A Long Long Time Ago…Part 4.999999

As noted recently, rather too many years ago I thought I knew how to be funny on paper and I had the temerity to write a thing called ‘THE COMPLETE HISTORY OF SCIENCE: REVISED, UPDATED AND GENERALLY REFURBISHED’.  It saw the light of day, so to speak, in The Mentor, an Australian fanzine. Below is part 5. Part 2 is here. Parts 3 & 4 I leave to the imagination.

THE COMPLETE HISTORY OF SCIENCE: REVISED, UPDATED AND GENERALLY REFURBISHED.

Part Vee

The Twentieth Century: The two biggest influences on twentieth century science have been Elbert Ainstein, Max Plank and Mr. Ibm.

Ainstein: Ainstein invented Relativity and mc2, two great breakthroughs, but is best known for his hairstyle, which appeared to involve another physical principle – electricity.

Relativity was and is a popular theory. Put simply, Ainstein said: “Everything is relative.” This was not a comment on brotherhood amongst men but a physical statement that means that an observer’s length depends on the rate at which their inertia is framing its reference compared to the speed of light in a vacuum. In other words, the faster something is going the shorter it is. Why tall athletes still win Olympic medals, he could not explain.

However, his idea that ‘time slows the faster you go’ has proved useful to anyone trying to make it through an amber light.

E = mc2 is a formula relating mass to energy, and so was a great breakthrough in calculating the kilojoules in a slice of pie.

Max Plank, Quantum Mechanics etc: As well as being instrumental in the development of the board, Max Plank invented the quantum, a very scientific idea that caught on nearly as well as mc2. This was a very important concept, and so after the efforts of people like Kneels Bore, Irwin Shrõôdinger, Werner Heisenburger and Paul Dirack, something called quantum mechanics emerged. This is a very successful theory that describes the behaviour of very small particles, though it has not proved very useful in combating hay-fever caused by pollen.

The different concepts in quantum mechanics – the ‘Uncertainty Principle’, the ‘Exclusion Principle’ and the less well known ‘Phoo function’ – have, by demonstrating that at a fundamental level the universe has a random nature and yet obeys certain simple laws, been of great importance to philosophy. That the game of golf behaves the same way was not considered proof enough.

The Uncertainty Principle states that you can’t know a particle’s position and speed at the same instant. The author has found that this does not work as an excuse for a speeding ticket.

The Exclusion Principle is rather different – it says that things are excluded on principle. This has of course resulted in cries of ‘discrimination!’ but it is neither easy nor desirable to cure electrons of their isolationist tendencies.

Quantum considerations have lead many great discoveries; to the silicon chip and its uses – in computers, aircraft and, most importantly, intelligent toasters.

Particle Physics: Along with Quantum Mechanics, particle physics expanded greatly in the twentieth century. Now we have particles with not only mass and weight, but charm, strangeness, and schizophrenia. The so-called ‘standard model’ was developed, but as more and more particles were discovered it became less and less ‘standard’ and more and more ‘deluxe’ to the point where now it requires seventeen and a half dimensions, three kinds of strings and, probably, a couple of rubber bands to hold it all together.

There is the ‘proton’ of positive charge, the ‘neutron’ of negative spin, the ‘quark’ with strangeness and colour, the ‘carryon’ which has a loud voice, and the ‘cynnamon’ which is at its best on raisin bread toast. They are now seeking the ‘Higgs Boson’, the particle which gives all other particles mass – analogous to a candy bar*.

A great pioneer in this field was Marie Curie, who invented radium, though she did irradiumate herself in the process. This lead to her death, but not before the winning of two Nobel prizes and a beauty pageant, in which the judges said that she ‘positively glowed’.

The work of Curie, Ainstein, and Plank came together in the ‘Manhattan Project’ which started out as a New York musical and ended up as an atom bomb. This then lead to the hydrogen bomb, which was even more destructive, so much so that it was hypothesised that its testing might set up a chain reaction that would cause the Earth’s entire crust to explode. They then went and tested it.

Biology: In biology, the genetic revolution has happened. Genes were identified as the mechanisms of heredity. Some are:

gene1

And the gene for homosexuality:

gene2

Genetic engineering has been developed, and the possibility of trying the technique on human genes has been raised. It is very controversial, though the opportunity to eradicate genetic baldness from the gene pool should be jumped at.

Spaceflight: Spaceflight is prominent in twentieth century science; the penetration of the final frontier, the journey to the moon, Neil Aldrin’s name becoming known around the globe.

In addition, Voyager went to Jupiter, though Harold has yet to be revealed.

Epilogue: And so we reach the present day, with its multimedia and fibre optics and Stephen Hawkins and space telescopes and Big Bangs and teeth transplants. Science is skipping ahead in leaps and bounds, and the man in the street can only hope that it will not run him down.

Hopefully this little treatise has wiped away any misunderstandings and readied the reader for what lies ahead.

What lies ahead? Even a well-versed scientifically literate person like the author cannot say.

We must wait and see.

* Note, like most educational documents, text has not been updated to reflect recent developments.

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About Darren

I'm a scientist by training, based in Australia.

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