If Benjamin Franklin was a scientist today, would he even make the cut to get into college? Let’s face facts, all of the experiments ol’ Benji conducted are now part of the basic curriculum for any third grade classroom. There aren’t a lot of things he did that an average adult couldn’t figure out. For example, the much vaulted Franklin stove. Basically, he just figured out that if you put a fire in the middle of the room, heat goes out on all sides instead of only from the fireplace wall. Well, duh. Bifocals? His claim to fame is putting two different pairs of glasses together? That’s it? I do give him credit for starting the first volunteer fire department. Of course, he also started the first fire insurance company, so he may have had an ulterior motive to keep the number of blazes down.
To build the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris took almost two hundred years. This means the first stone mason to work on this magnificent building knew with certainty that he would never live to see it finished. In fact, none of his children or grandchildren would be around for the grand opening. Yet, he still dedicated his professional life to it. I can’t imagine that sort of long-term commitment taking place today. I do imagine what kinds of wonderful things could be accomplished if we as a specie did though.
Gravity. No one understands exactly how it works. Every object emits a weak force that attracts every other object. To me, that means there has to be energy involved for this to take place. If there’s energy, and it’s not being replenished, then it has to run out sometime, right? When that happens, its going to make for a lot of funny security-cam videos. Assuming anyone survives being flung off the planet at over 120,000 miles per hour.
Got an idea for a new reality TV show, and I would even watch this one. The premise is simple. Once you get a subject to sign all the waivers, you don’t do anything for about three months. After his guard is down, send out a four-man goon squad armed with tasers and tranquilizer guns to abduct him off the street. Once the hood is over his head, take him to an airport and put him on a chartered plane. Invade the airspace of an nation unfriendly to the US, which shouldn’t be too hard to find. Now, dress the contestant up in an Evel Knievel style stars and stripes jumpsuit, strap a parachute on his back, and throw him out of the airplane still wearing the hood. Assuming he survives the fall, he’ll get up, take off the hood, and not have the first blankedy-blank idea where he is. The ultimate object of the game is to see if he can make it to a sympathetic embassy before anti-American forces find and shoot him. And just to make it more interesting, put in his pocket a stolen credit card and a random key that doesn’t open anything.
By chronicling our lives in Facebook posts have we replaced important stories with lots of trivial ones? Are we now satisfied with a wafer-thin breadth of information regarding hundreds of people instead of the depth that comes from really knowing about the lives of those close to us? No matter how hard I try, I don’t see myself asking someone to re-submit a favorite post like I might want to hear an old story retold. There was once a time when a thin piece of glass was all there was separating us from the outside elements. Now, a thin screen of glass separates us from each other.
Something struck me as I watching The Avengers for the umpteenth time. There’s a scene where Iron Man has to restart a large engine by spinning it’s turbine blades. As he flies ever faster in circles, the camera cuts to a close up of him in the suit gritting his teeth against the strain. So I thought, what’s he straining against? He only flies around because of the rockets in his feet which operate independently of any effort on his behalf. It’s like Jeff Gordon exerting all his force to push his car’s gas pedal down and screaming during the last thirty laps of a NASCAR race.
Speaking of films, it took me a couple of viewings of Avatar before I noticed this little caveat. Throughout the entire movie, with the exception of the last few minutes, Jake Sulley, the main character, is never in any physical danger whatsoever. While the alien creature he controls solely with his mind is traipsing through incredibly dangerous situations, Jake’s physical body is safely encased the entire time in a metal container far away. For example, when he is being chased by the six-legged monster towards the edge of a giant waterfall, he hesitates for only just a moment before taking a humongous leap that practically guarantees a grisly death. Except, there’s no way for Jake to actually get hurt doing this. Only the alien he controls might get damaged. To consider him the true hero of the film is like offering Medals of Honor for courage during a video game.