Friday, December 28, 2018

Limits

In the dream I had, a kid was tumbling through the air, and I was trailing along behind shouting, "F equals MA!" I was attempting to assure the parents on the ground by hollering the formula explains how force equals mass times acceleration. In that moment, it seemed like exactly the kind of reassurance these folks needed, even as the arc of that kid's trajectory began to change. I believed that describing the physics of the situation would help out. No need to panic, what goes up must come down. Unless there was sufficient acceleration to get the kid out of the atmosphere, in which case the acceleration of gravity would be negligible and -
That's about the time my dream ended: The limits of my imagination. Or understanding. Upon waking, I realized that I was using Newtonian equations to describe a situation that was probably more complicated than that. And even if I were able to describe the landing spot based on the speed that the kid left the ground, based on the force of the trampoline or explosive got him airborne in the first place, I had only a rudimentary understanding of how the arc would be affected by all the other forces, especially gravity.
Which is to say that I could draw you a picture of it and begin to explain it, but would come up short of any definitive explanation. That would be for physicists to do. This is about the time that I began to understand where my own path began to diverge: In my sophomore year of college, I took a class called "Astrophysics for Non-Science Majors." As fascinated as I was with the ways  things moved and the interactions of all the vectors affecting objects in motion and those that were not, I surrendered at that moment to the certainty that I would only be able to understand the "dumbed-down" version.
Consequently, I have spent the rest of my life since that fateful semester feeling as if I could explain the rotation of the earth on its axis and the reason we don't tend to come flying off the surface of our home world into the trackless void of space. Somewhere in there I did some impressive math that allowed me to calculate velocities and forces with equations that have since become part of the things for which I have decided not to be responsible. I will now allow that there are laws or at least strong suggestions that cause things to rise and fall and spin and drop that I will not ever understand. I am not a scientist. I am a writer, after all. And a dreamer.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Yes you are... ;-)