Monday, November 23, 2009
We are star dust, we are golden…
An amusing episode the other day concerned my partner’s aunt who, at eighty, is as sharp as a porcupine’s quill and who, on listening to a debate we were having on time travel and teleportation, offered the following:
“I saw on the news that they had teleported a table one metre.”
This being Ghana I did not offer too much disparagement of what I thought of as a nugget of fool’s gold. “Are you sure,” I asked, “I think the latest breakthrough involves teleporting one photon from one place to another.” My partner quickly cut in, “Perhaps you meant futon, Auntie.”
At the moment there’s stuff in the media every day about the micro world of atoms, particles and sub-particles, nano-technology and the infinitely small worlds beyond instrumentation. At the same time there is a continuing fixation with astrology. Humans are like that. Rationality and belief as bedfellows.
In an attempt to bring these various areas of scientific and quasi-scientific exploration together, I ask myself, under what conditions would astrology work? First, think of what happens after conception. Cells divide and stem cells gradually take on the role of developing specialised bits of the human form. DNA (as recently discussed here) seems sensitive to environmental influences and, as a consequences, changes its formula in modelling a unique human entity. At this time, the sac of cells with their dna may also be influenced by great bodies in space, the sun and planets, just as in the old days, when grooves on cylinders were formed by playing music live and having a needle cut the wax in symbiosis, so that the phonograph could reproduce the same music later, if another needle ran along the sound sculpted groove. Thus our dna may be influenced when it is exposed to planetary shifts.
We have little sense of how the sub-atomic universe is fashioned and refined. We tend to think of ourselves as separate entities with clearly defined edges but we are not. Atoms are making a constant fuzzy storm as they enter and leave our external surfaces. We also contain atoms from all the people who ever lived and died – up to twenty years or so before we were born. There are atoms in our bodies that have travelled across galaxies, in and out of suns. It would be sillier to imagine that none of this has any influence on our biologies and psyches than imagining the opposite.
In The Fly, Cronenberg’s hero teleports himself and does not realise a fly is in the pod with him. The resultant mix provides the horror and tragedy of the narrative. A gripping fiction but, at the heart of it, there is science …
They may be teleporting photons now but it will be futons in the future.