Science Fiction Overload

I’ve always loved science fiction but keeping up with the genre is a big damn job.  I constantly worry I’m going to miss a breakthrough novel with the impact of Neuormancer or The Life of Pi or Replay just because I was wasn’t keeping up with the times. 

As a young bookworm I read several books a week at a time when the science fiction section at the bookstore was a wire rack at the drugstore where I bought my Popular Science and Mad Magazines.  There just wasn’t that many new books being published every month and the real focus was on feeding an indiscriminate reading appetite.  Reading the book review sections in Amazing, Fantastic, Analog, Galaxy, If, and F&SF kept me perfectly up-to-date on the world of science fiction publishing in 1968, but it’s not enough for 2008.

Every year now Locus Magazine reports there are over 2,000 SF&F books being published as well as a large variety of magazines, graphic novels, online zines, ebooks and other outlets of SF&F storytelling.  The field is long past the size that I can comprehend.  I’m a small town bookworm living in a giant metropolis of fantastic fiction.  Last night I was watching a documentary on Discovery HD about Miami, the town I grew up in the 1950s and 1960s.  My father’s family moved there in the 1920s.  The show made me realize just how much of the city and its glamorous history I had never noticed even though I had lived in many places in Dade County.  If I went back home I’d be just another tourist.  That’s how I feel about SF&F today.  I can’t believe I miss so much.

What I need is a Lonely Planet Guide to the vast hyperactive country of science fiction.  For years that was Locus Magazine’s job but even it overwhelms me today.  Thank God for the Internet, and a special prayer of thanks to the guys who invented RSS.  This year I’ve been on a voyage of discovery to find just the right RSS feeds that are easy to read and reduce the fire-hose of SF information overload down to a water fountain burble.

Of course I added the RSS feed to my old favorite Locus Magazine but strangely enough I was disappointed with its cryptic posts in my Outlook inbox.  Some RSS feeds send the entire article and others just send snack-size snippets to entice you to click on a hyperlink and jump over to their site to eat the whole whole meal.  The bite-size phrases from Locus seldom get me to byte.  I do click now and then and sometimes discover perfect little gems like 2007 SF/F/H Books on Year’s Best Lists, which cross-tabs several review sites to list the books that have gotten the most recommendations for best books of 2007 (first posted on 2/13/8).

This same article was written up by SF Signal on 2/20/8.  SF Signal is a fantastic web site that very successfully reports on the most tasty data bits about SF&F.  It serves the same function for our genre as Slashdot does for computer news.  I’m now trying to decide if I can abandon my RSS feed for Locus Magazine and depend on SF Signal to keep me up-to-date about anything worthy that Locus does publish.  In other words a plain RSS feed is not always perfect, so maybe a meta-feed is even better.

Of course the best solution would a single RSS feed that notified me from many sites just the stories I would likely love to read.  So if I could train my feed from SF Signal for just the kinds of stories I want to read then that would really save me some major time, but that might be too science fictional of an idea.  What I’m wishing for is a reading robot companion that gets to know me perfectly and then spoon feeds me just the right stories.

The trouble is I can only read maybe 7-10 science fiction and fantasy novels a year and maybe another 20-25 short stories.  (OK, yes SF&F is great, but there’s actually more healthy stuff to consume too, like science and history books, so I have to limit my SF&F candy.)  Logically I should ignore all books but the very best sellers and also read one SF best of the year anthology to sample the best of each year.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t work well doing that.  I can dip into several best of anthologies and only find a few real nuggets among the fool’s gold.  Not that a diamond to me won’t be cut glass to someone else, or vice versa.  And many best sellers are less than filling to me.

What I’m learning to do is search out blogs by various SF&F bookworms with the hope I’ll find a few taste-clones of myself.  I’m currently reading:

These readers don’t have my exact reading habits but they read much slower than review sites and they comment about books in a low key personal manner that I identify with.  This slows the pace down for finding books. I hope to add other blogs in the future.  I find it very easy to keep up with their blog feeds and figure I can eventually handle maybe ten or twelve blogging friends this way.  It’s a virtual book club and we chat with each other without even knowing the other is in the room, so to say.

