SATURDAY, MARCH 8, 2014
How often does that happen: How often does that happen?
This morning, in a local coffee joint, we guarded a younger fellow’s luggage as he used the men’s salon. In the long run, he seemed to be on his way to nearby Penn Station.
Upon returning from the men’s room, he caught us perusing Stephen Hawking’s 1988 best-seller, A Brief History of Time.
We’ve been reading our Hawking every morning in recent weeks. It’s an antidote to the infantilization involved in watching you-know-who tell her stories about scandal topics.
This morning, a rare event occurred. As the younger fellow gathered his luggage, he said he tried to read Hawking’s book at some point—but he didn’t quite understand it!
How often does anyone say that? For ourselves, we had just made a bit of a breakthrough on page 20 of the book, where Hawking writes this:
“Because of the equivalence of energy and mass, the energy which an object has due to its motion will add to its mass.”
Because of statements on page 17, we don’t exactly understand that. Rarely, though, will an Amtrak traveler acknowledge a similar problem.
Please understand! If we remember correctly, the recent PBS bio of Hawking says he’s one of the greatest physicists of the past few centuries. We don’t doubt that.
We’re asking a different question: Is this greatest physicist able to explain modern physics in a way general readers can understand? Like song-writing, cooking or even horse-whispering, that’s a different skill.
Twenty-six years later, we’re still on page 20 of Hawking’s book! We’re also trying to figure out why the SAT has been changed.
We’ll start to examine that topic on Monday. There’s a reason for our fuzziness, though—we read about the ballyhooed changes in you-know-which newspaper.
Do we the people really know how to explain any topic? Or is it all just silly stories—silly stories by you-know-who and similar types, pretty much all the way down?
A recommendation: Our interlocutor recommended Richard Feynman’s Six Easy Pieces (or possibly its sequel).
Maybe! But that’s not the point!
(From the synopsis at Penguin Australia: “If the greatest physicist since the Second World War can't explain it to you, no one can.” If someone made us place a bet, we’d take no one against the field.)