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It’s a segue after all

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By Wendy Binnie

The cutting-edge stuff like the new physics is a turn-on. Not too long ago the view of physics was very prosaic. At that time we didn’t know about gluons, or quarks or any of the other particles that exist in nature, or much about the nature of the universe. And today it seems that the ideas that occupied us 50 years ago weren’t even on the drawing board, much less bandied about in meeting rooms and gathering places for young Turks seeking to remake the world – or at least make it better. Physicists are throwing around concepts that couldn’t be found in the most advanced sci-fi novels. It is literally thrilling to listen to these brainiacs talking about “what might be” with such abandon.

It is a brave new world. And this bold new approach to thinking about the universe and attempting to come to terms with Einstein’s theories are more exciting than just about anything else on Earth with the exception of the promise of health care for all Americans. In 1689 Dr. Hugh Chamberlen (court physician and accoucheur) submitted a “Proposal for the Better Securing of Health” suggesting that medical treatment should be available to “all sick, poor or rich for a small yearly certain sum assessed upon each house,” and, “that the laws already in being may be revised, which provide against the sale of unwholesome food; that bread may be well baked; beer well brewed, and houses and streets well cleaned from dirt and filth; all these being common causes of diseases and death.”

Einstein talked about the grand theory of everything: the Universal Constant. In it, he proposed there was some unifying law that held everything together, a law that applied to both the micro particle level as well as the macro level. But he could never find a solution to the problem. Maybe 10 or 15 years ago, some young physicists started to think that what was at the heart of the Universe was not really particles but something resembling strings where each part of the string could resonate at differing frequencies. This was labeled string theory and deemed impossible to prove in the post industrial society where everything was on too grand a scale to prove. Well, when they tried to play that out, they discovered they couldn’t make that theory work either unless they expanded the number of dimensions of our universe. The formula did work when they hypothesized 11 dimensions of space.

And by that time, the theory was then called M theory to which some were quickly willing to apply terms like Magic, Mysterious, and Mystical Theory. It did have an attraction for some of the boldest young physicists in the business; physicists willing to blaze new paths. Only that led them to ask the question that if there were 11 different dimensions of space, where were they. The physicists who held to this theory said that they could be everywhere, very small and perhaps right in front of our faces. This theory seemed to support an even more far-out idea after taking measurements that indicated to a great extent the universe was relatively flat and perhaps worm holes did exist. Only nobody had ever seen one and nobody had ever been through one as far as we knew. Taking this a step further, another theory suggested itself: It was that there could be parallel universes, perhaps an infinite number of them with no two overlapping.

An infinite number of universes? Sure. But it went even further. According to the new theory, it could be possible that one might collide with another or that even a kind of portal existed where it was theoretically possible that there could be a transfer between one and another universe. Now, this proves immensely interesting and exciting. But as of now, the physicists are doubtful that with our present technology, that it wouldn’t be the same thing as approaching a black hole where eventually as we approached the speed of light, we would change our physical shape and the forces exerted on us would break us down into atoms. But the possibility of passing through portals is amazingly fresh and exciting.

If we cannot travel between universes when our son dies, it is conceivable that we could bots carrying our DNA to another universe where we may start again. And now we begin to find out how to find other universes, where we may be duplicated and living a completely different existence, a life where perhaps the Dodgers stayed in Brooklyn and won the series … a separate universe where all things are possible. One of the men who could help in this quest is Dr. Stephen Hawking, the British genius of just about everything. He is severely disabled by motor neuron disease, a variant of the disease known as Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS.) Most neuromuscular specialists believe he has Spinal Muscular Atrophy type IV. Hawkins’ illness is markedly different from typical ALS in the fact that his form of ALS would make for the most protracted case ever documented. A survival for more than 10 years after diagnosis is uncommon for ALS; the longest documented durations are 32 and 39 years and these cases were termed benign because of the lack of the typical progressive course. He gradually lost the use of his arms, legs, and voice, and is now almost completely paralyzed. He has been cared for by the much maligned British Health Care System since he was 21. The terminal nature of his disease did not preclude him from care.

As I was saying …

Wendy England Binnie a novelist and op/ed columnist lives in Oak Trace Villas.