Saturday, June 25, 2011

Space time continuum and squeezing atoms


Remember high school chemistry when you learned about atomic structure and how most of an atom is air (or empty! air is different stuff - you know - elements, which are made up of atoms) and that what we think is solid is not really solid but some nuclei and electrons and then lots and lots of empty space?

So when you look at a table, you think, That's not really solid. That's a bunch of nuclei and electrons jumping from level to level depending on how excited they are and a whole lot of nothing in between, which should mean when I put my diet Coke on here, it should fall right through.

Which it doesn't, maybe because the diet Coke is also made up of atoms and empty space and they latch onto each other the way velcro does. Who knows? After my C in freshman chemistry, I started considering changing my major from biomedical engineering to English and by the middle of my sophomore year, that was a done deal. Good bye, physics and differential equations, hello political science and 19th century British novel.

Ask me about Matthew Arnold and ignorant armies and darkling plains clashing in the night and I can tell you things, but ask me to balance a chemical equation and I refer you to my cousin Becky, a chemistry major who is now an optometrist, or to my cousin Amanda, also a chemistry major who is now a chemistry teacher. There are chemistry genes somewhere in my family, but they are recessive.

But my point is that most of what we perceive as solid and immutable is insubstantial.

Which is why it is so darn frustrating when certain items - shelves or beds or entertainment centers - cannot fit into certain places - our basement stairs.

Shouldn't there be a way to re-arrange the electrons - smash them into the center - and squeeze and compress an item so you can get it to where it needs to be?

Imagine how many household tragedies or at least how many household tantrums would be prevented if that stupid huge oak entertainment center that I never liked to begin with because I think entertainment centers are el tackeo had just fit down our 1928-era basement stairs?

No matter how many times we tried, though, that piece was not going to become any smaller. And no matter how many times we tried, the stairwell was not going to become any bigger.

Instead, we ended up with a frustrated SH, a frustrated mover and a frustrated me, who said to the mover, "Let me try a puff of your cigarette" and I have to tell you, it does help. Menthol especially. I am seriously considering taking up smoking when I am 70 and already wrinkled.

Also instead, we ended up with an entertainment center in our garage that sat there for many, many, many months until someone in our house and I am not naming names but am I the one who cares about keeping the cars in the garage? No I am not because I hate backing the car out of the garage through the Narrow Straits of Scratchingness over the Icy Driveway of Death in the winter. The entertainment center stayed in the garage until it was necessary to clear space for the car. And then it was sold at a loss.

Although perhaps that was a blessing in disguise because had that entertainment center fit down the stairwell, it would be residing in our basement today and I would have to look at it every time I watch TV.

But if I could compress items until I got them to their final destination, I could have compressed the shelves I found for $9 at the flower place set up in the parking lot of the school district HQ and put them in our basement where they would have done some good.

Nine dollars! For solid wood shelves! Sure, they were not the prettiest of shelves, but in the basement, all you want is something to keep your boxes off the floor. Your design esthetic is "Keep storage items from being ruined when the sewer drain backs up, which happens about once a year." Your sophisticated design esthetic, the one that lets the Jones know what's what, is "Keep storage items from being ruined when the sewer drain backs up, which happens about once a year, and do it for only $9."

Why isn't science working on a way to compress $9 shelves so they fit down the basement stairs? Why should I have to deconstruct said shelves (in theory - that would be the only way to do it) rather than just squeeze them?

If I could have squeezed those shelves, then SH would have had more room to store all his basement crap, crap that I would really rather he just throw away although you know there might come a day when we need his phone bills from 1997 or his stepdaughter's college tuition receipts. But SH would have more room for his boxes and then there would be less reason for me to nag him about getting rid of stuff because at least it would be on shelves and you know the rule - once junk is tidy and on shelves, it is official - and it would be a win-win for him.

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