The accolades continue to pour in for Dr. Stephen Hawking, who passed away this week, thus ending an era for physics, astrophysics and cosmology. At about the same time, our Chaos President turned his own limited thoughts to space. To paraphrase Trump:
“Space!” he said, pronouncing the word with a hint of awe. “Space is a war fighting domain. We have the army, the navy, the air force… why not a Space Force?” He waved his hands in the air, as if to frame the idea, then added dreamily, “A Space Force… a Space Force… why not?” When asked about an upcoming NASA mission to Mars, he said nothing of intrepid exploration, expanding human horizons, the search for extraterrestrial life, the intriguing possibility of terraforming another planet; not even the image of a red Tesla on Mars crossed his mind. All this man could think to say was, “If my opponent had won the election, we wouldn’t be going to Mars… no, we wouldn’t.” So space is all about fighting more wars, and Mars is further confirmation that he did defeat Hillary in 2016.
When Stephen Hawking turned his thoughts to space, there were no warships in sight. Gazing up at the night sky, he saw the universe replete with all-consuming black holes, lively subatomic particles, the river of time flowing past. Among many scientific milestones, he joined quantum theory with general relativity by proposing that small amounts of radiation (known as Hawking Radiation) managed to escape from black holes, something never before imagined. His admonition to us, “Look up at the stars and not down at your feet,” has been quoted all week.
Compared to Trump, Hawking lay at the opposite end of the spectrum of neuro-psychological development. His vision was so wide and deep, his imagination so powerful, that he could actually “see” theoretical, abstract events happening in space. Trump, on the other hand, not only has extremely narrow vision, he has trouble with simple object permanence. In Piaget’s first stage of child development, from 7-9 months of age, an infant becomes capable of holding the image of an object in mind, so that if that object disappears from view, the child knows that it still exists. Hence the game “Peek-a-Boo.”
When Trump holds televised meetings on immigration at the expiration of DACA, or gun control after yet another mass shooting– meetings attended by prominent Congressional members from both parties– he pleads dramatically for a “bill of love,” makes full-throated statements that “something has to be done” to protect the Dreamers or teenage victims of gun violence, demands that “both sides come together… send me something and I will sign it!” The day after these meetings, when Feinstein, Schumer, Pelosi, Ryan and McConnell have gone back to the Capitol Building, they cease to exist, and Trump turns back (Peek-a-boo!) to ICE, and to the NRA.
Lacking object permanence, can he still be blamed entirely for the thousands of lies coming out of the White House since Inauguration Day? Yes, he lies all the time, and knowingly (for example when he insisted to Justin Trudeau that the US has a trade deficit with Canada, and later privately admitted he had no idea whether that was true). But might some of his lies result from a fluid understanding of reality; vision perceived through a narrow concrete tunnel; calcified memory banks incapable of maintaining object permanence? In other words, is it a form of dementia that keeps Donald Trump from developing a broader, more enlightened perspective? If not, then please look up at the stars, Mr. President, and not down at your feet.
It is said that the concept of Hawking Radiation was ill-received by science fiction writers– but not this one; after all, in order to explain the space engine in my novel Fourth World, I had to create a subatomic particle called the capacitron! Who can predict what new empirical evidence will emerge by 2196, what amazing inventions and discoveries are yet to come?
Here’s an excerpt from Fourth World:
On the blank wall facing his bed, a floor-to-ceiling image of the Mars Wellness Institute flickered to life, accompanied by swells of grandiose martial music. The five-story MWI seemed relatively nondescript, especially as the view expanded to include extravagantly stylish apartment fronts; towering, elegant spires topped by colorful flags which fluttered in a non-existent wind; bustling parks lush with faux-vegetation; and graceful pedestrian arches (look at all those graceful pedestrians, Benn marveled) in the background. The Highland City Compliance Center came into view, above its imposing stone entrance an engraved quote from J. P. McGrew, the first mayor of Highland City: To Each New Generation on Mars, Greater Wealth and Status.
Rolling his eyes, Benn pictured the buildings and grounds of Tharsis One, which consisted of dull metal sheds of all sizes, lumped together in seemingly haphazard fashion, and often resting on bare soil, with a rudimentary first-generation terrasphere arching over all. J. P. McGrew must not have meant each new generation at Tharsis. No elegant spires, graceful pedestrians or colorful flourishes here. No grand public projects of any kind. In fact, over ninety percent of the habitable structures in Tharsis One were hidden beneath the planet’s surface, in case of a breach in the terrasphere. We live like moles, safe only underground, thought Benn with a shudder.
In contrast, the metrospheres of the New Colonies, built out of new/improved “chain-link” metallopolymers and lined with stout plasma shields, allowed the raising of cities a hundred times the size of Tharsis One. These materials admirably resisted gamma rays, meteorites, the extreme seasonal temperature variations in the South, the six-month long winters, and the horrifically violent dust storms that returned each spring. Not to mention the occasional Marsquake. No, the new colonists had no need to cower underground as the Martians did. They breathed purified, odorless air; their children played in bright, radiation-free sunlight filtered by translucent domes high overhead; they engaged in professional and social lives approximating those they had left back on Earth. Benn struggled simultaneously to imagine the Utopian life, and to resist even thinking of it, as he stared at the visual on his narrow bedroom wall.