Our Dark Energy

     Theoretical physicist Lawrence Krauss wrote the final word on this year’s presidential election — and as we might suspect from a cosmologist, he wrote it four years ago.
     “Particle physicists are way ahead of cosmologists,” Krauss wrote. “Cosmology has produced one totally mysterious quantity: the [dark] energy of empty space, about which we understand virtually nothing. However, particle physics has not understood many more quantities for far longer.”
     Isn’t that great? The more things he doesn’t understand, the better he likes it.
     That’s why scientists are better than politicians, and better than the average voter. I realize that’s a gross generalization, but as Dave Barry says, please remember that I don’t care.
     In “A Universe From Nothing: Why There is Something Rather Than Nothing,” Krauss quotes the late Nobel Laureate Richard Feynman, who said: “I don’t mind not knowing. It doesn’t scare me.”
     Scientists like not knowing things. It gives them something to do. Feynman again: “People say to me, ‘Are you looking for the ultimate laws of physics?’ No, I’m not. I’m just looking to find out more about the world … and the more I find out, the better it is. I like to find out.”
     That lifestyle is as far as can be from what going in this year’s presidential race, from the candidates and from our 150 million registered voters.
     The last thing a political candidate will say about anything is “I don’t know.” Even Libertarian Party presidential candidate Gary Johnson won’t say it. He just shows it.
     But we can’t blame our problems on our politicians. Well, we can, and do, but that doesn’t solve anything, any more than it would help, if someone told us that one of the balls we are juggling is about to explode, if we tried to juggle them in a different order.
     It’s no secret that politicians appeal to fear and ignorance, but it’s never been so clear as today that Americans like fear and ignorance.
     To state the obvious: The world faces numerous intractable problems today that threaten billions of us — in some cases the survival of the human race. Terrorism and nuclear weapons, environmental catastrophes, state-sponsored mass murder, curable and preventable diseases becoming epidemic because of self-seeking political obstruction.
     All of this stems from the most terrible and selfish predator ever to evolve on Earth, and his willful ignorance, for short-term personal, economic or political gain.
     None of these disasters — already here — have simple, obvious causes, or simple and obvious answers.
     Faced with all this — and we are faced with it — the typical U.S. voter is scared — with good reason. And unlike theoretical physicists, Joe Six Pack does not like it when he doesn’t understand things.
     He wants answers. He wants them whether they are based even remotely upon reality — whether they are really answers or not.
     And he wants, above all, that the answers to be based upon what he wants — right now — in his own life.
     Well, my adult friends — are there any adults left in the United States? — life ain’t like that, unless you’ve got way more money than I do.
     My late friend Terry Miller invented a wonderful new rule for chess. The rule was that each player can make one illegal move.
     The beauty of the rule is that no one can use it, because if he does, his opponent will use the rule again, and win the game.
     It’s a nuclear standoff: a Cold War.
     Our problem today — not only in this pathetic and vomitous election campaign, but on our policed streets, in corporate board rooms, in the back halls of Congress — is that everyone on one side wants to invoke the rule, without letting the other side do it.
     Well, as I said, my friends and fellow voters, like ain’t like that. Yet.

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