Thursday, 29 September 2011

For God’s sake whatever you do, don’t question Einstein!

This week my blog is addressing those of you who managed to get slightly further into last week’s news than the ratings for X Factor USA. If this isn’t you, then A) you probably can’t read the last sentence without speaking out loud and asking an adult how to pronounce “addressing” – i.e. A Sun reader. And B) this week’s blog isn’t really for you, I’ll let you off reading, but just this week.

The rest of you, (one reader), may have seen that it was announced last week that Einstein’s theory, the one that states that nothing can travel faster than the speed of light, may be incorrect. DON’T LOG OFF, THIS IS IMPORTANT – PAY ATTENTION!

The news story widely reported in the media was that Einstein’s theory was in “tatters” due to new research at Cern – you remember Cern the giant particle accelerator under Switzerland that the newspapers said was going to create a black hole and destroy the Earth in probably the worst example of media scaremongering ever recorded since The News of the World alleged that Margaret Thatcher was going to do a strip tease for Comic Relief (that didn’t happen by the way, except now in your mind where it will continue to happen all day, think of all those saggy wrinkles! Sorry!). Anyway the truth of the matter is slightly different; basically scientists at Cern discovered that neutrinos (tiny particles smaller than Piers Morgan’s charisma) managed to travel around the ring slightly faster than the speed of light. However said scientists have pretty much said they expect something has gone wrong, and they’ve probably made a mistake – they just haven’t a clue what, so they’re asking the scientific community to take a look. It’s a bit like when you get stuck on the last clue of the crossword when an earlier spelling error has almost certainly balls-ed it all up, and you’re now desperately passing it round the family for scrutiny. So there we go, I can exclusively reveal that there is probably no big news, probably no mistake and probably Einstein’s correct (albeit not on the appropriate use of hair styling products).

Incidentally those of you wondering why nothing can travel faster than the speed of the light, it’s because…, well…, errr… well actually it’s just like… put simply… well… it just is, ok?! Stop being inquisitive and questioning everything, you’ll drive us all mad.

The reason I talk of this topic is, as some of you may or may not know, that I have a physics background. Yes beneath this young, good looking, boyish exterior known throughout the children’s television sector (stop laughing), exists a university trained physicist. At this point most people ask “What went wrong?” in a tone that seems to imply the only way they can fathom that I could have gone from physics to children’s television must involve being thrown out of the scientific community after being caught performing some kind of indecent act whilst in charge of an electron microscope. That didn’t happen, no I entered the world of children’s television through choice. A choice that for the most part I don’t regret, admittedly the times when I’ve been staring at unemployment have made me wonder why I didn’t pursue a boring career that no one else wanted, but in fairness anyone whoever visits the Job Centre must surely be forced to question their entire reason for being. Whilst wondering if they’ve actually wandered into The Jeremy Kyle Show green room.

The problem however is that as time marches on my slender grip of understanding on the physics world is slowly crumbling. Assaulted on all sides, by the ever increasing passage of time, since this knowledge was last used properly, and by pure old age my scientific superpowers are slowly ebbing away. Retreating faster than a glacier in Jeremy Clarkson’s garden. Once upon a time I could derive all of Maxwell’s Equations of Electromagnetism now I walk into room and forget why I entered in the first place. Once I could express the sine function as a series of exponential terms now I look at the computer screen and have no idea how to open a Word document. At the rate my brainpower is decaying by the age of 42 I’ll struggle to be able to dress myself, capable only of operating the till at Morrison’s or working as a Capital FM disc jockey. Often it feels as if I’ve forgotten more than I’ve actually ever learnt, though that would imply I actually now have a negative amount of useful knowledge. Which is much like how regular Closer magazine readers must feel.

I’m not sure how much my current career choice can be blamed for this, in fairness it’s certainly inhibited my language skills as it turns out I need a much smaller vocabulary for conversational English than I do for scientific papers. I now use “cos” primarily as a contraction for “because” rather than to stand for the mathematical function cosine, and I am not sure this is a good development.

Given all this general degradation of my mental capacity you can imagine how I now feel about the thought that I all the physics I learnt in the first place was actually wrong. It may seem like an interesting page three story in the Metro, but the possibility that the fundamentals of Einstein’s theory of relativity might actually be wrong has very broad ramifications for my social standing (and what could be more important). For starters should I ever wish to return to the physics community the stigma that I was trained in the pre-“Einstein was a fraud” era isn’t going to help me one iota. A bit like taking a break from driving during the horse-drawn carriage era only to return to the motor car – you end up looking a bit like the village idiot / average Britain’s Got Talent auditionee. Secondly, and most importantly this knowledge bursts my smug superiority bubble no longer can I swan away around the office / flat / local branch of Sainsbury’s  with an air of self-righteousness based on the fact that I know more about physics than the average pleb, all I know now is a load of theories that turned out to be wrong. Like a conspiracy theorists only 175% less interesting. ( I should point out that obviously all my colleagues will be replying to this blog shortly to confirm that I am only joking about the being smug in the office bit, won’t you guys? Guys?... Guys!).

If it were up to me, we’d leave Einstein’s Theories alone, what does it matter if they don’t really work? The Bakerloo line doesn’t really work and people still use that, why are we picking on poor old Einstein. I mean blowing the myth that the world was flat didn’t really do anything for us, except make long haul flying and thus airline food a reality – and I don’t think that is progress. So what if Einstein made a mistake, we all do, look at Pat Sharp’s hair, and ITV’s documentaries – doesn’t mean we need to rewrite the laws of physics. Let’s just live in blissful ignorance, in a world where people happen to think I’m clever, what’s wrong with that? We’re never going to know everything, so let’s stick with this scenario. In fact stop teaching science to children at all, let’s keep this knowledge to ourselves, so that when I’m 84 and alone in a home I’ll be revered as an oracle rather than waiting for someone to come and change my urine-stained bed sheets.

Now if you’ll excuse me I’m off to forget all about thermodynamics and write another poo joke – you’ve got to love career development.

1 Comment:

Holly said...

"wonder why I didn’t pursue a boring career that no one else wanted"... yes! Why do no careers advisors suggest that?!

And very true about the Bakerloo Line, plus that is a lot more relevant to everyday life. Bloody Einstein... ;-)