I also find speciality sites like The Internet Review of Science Fiction and SF Audio to be very helpful too.  They cover more stuff than I ever want to handle, but I can easily pick and choose.  SF Audio has a good RSS feed with enough content in each post so I quickly click yay or nay with my mouse.  IRoSF is formatted like a magazine so it’s easy to pick and choose in the TOC, however I think I would like it better if they sent out RSS feeds of their full stories.  Although that might not be what they want after creating such a nice magazine format, but my desire does fit with the new reading paradigm of the RSS.

When it comes down to it we spend a lot of time reading emails, so RSS feeds simply spoon feed us reading material in email size bites.  I wish my Kindle was more of a true RSS reader.  I haven’t experimented with it using RSS feeds, but I will.  The Kindle is even easier to read than my Outlook client.  And that’s what my needs comes down to, an easy method to shovel just the right words into my head.  I’m getting old, so I can’t process as many words as I want, but these futuristic times really do have the technologies to do less with more.  Imagine if I could get all my reading through email sized chunks of words?

Sure, there are downsides to the emailization of reading.  It’s all fast food consumption and nothing is saved for studying.  What some clever programmer needs to do is marry Outlook with MediaWiki.  That way we could read and digest our words into something for long term memory.

I wish I had more time to read more books.  Reading reviews at least show me the myriad of ideas being explored in the world of SF&F.  To get an idea of what I mean just read January 2008: Short Fiction at IRoSF – there’s a reason why the old magazines were called Amazing Stories or Astounding Stories of Super Science and Fantastic Tales.  There’s a lot more to SF than spaceships and more to fantasy than hobbits. 

SF&F are the genres that require their writers to think up wild ideas, and boy to they ever.  And me, I’d love to explore than all, but I can’t.  I just can’t.  So what I want to do is find the most sense of wonder I can for my limited reading time.

Jim

Humans Are Making Global Warming

For many people the thought that humans are the cause of global warming is unbelievable.  Some refuse to believe, others can’t believe.  I’ve always wondered why.  Sometimes I think it might be a religious issue.  If you believe in God and believe that God takes care of us, why would he allow us to do something this horrible.  Others might think that mankind is too puny to do something so big.  Strangely enough, I think others refuse to believe because the idea was promoted by Al Gore and they won’t let Al be right about anything.  Ultimately, I don’t know why they think this.  To me it’s obvious we all did this to ourselves.  Sure there are other causes, but in the end if society had never industrialized we wouldn’t be having this problem.

I think I’ve finally found the logic to prove our guilt in the new National Geographic Channel documentary “Six Degrees Could Change the World.”  Towards the end of the show they explained that Earth had once been six degrees hotter and also had an earlier problem with too much carbon in the atmosphere.  They reported that it took millions of years for the Earth to sequester the carbon underground in natural stockpiles of coal and oil.  In other words, if this is true, what nature took millions of years to do, we undid in just over a hundred years.  And the irony is we’re scrambling to develop technology to put carbon underground again.

Six Degrees Could Change the World is the most powerful documentary I’ve yet seen to warn us about the impact of global warming.  We should all get a copy and watch it every Sunday morning and contemplate our future.  I do believe we are the current cause of global warning and I also believe we have the technology to reverse its effects, but the tragedy of all of this will be when humans refuse to do anything.

To refuse the blame for causing global warming is one thing, to refuse to do anything about it is something else altogether.

Jim

Dangerous Psi-Fi Phantasies

There’s a major difference between science fiction and fantasy. Both work with the “What if…” hypothesis, but there should be a distinct difference in intent that the reader should recognize. The Sci-Fi writer might say, “What if we could travel to the planets?” Whereas the fantasy writer might say, “What if fairies lived in Central Park?” In the former, the author is suggesting that people might build machines and travel to Mars. He or she is creating a story about something that could happen in our reality. The fantasy writer, on the other hand, wants to tell a fun tale and asks the reader to assume there is another world, it might be like ours or very different, and hopes we will pretend to believe.

Most modern science fiction is a mixture of both kinds of “What if…” stories. For example, “What if people could travel to the stars?” and “What if people could build machines that could travel faster than light?” However, there is a special kind of “What if…” that I want to deal with, and that is “What if people had psychic powers?”

This “What if…” theme is fantasy but I believe that many people want to believe its science. Fantasy for fun is a delightful pastime. Fantasy for believing is being delusional. The difference can be the fun kids have playing first person shooters and going berserk and shooting people.

