J. Robert King


The Dark-Matter Bow Tie

Okay, so the most recent episode of The Universe says that what we know about matter and energy–what we inherited from Oppenheimer and Einstein and Newton–covers about four percent of the actual universe.

The rest is dark matter and dark energy. Ninety-six percent.

Given a two percent margin of error, what we know is statistically insignificant.

All right, so imagine you get dressed in the morning, and you spend a lot of time picking out your bow tie because, as far as you know, the only piece of clothing is a bow tie. You work very hard to pick the very best bow tie you have, and you walk out your front door and expect everyone who sees you to love your bow tie.

But they are looking considerably lower.

The point is, yeah, you got the bow tie down, but there’s a lot more to fashion than bow ties. They are statistically  insignificant.

And there’s a lot more to the universe than E=MC2. Yeah, that part works for the bow tie, but think about the shirt, and the cummerbund, and the trousers, not to mention the underwear or bloomers or thongs or whatever strange particle people choose to wear beneath it all.

So, yeah, in terms of astrophysics, we’ve figured out the bow tie. But otherwise, we’re standing naked in the universe.

Halloooo! Halloooo!

Do you hear that hunting horn? If you don’t, it’s because you’re not a writer of science fiction.

Halloooo! Halloooo!

That’s our signal, gentlemen and gentlewomen. That’s the fox in the woods.

The fox is uncertainty. It is the ninety-six percent that science doesn’t understand.

The point is that science is in crisis right now, not because of intelligent design but because it has pushed the envelope so far that it realizes that what it knows–what Oppenheimer and Einstein and Newton knew–is four percent.

That’s where they need us. The science fiction writers. For a century, we’ve picked up where science has left off. We’ve designed whole suits based on the bow tie.

So, get out there, lassies and lads. Create! Explore! Imagine! Invent! Yes, you may be wildly off the map, but you also may be plotting the course that scientists will follow for the next century. Give them a dark-matter bow tie, and they’ll love you forever.

You can imagine it, which they cannot. They can realize it, which you cannot. Your role, then, is to be the soul of science. Their role is to be the body of science fiction.

So make  new worlds. Create what should be. Dick Tracy got to wear a wrist calculator. I get to carry my I-phone. Think bigger than anybody, and in fifty years, we”ll be there. We’ll be beyond there.

But I’ll be wearing your bow tie.

October 1st, 2009
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