Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Universe For Dummies

My kids gave me a Nook, an electronic reader, as a Christmas present. I like it a lot. In addition to reading books, I can play SoDoKu and Chess on it. The chess game is absolutely demoralizing. I ponder making a move for several minutes, make the move, and the computer instantly moves in response. It beats me so damned fast that it is not even fun to play. It feels more like a violation than playing chess.

I enjoy reading the Nook, but there are drawbacks. You cannot take the Nook into the bath for obvious reasons. All of my books have spent time in the healthy steam of a hot bath and are warped from the humidity. I still try to eat and read but it is not a good idea, either. Bits of food and drink fall onto the Nook and it is worrisome. My books live with me. They are tossed around in the truck, stacked up on the floor, stained, bent, and beat up. In fact, the more beloved a book, the worse it looks because I have hauled it all over creation and back. The Nook will never stand up to such tough love. So, when I do read a book using the Nook, I have to be so careful that the experience is totally transformed.

Right now I am reading "The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory" by Brian Greene. It explains quantum physics so dummies can understand. Reading this material on the Nook gives the experience something of a formal feel. I have great respect for those human minds who work in the realm of the theoretical. But if I consider it all a bit off center, I realize we should have great respect for ourselves as a species.

Reading an entire book on a tiny technical device that also will play chess with me - both actions are amazing on a level we take for granted. Imagine all the wisdom of chess, one of our oldest games, contained in a tiny CPU the size of a dime... or however small the Nook's brain is. Imagine the extreme logic of our best minds compiled and reduced into a book for the common man, then imagine that knowledge electronically transmitted through thin air from a far distant computer environment into my little device as I sit in the parking lot of Barnes and Noble. Then imagine that I live in a country where such knowledge is free, or cheap enough that even if I worked at McDonalds I could afford to purchase such information simply because I am curious. Then imagine that even with the advent of such marvels, even though human evolution has progressed to such a point, millions of people are enslaved by governments that use such technology to spy and censor and repress their populations.


1 comment:

cyberkit said...

I take heart in that because of all these wonderful electronic thingys, same said governments are finding it harder and harder to do their censoring and repressing. We have only to look at what was done in Egypt by using social media to gather the masses yearning for freedom. (I realize things aren't going as well elsewhere, but I'm an infernal optimist.)