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Friday, December 14, 2012

Navigating the Cosmos (in Puerto Varas)

There is a conference of astronomers visiting Puerto Varas right now, and they have been visiting the Garage each night they've been in town. I never imagined scientists and astrophysicists could consume so many mojitos and draft beers. Furthermore, I never imagined they would be at a bar at all, much less MY bar. But alas, these scientists were rocking out, dancing, having fun, involved in conversations of most likely epic proportions (I imagine their jokes must be infinitely more intelligent than mine).

One of them was a Chilean man, a Santiago native, who lived in Edinburgh, Scotland for seven years before coming back to Chile to continue working with the telescope in the Atacama Desert. He spoke English very well, and we chatted for awhile about the work they're doing up there, what type of telescopes they use, the dimensions of the antennae, nerdy things like that. I showed him my space shuttle necklace as proof of my dedication to all things outer space.

We had a live tango band last night. At one point, this Chilean astronomer came up to me and asked why there was no one on the dance floor, dancing the Tango. I felt a particular lightning bolt of wit come scorching through the cosmos and land somewhere in my chest cavity, so I thought I'd follow this inclination. I told him, "What do you mean? There are tons of people out there dancing; you just can't see them." 

He looked at the dance floor, then back at me, confused.

"They're in a different dimension," I clarified. "You just can't see them, but they're there."

He watched me a moment, still somewhere between amused, confused and horrified.

"Like in the tenth dimension, you know? String Theory and all that."

Another pause, and then he says slowly, "What are you talking about?"

I felt my joke shrivel and crumble and return to the interstellar dust bits from whence it came. I was a little surprised; I mean, I dropped the term 'String Theory'. Isn't it obvious that I'm being witty in front of an astronomer?

"I was trying to make a scientific joke," I said. "I thought it would be funny...People dancing in the tenth dimension."

"Oh, you mean the eleventh dimension?"

This time, I paused. Sure, maybe I'd gotten the specifics of String Theory wrong. But was my joke so unintelligible with that slight, barely noticeable, quark-of-a-gaffe? Come on, Astrophysicist; cut me some slack!

He threw me a pity laugh and we went on our separate interstellar paths. I thanked the astronomers later for sharing their presence with me and the bar and Puero Varas in general. I was strangely honored and thrilled to be in the same breathing space as the people responsible for some of the most cutting edge scientific research in today's world. 

Oh, and by the way, these guys found water in distant galaxies!! Look for the articles coming out soon...

1 comment:

  1. In theoretical physics, M-theory is an extension of string theory in which 11 dimensions are identified. Proponents believe that the 11-dimensional theory unites all five 10 dimensional string theories and supersedes them. Though a full description of the theory is not known, the low-entropy dynamics are known to be supergravity interacting with 2- and 5-dimensional membranes. So I could see why he didn't get the joke at first. LOL!