads, among other things: Science Is Real. It is the response to the suggestion that climate change is a myth, or a conspiracy. I have spent a good many words and lines right here making that same assertion. Science is real. Science is a foundation upon which we build our reality. That's what I will tell anyone who listens. Or reads.

Or thinks.

I also like to trot out that old chestnut from Arthur C. Clarke now and again: "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." This makes me feel very smart. And smug. Until just a little while ago when I realized that I have been quoting a science fiction author to explain the way science rules everything. Always. I have been quoting a science fiction author without ever mentioning that other half. The fiction. The guy who has been telling us for years that interplanetary travel is possible. And great big obsidian slabs mark the path to mankind's destiny. That didn't happen in 2001. Instead, there were these airplanes that flew into some buildings in New York City and we stopped going into space to fight among ourselves. Guys who make electric cars and used to run a record company have been left to figure out how we will reach the stars. 

Which doesn't mean science has stopped, exactly. We still get a new iPhone ever year or so. And the magic of having an app that will allow you to yell at a machine that will turn on your lights without having to flick a switch is not wasted on those who choose to believe. And all this time, I had neglected Arthur C. Clarke's other two laws. What, there were three? "When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, they are almost certainly right. When they state that something is impossible, they are very probably wrong," Oh. And "The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible." 

Maybe what Mister Clarke has been defending all these years wasn't science after all. Maybe it was magic he was talking about. When you wish upon a star, your dreams come true. Not a lot of people are wishing for a solution for greenhouse gasses. At least not as many as those wishing for a new iPhone. 

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