Years ago I ran across an article in an old science fiction magazine that reported that for decades public libraries banned the Oz books because they felt the books gave children unrealistic expectations about life. Since I was an Oz book fan growing up I was outraged at this idea, but as an adult I can’t help wonder if it wasn’t true.

Looking back I can see there are also a number of power fantasies for adolescents that I wonder about now. The two that I want to deal with the most are Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein and the Star Wars films by George Lucas. Both stories mix science fiction and mysticism and advocate the existence of mind powers. Heinlein even mixed traditional religion of God and Angels with super-evolved Martians in an effort to legitimize old ideas with exciting new SF ones.

I’ve read and reread Stranger in a Strange Land many times since 1965. It was the perfect power fantasy for a thirteen-year-old because it promised the power to think your enemies out of existence and have sex with lots of eager women. Now that I’m closer to Heinlein’s age when he wrote Stranger I realize it was also the perfect power fantasy for a horny old man. Stranger in a Strange Land was breakout radical for science fiction at the time. Now I see it as a pathetic fantasy about wife-swapping, wishing for life after to death, and the desire to either talk your enemies to death or blink them out of existence with a thought. It’s both a great novel and a sick fantasy.

Star Wars is actually a horse of a different color. On one hand it’s an old fashion adventure serial like Buck Rogers or Flash Gordon. Like Stranger it wants to mix in some mysticism but in a neutral non-religious way. Good versus Evil has always been part of fiction but George Lucas lucked out by inventing “The Force.” It’s such a nice packaging of an old concept that I can easily imagine that a religion being built around it in the future. It’s sort of a distilled essence of all mysticism. And that brings up the problem I have: is there any reality to mystic theories?

There are many kinds of mysticism but basically it suggests that humans can tune into a higher power. In some forms this is just communing with God and in other forms it means acquiring super powers to use on Earth. The problem with mysticism is it requires making a decision about reality and it’s a very fundamental philosophical decision. Even traditional theology has problems with mysticism. Mysticism opens up a can of worms for both theists and atheists.

The question becomes how powerful can a person be? In Star Wars and Stranger in a Strange Land people can become very powerful indeed. Even popular books like The Secret suggest people can tune into success via mental effort alone. Heinlein might have promoted the belief that there is no such thing as a free lunch but his belief in mysticism suggested otherwise. That’s the problem with mysticism with its money for nothing and chicks for free attitude. Mysticism allows the universe to be anything. It’s a funny thing to believe in when most people do not have the mental discipline to lose weight. I also think it’s obvious that mental powers don’t exist; otherwise the stories of history would be very different.

In both real life and fiction life the reader needs to make a decision about the reality of this world and the fictional world. If you believe that magic works in books but not life then you’re probably sane, but if you believe that magic works in both places then you might be in trouble. There is a third alternative with a spooky physics of quantum mechanics solution and that suggests the universe is whatever the observer wants it to be, so in your universe mysticism works, but in mine I keep things orderly with the laws of science.

Einstein never could accept the spooky world of quantum physics that he discovered. He insisted that there is an objective reality that exists outside our minds. Back in the sixties and seventies when I was exploring altered states of consciousness and New Age philosophies I eventually came to the same conclusion. I decided that mystical thinking was indistinguishable from madness. And that is why at 56 I find stories like Stranger in a Strange Land and Star Wars repugnant. They are psi-fi phantasies.

“May the Force be with you,” is a wonderful sentiment for an adolescent fantasy but it’s a dangerous idea to live by. There are forces of nature, like gravity, electro-magnetism, etc. And there are forces we may not understand, but the belief that our minds can achieve godlike powers is a dangerous concept. In Stranger in a Strange Land everyone was God, but what about all those people Mike winked out? Weren’t they God too?

I don’t believe in Good and Evil, but I do think there are two forces in nature that those concepts can be compared to. Entropy is the obvious force resulting from the Big Bang but the harder to understand one is the force that assembles complexity out of chaos. That force took billions of years to arrange for us to exist. We aren’t here because of a blink of a thought. In our part of reality we are the crown of complexity, able to be self-aware of the reality around us and the history of the universe.

To deny this position in reality, to shut our eyes and dream of magic is a tragedy of epic proportions. “What if there was a world of tiny creatures that woke up in an immense reality of infinite possibilities and they chose to close their eyes and ignore it?”

