Guy stuff June 2011

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Truly amazing stuff!

“He who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead; his eyes are closed.”
—Albert Einstein

All too often we become over-burdened by the higgledy-piggledy demands of our everyday lives. In days gone by we called it “The Rat Race”, those incessant stresses to stay one step ahead of the necessities of life. It is more than our careers and financial concerns, more than the maintenance of our homes and cars, and the caring for our children and families. Somehow we can let ourselves become so benumbed by the mundane and the banal that we no longer appreciate the amazing wonders and the mysteries that will enrich our lives if we let them. And we needn’t look very far; as Henry David Thoreau wrote, “I stand in awe of my body.”

The wind
Perhaps because I am a sailor, the wind holds more mystery for me than for others. Oh, I understand the science behind it, convection, Coriolis force, etc. Nevertheless, when the invisible wind encourages the trees to dance, spins the blades of windmills, drives sailboats around the world and flies kites, I am captivated. Less benignly, a strong wind across thousands of miles of ocean erects mountainous waves weighing billions of tons simply by the force of the wind’s friction on the water. And is there anyone who is not in awe of hurricanes, typhoons and tornados?

The Large Hadron Collider
Sorry, I forgot to mention that this article isn’t only about natural wonders. The limitless genius of mankind has achieved some pretty doggone amazing stuff, too. The LHC is the largest machine in the world. Located about 300-feet underground on the border of France and Switzerland, the collider is approximately 16-and-a-half miles in circumference and will propel trillions of protons around that distance more than 11,000 times a second! Nearly the speed of light. CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research estimates there will be 600 million subatomic collisions every second.

The tide
 Back to nature. Twice a day, every single day for millions upon millions of years – for as long as the ocean has existed on the planet – the tide has risen and fallen. Fishermen and sailors maintain a very careful watch on the schedule of this tremendously powerful movement as it has great influence on their lives. Night and day, whether we’re awake or asleep, near the ocean or in the middle of a desert, the tides continue their steady, eternal flow, completely indifferent to us. Perhaps more exploration of the tide as a source of alternative energy might be explored.

Microprocessors
They’re everywhere today. Computers, telephones, appliances, vehicles, cameras, televisions and stereos. I don’t even want to think about how many of the tiny little doohickeys  populate my life, nor how much I’ve come to depend on their digital witchery. I’m like the aborigine in the jungle movie who gapes and leaps back in astonishment when the cigarette lighter makes magic fire. You can tell me all about binary operations, ones and zeros, millions of on and off switchings, but I still don’t know how they work.

My granddaughter, Amelia
During the past 16 months, I have changed very little. I am roughly the same height and weight, possess more or less the same intelligence, vocabulary, recognition of the world around me and physical abilities. In those same 16 months, Amelia’s changes have been more than amazing, they’ve been mind-boggling. She was a 21-inch newborn weighing eight pounds plus who could do not much more than wiggle her limbs, nurse, cry and gaze in bewilderment. In that 16-month blink-of-an-eye, she has grown a foot taller and nearly tripled her weight. She can walk, run, climb (boy, can she climb!), throw a ball, sing, laugh and play games. Amelia has her own spoken words for dozens of animals, people, and things and understands much more than she’s able to express.Imagine if you had grown a foot taller and nearly tripled your weight in 16 months. Imagine if your mental and physical abilities had increased by the same proportion as Amelia’s. If childhood growth ain’t amazing, I don’t know what is.

Fireflies/lightning bugs
I don’t care how old you get, if the twinkling of lighting bugs on a warm summer night doesn’t get you to stop and enjoy, you are as Einstein said, “as good as dead.”
Butterflies, moths, caterpillars and chrysalises. Sometimes we see caterpillars. Sometimes we see butterflies. How often do we stop to remind ourselves of their incredible metamorphosis? To borrow from the old Doublemint gum ads, it’s TWO, TWO lives in one! With apologies to Franz Kafka, imagine living half your life as you are now, then going to sleep and awaking as Hawkman or somebody else who can fly?

Fish
They live their entire lives under water. Just think about that.

Cotton
Who ever thought up a plant that grows fibers that we turn into clothes and sheets? Not to mention silk for Pete’s sake.

A few more things
Maple syrup from the sap of trees. Honey from flower pollen via bees. The Universe (never mind, that’s too big to contemplate), but how about a starry night? Water: sometimes steam, sometime liquid, sometimes ice – pretty handy stuff. Any flower. Volcanoes. Digital photography. A bug smaller than the period at the end of this sentence that walks, eats, breathes, reproduces, sees – how tiny does it parts have to be? Laser surgery. Blue whales – the largest creature to ever live on the planet living on tiny krill.
And yeast, without which there would be no bread or beer – heaven forfend!

Ed. Lange writes “Guy Stuff” monthly for Capital Region Living.  He may be reached at skipper@capital.net

 

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