She is seven, going on some much larger number.
She believes in the tooth fairy.
She believes in the scientific method.
She believes in vegetarianism and ecology.
She believes in helping her parents
and was doing so when she found
her baby teeth in a small bag in their dresser.
She no longer believes in the tooth fairy
but she does believe in economics. And physics.
She told her parents that she expected
five dollars for each tooth going forward,
or her brother would learn something
that no four-year-old ought to know.
She believes that leverage is a key
principle of physics that every child should master.
In the elemental scheme of things we humans are, at best, middling. We are minute in the scale of the universe, our time not even a glimmer, and as we age, time contracts, but only in the shortening forward direction. But pity the poor hydrogen-7 isotope whose life is likely over in 30 yactoseconds, absorbing the laughter of helium-5 living on average, 33 times longer, and both jealously, if ever so quickly regarding our seemingly infinite span. But lest we get complacent, there is always zirconium-96 for whom our life is but the blink of an eye, barely worth noting, a second at most in a span that could reach twenty quintillion years, so we are nothing special, save in our own eyes.
Today was downright exhausting, and my hour long walk along the river left me dripping and drooping. It wasn’t different than most days, same time, same place, and the usual 756 miles, according to my old friend Orion, who was watching from his usual perch, unseen, as he prefers it by day. When I was done, I started to complain about how I felt, when Orion interjected, “Just be thankful you’re not in Florida today, its hotter by far, and your usual walk would have covered a full 930 miles today, and there you’d have reason perhaps to complain just a bit.” Heading home to shower, I called out to Orion, “You know you are one heavenly pain in the ass.” “Yeah,” he replied, “that’s what Artemis said.”
He had always wanted to be a scientist. He wasn’t particularly good at math, biology or any of the other sciences, but dreaming didn’t require that sort of aptitude. He imagined he was part of a great scientific breakthrough, something that would change man’s understanding of the universe and life itself. He knew such discoveries were few and far between, but they did happen, so he had a shot. Then, reading some science magazine he discovered his quest. He would find the God particle. He wasn’t sure what that was, but he knew it shouldn’t take a great mind and a magnifying glass to find a particle that looked somewhat like him.
He asked her what she did, and the question surprised her. Most didn’t ask that until much later on, but she replied, “I am a historian.” He said, “Isn’t that an odd profession,” quickly adding, “and I don’t mean for a woman.” “It is,” she smiled, “but I fell in love with history as a young girl, and I’ve been fortunate to watch stars being born and die, galaxies appear as if from nowhere, seen events that happened before our own sun was born.” She could see he was confused, perhaps that he thought her mad as others had. She calmly added, “You understand, I am an astronomer and all I see is the history of our universe.”
Time is a construct, the logic of which is inescapable to be sure, and yet we constantly seek to escape, but the exit is just beyond the distant horizon. We are on the edge of finding the God particle, and somewhere in time Higgs is threatening to smile, for once found, time will cease to matter.
Tonight the Higgs boson stayed virtual and utterly massless and didn’t decay, so only the cookies acted on our teeth and that decay will fall within the Schwarzchild radius of the sink with all six flavors of quark and all their colors.
It was easier being Buddhist when I was young, despite the fact I had no good idea what Buddhism truly was. for a child the moment is all there is, the past so short that it means nothing, the future something that will arrive as and when it wishes. For a child, things will go wrong, and do so with fair regularity, but children are also physicists, and the Lorenz effect guarantees that it was never really their fault, and when all else fails, they simply blame karma.