Jim

Dinosaur Dreams

Last night I had another dinosaur dream.  I dreamed I was with two people that time traveled to the past and lived in a large compound.  In this dream I was my making my first jump to the past and was being shown around by the others.  The opening scene I shifted from now to then and sat with two other people at a table outside.  Behind these two I saw a T. Rex approaching and then watched the monster rushed up, opened its mouth to consume one of my companions, and was surprised when it bit down on an invisible barrier.  The other two had completely ignored Mr. T.  Then the scene shifted to teenagers sneaking out of the back of the compound to where there were no barriers.  The tension in the dream increased as I woke up.

Coming out of REM sleep into consciousness I was amazed at the clarity of the dream, and it’s movie like structure.  It had been so vivid and fluid as if my dream projector had upgraded to high definition.  In recent years I’ve been noticing that my dreams are more story like, as if my many MFA writing classes helped my mind at an unconscious level.

I’ve been dreaming about dinosaurs since I was four years old, which is odd because I don’t remember learning about dinosaurs until I went to grade school.  We had television back in 1955-56, so I probably saw something that struck a chord with my dream programming and it implanted a subroutine that pops up every year or two.  I still remember that first dinosaur dream, although it’s very vague.  In this dream people were slaves to dinosaurs and we worked in a pit cleaning up dinosaur shit.  What would Freud do with that?

Dinosaur dreams are scary dreams, although after childhood they quit being nightmares and just turned into action adventures with lots of thrills.  The plot of these dreams basically deal with running and avoiding being eaten, which could be a metaphor for lots of things.  I’ve been thinking about global warming again, so maybe last night’s T. Rex stood in for it. 

A common story is being in a house or large building and having the dinosaurs trying to reach in through the windows to get me and others King Kong style.  The theme is always big versus little, and I really identified with William Tenn’s classic 1968 novel, Of Monsters and Men, where giant aliens have invaded Earth and humans live like mice.  I’ve even had some alien dreams like that.

Normally in my dreams when people-size bad things try to get me I kill them in horribly ways, but not in dinosaur dreams.  I suppose they represent things too big to kill.  It sure would be thrilling to whip out a RPG and send a grenade into Mr. Rex’s big mouth and watch it’s head explode into bits.  Evidently my inner computer figures global warming can’t be solved that way.

I wonder, do other people have dinosaur dreams.  I’ve never met anyone who told me about one, nor have I read a book that mentions them.  Even though they are a bit scary I enjoy my occasional dino rerun.

Jim

Is Science That Hard to Identify

I was at my favorite Borders bookstore looking over the various subjects in their Science section when I got the idea I should go home and look on Amazon to see how their Science section stacks up.  I love book shopping in bookstores but I love reading the reader reviews before buying a book.  And I figured Amazon would have a much better selection of science books in the various subject areas.  Boy was I wrong.

The number one best selling science book (2/11/8) according to Amazon is You Can Heal Your Life.  What, they don’t have a Self-Help section?  Number two is You Staying Young.  In real bookstores this would be filed with other books about Health and Diet.  Number three is The Omnivore’s Dilemma, which is an interesting book and would be hard to classify like the next two, Blink and The World is Flat, but they aren’t science books.  Next is Be a Pack Leader, a book about dog training – put it under Pets please.  Number six is the Publication Manual for the American Psychological Association – this one goes under Writing and Editing.  Come on guys.

Finally, in position seven we have a winner, Your Inner Fish, not the best of science book titles, but a book Darwin would have loved.  It appears that science is such an unknown subject that even when you have a real science book you have to title it like a self-help book to get noticed.  This book is the kind of discovery I was expecting from Amazon in abundance.  I expected Amazon to have lists and lists of great new exciting science books.  I hadn’t notice Your Inner Fish at Borders by the way, but it’s probably there.  Borders is far superior to Amazon in filing books by category, and that’s an essential feature of a brick-and-mortar bookstore, so why is it missing from Amazon?

I was terribly disappointed by Amazon’s Top 100 Science books.  I felt like I imagine the guys searching for porn feel when they accidentally end up on one of my blog pages.  I know this happens because WordPress shows me the search terms used to find my pages.  Most of the Amazon Top 25 books are self-help books, including books on yoga and codependency.  Geez guys, who’s minding the store?  Listings for 25-50, 51-75 and 76-100 aren’t really any better.

