Preferisco un caffè


I enjoy my periodic visits to Boston, especially when it’s sunny, and the sunlight bounces off the windows of one of the new crystalline skyscrapers, the reflected light covering smaller buildings of much older vintage with a pleasant dappled illumination. It’s pretty.

I like cities (many – likely not most – I’ll never know). When younger I worked in Boston, and from North Station to my place of employment near South Station, I could walk through a portion of the city that resembled a real city for a few blocks. Big buildings. Cool. Of course the buildings in Manhattan are much bigger, and cover an area much larger, but even there, if you head in the right direction, walking 25 minutes max you’d hit water, and the city would be gone – unless you turn around.

Fallout 4.01 (Physics Dystopia)

I’ve played Fallout 4, finished its major tasks, and continued to play until I exhausted enough variations to satiate my gamer desires. The game takes place in a dystopian version of Boston/Cambridge. For example, the buildings attached to the MIT dome have been taken over by unfriendly giant mutants. I mean, how cool is that? I got rid of them, of course, but the game algorithm keeps repopulating the buggers. Bad algorithm, bad!

Anyway, there’s a new kind of dystopia in Boston/Cambridge, one extending worldwide (well, so does the one in Fallout 4, really). But this one is real. Like the game’s civilization collapse, however, this real one was caused by a global catastrophe, one centered at the LHC accelerator at CERN.

If you’re reading this, then you know what I’m talking about. Physics colloquia were in the not very distant past dominated by String Theory, then … boom. Catastrophe. String Theory crumpled and now lies in bed, breathing stertorous, skin blotchy and oozing unpleasant smelly viscous fluids, waiting for the few diehards to pull the plug. Talks on its arcane structure have disappeared. Last week the Boston Area Physics Calendar listed the following colloquia titles: “Learning Multiscale Physics from Date by Inverse Renormalization”; “Adventures in Phase Space: Non-commuting coordinates meet quantum control and quantum error correction”; “Staircases to the Stars”; “Attractor-state transitions within neural circuits underlying cognition and behavior”. Sigh. (If any of these talks focuses on String Theory, the titles have done their best to hide this fact.) The giants of mainstream physics have become disappointed unfriendly mutants intent on controlling the halls of MIT, and all other research institutions, eliminating all ideas that do not conform to the prevailing narrative. Well, that’s not right. I’m not aware there is any longer a prevailing narrative, beyond the need to maintain a semblance of the prestige with which these mutants were once endowed. Like the Fallout 4 mutants, these real mutants resist being budged from their ivy covered confines. My efforts to disrupt them with over 45 years of brilliant, but quixotic, mathematical research have availed nothing. So, like Fallout 4, I must content myself with a well armored settlement hidden in the radioactive wastelands, unassailable, but … pfft.

Starting about 13 years ago Young Turks began to accumulate in the wake of my work, referencing it, but without exception presenting their variations as something new and groundbreaking, owing little to my much earlier work, or each other’s. Of course, this small coterie of hopefuls is not garnering any more attention than my own work, at least not where it matters. Some – those with worthwhile connections – have Wikipedia pages. I do not. The wastelands are not replete with worthwhile connections. (My work was inspired by the overwhelming inevitability of the mathematics. All of these other hopefuls are inspired in the same way GUTs, String Theory, and so forth were: it’s just something to try … and there are precedents. So, there, with that I end my periodic therapeutic bloodletting.)

Anyway … Fallout 4.01.

I met a traveller from an antique land,

Who said—“Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal, these words appear:
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

“And on the neck of the King of Kings,
chiseled by some other long ago traveler,
perhaps familiar with the depicted greatness,
there is some graffiti : ‘What a fucking asshole.’”

Faire froid dans le dos

As mentioned elsewhere, I have a form of social abnormality that some have termed autistic … including an autistic friend. But it’s more than that, if that at all. More likely (and I have the data to support this conjecture), I am an inter-dimensional alien, trapped on this outlier planet, desperately trying to understand how to be normally social, but missing the mark by a really wide margin 95% of the time. (It’s highly likely my progress is being monitored from my home dimension, and that I will be whisked home once I have mastered … well, myself. So, I guess I’m stuck here. (Not that it matters, as I’m almost certain no one reads my words, but I’m also almost certain that I’ve written these words before, or some very much like them, and conveying the same meaning. Yeah, well, in a few days I’ll be 75; I sometimes forget to zip up my fly; rapid changes in the weather can be crippling. The only good side of growing older is that I was warned over 3 years ago that I might expect to be dead, like, 9 months ago. I’d rather grow older, with all the associated debilitating quirks, than cease to grow older at all and miss all the fun.))

And what fun it is. Almost 60 years ago I had a foreboding that humanity was well on the way to fucking up the planet. In the interim the extent to which they have done so has surpassed my wildest nightmares. But, yeah, whatever. Fortunately an unprecedentedly polarized humanity (at least in my lifetime) is banding together to solve all these problems. (Sarcasm.)

I recently saw a short film of people somewhere in Southeast Asia banding together to clean up a small, slow moving river that was covered in trash – completely invisible beneath this detritus. They succeeded. And their efforts should be applauded, but, really, let’s be realistic. Wishy-washy viewers of this film would likely smile, and mutter a sweet “daaaw”. I, on the other hand, could not help but realize that without some draconian measures to prevent a recurrence, a recurrence there most certainly would be, because people … ooh, that’s a pretty cloud.

“May you live in interesting times.” Well, fuck “interesting times”.