The Selfish Gene: 30th Anniversary Edition is #75, and ranked 894th on the Amazon sales chart.  This is the kind of book I expected to fill the Top 100 Science Books listing.  #1 Amazon Science book, You Can Heal Your Life, is #12 in sales.  Is Amazon spamming it’s own charts with bestsellers just to sell more books?

So I give Amazon the benefit of the doubt, and click on the sub-category of Physics.  How could they spoil that?  The topic of physics is pretty damn obvious.   #1 is This is Your Brain on Music.  This book does cover a lot of pop science topics, but physics isn’t one of them.  #2 is Einstein by Walter Isaacson, the book I’m currently listening to by the way, and a biography, but I’m agreeable to it being filed in the physics section.  Some cross-posting is helpful.

#3 is Dark Mission: The Secret History of NASA.  Huh?  Here’s a clue, “the truth is that NASA was born in a lie, and has concealed the truths about its occult origins.”  Here’s another clue, the same author wrote, The Monuments of Mars, about the face on Mars.  I feel about this the same way I feel about the History Channel having documentaries about UFOs.

Here are some other Physics books according to Amazon:

  • How to Build a Robot Army:  Tips on Defending the Earth from Against Alien Invaders, Ninjas, and Zombies
  • The Mayan Code: Time Acceleration and Awakening the World Mind
  • Critical Listening Skills for Audio Professionals
  • The Cosmic War: Interplanetary Warfare, Modern Physics and Ancient Texts
  • The Science of God: The Convergence of Scientific and Biblical Wisdom
  • The Varieties of Scientific Experience: A Personal View of the Search for God
  • Guide to Sound Systems for Worship
  • Science and the Akashic Field

Did Amazon hire a hippie who smokes dope while categorizing science books?  The sad thing is I know some people who would classify the above books as science books, and even as physics books.  Is it any wonder that kids look to pop stars to explain the world to them.

Jim

Flirting Among the Wrinkled

When I was young I didn’t think aging would be much of a problem.  I imagined it was just a matter of becoming wrinkled and losing hair.  “Geez, I can handle that,” I thought at the time, but boy was I ever wrong.  I was reminded of those thoughts the other day when my friend Janis told me about one of the side effects of aging she hated.

I was telling her about Miss Austen Regrets a PBS biopic about Jane Austen, explaining it was essentially several theories about why she never married.  One theory appeared to be she didn’t want to give up flirting.  Janis said that was something she didn’t like about getting old, and I asked her to elaborate.  She said life was more thrilling when she was younger and got so much more attention.  She said it was depressing to be ignored more as her age increased.

I replied that I was very attentive towards her and weren’t other guys our age still flirting with her?  She said, yes, but it wasn’t the same.  I quickly shot back, “Oh, yeah, it’s only the young Mr. Darcy types that count,” thinking to be funny, but realizing it was masking a stab to my ego too, when I realized that all my flirty communiqués had probably fallen on her limp and impotent because I was not young and dashing.

Since I moved into my fifties I’ve tried to reign in my natural tendency to pay attention to women under forty and focus more on women my own age.  Now Janis was essentially telling me I was wasting my flirting time.  I had already discovered that post-menopausal women had a declining interest in sex that was directly proportional to a growing desire for independence and self-sufficiency.

Biologically this makes sense, because if the reproductive system shuts down why would women need any stinking men.  I use that last phrase because I have heard more than once women friends say, “I no longer want to put up with any stinking man in my life,” and then go on to describe supporting a husband being very much like taking care of a kid.  Many times I have talked to a woman my age who related fantasies about life without husbands.

I remember asking one lady what this freedom would bring.  She said she could go shopping after work.  I replied, you could go shopping after work now.  No I can’t, she said, I have to go home and cook.  I’ve learned not to ask “What’s for dinner” at my house after my wife has expressed suicidal rages at those words.

In the end, I think Janis is atypical.  I know lots of women my age and older that still like the attention of men, even if we’re bald or wrinkled.  Now they mentally may be putting a paper bag over my head and painting a picture of Mr. Darcy on it.  I tried to cheer Janis up by suggesting that getting old means adapting to new ways of flirting but she seemed to want to cling to the idea that if you’re female you’re only a target if you’re young.

There were scenes in Miss Austen Regrets where you could dramatically see this.  Jane was besotted by a young doctor who admired and intelligently flirted with her, but her face would pain when the doctor’s attention shifted from her to Jane’s niece, a girl half Jane’s age.  I tried to convince Janis we could have a flirting society just among our own kind but she didn’t buy that.  Do women need to be pre-menopausal to value the attention of men?

This might be another explanation of why older men chase younger women, and another reason why older women hate them so much for it.  The obvious assumption that I have always lived with was old men chase young women because they thought young women prettier.  As I got older I thought old men chased young women because they were the ones that put out.  Now I have to wonder if it’s because its the young women who value flirting and attention.

When I continued to try to convince Janis that flirting could exist at a different level among the wrinkled set she kept insisting it wasn’t the same thing.  I finally decided, at least with Janis, flirting is only exciting when it’s part of that whole gestalt of choosing Mr. Right.

I pictured a hot steamy pond with hundreds of croaking he frogs flirting with the she frogs and imagining a lady frog amused by all the bull frog attention trying to pick just the right Mr. Frog for reproduction that season.  The tension would be great.  Among humans it would be even greater because we mate for life, or so we think at the moment.

I have to wonder if my conversion with my friend wasn’t really Miss Janis Regrets.  I hated to see her unhappy over that, but I also realized that I had something new to be unhappy with too.  If women reach a point where they devalue flirting because of biological changes, and men don’t go through those same changes, then we become out of sync with women our own age.  I think this is one of the many reasons why women hate getting older more than men do.  We’re still game and they’re not.  That’s going to be painful.

Jim

The Lights in the Sky is Space-Time

When I wrote “The Lights in the Sky are Stars” I was trying to remind people we live in this far out universe but most people fail to look up and notice.  Sadly, light pollution has destroyed the impact of the night sky thus diminishing our sense of wonder.  Now I’m reading Einstein by Walter Isaacson and its like a lesson in astronomy on LSD.

Over the years I’ve seen many documentaries and read many books on the theory of relativity and other ideas discovered by Einstein but I never really got them.  I still don’t get them, but this book by following Einstein step by step as he grows up and then works on each problem helps me visualize the immensity of his discoveries better than anything so far.  Coming to grips that space and time are not absolute and that they are really one thing called space-time is hard.

Einstein often uses vivid thought experiments to teach his concepts and one of my favorites is trying to imagine people living in a two dimensional world like the classic book Flatland.  This is a great metaphor because for most people on Earth we only see the universe in a very limited way, and the genius of Einstein was he looked intensely at reality and said to everyone, “Hey guys, we’re not in Kansas anymore.”

I took many physics and astronomy courses in college but I never achieved orbit with them.  I am like Charlie Gordon in Flowers for Algernon in that I once had a bit of smarts and got a tiny glimpse of reality but now it’s all forgotten.  I’m like a woman of 56 trying to recapture her beauty of 22, so I don’t know if its physically possible to facelift my brain, but I keep trying.  Hell, there’s got to be more to life than watching Lost on my HDTV (not that I don’t love that show).

Plastic surgery only succeeds so far with the body, so I don’t know how much I can push my brain at 56 to rejuvenate.  Awhile back I bought The History of Science: 1700-1900 on DVD from The Teaching Company.  I’m going to start watching those lessons again and study physics again.  Einstein wrote his own popular science book about special and general relativity and I’m also going to buy that and try to “see” into his world using his own words.

Science is weird because a few really smart people study reality and make discoveries, and then they tell everybody and the rest of us go, “Oh yeah, I get that,” and then go on with out lives.  We’re all taught in school that the Earth orbits the Sun even though when you look outside it sure does look like the Sun moves around terra firma.   Most people live their lives like ants unaware that our little hive and its activities is part of something much bigger.  The Earth is like an atom in an Apple.

Cosmology is the science of describing the whole enchilada.  When Einstein first theorized the nature of space-time Hubble hadn’t even made his breakthroughs to explain galaxies.  By trying to understand the nature of light and gravity he became the father of cosmology.  Einstein’s brain and mathematics brought forth our whole spooky universe of quantum physics as if we were born out of his thoughts.

It didn’t take long for other scientists to see what Einstein saw.  He quickly became movie star famous.  A hundred years later we take all of his discoveries for granted, but not really.  How many people really think about their place in the cosmos?

Now, at 56 I wonder how much I can see if I try?  My memory is already a sieve.  One reason I write these essays is to exercise the mechanism in my brain that processes words.  Since working on this blog my brain is just a bit better at finding words, so maybe thinking about physics will be gym for my mind.

Jim