Brain waves and hand waves

Walter Isaacson wrote the very popular biography of Steve Jobs. He also wrote a very nice bio of Albert Einstein. Walter seems to prefer world-changers for his subjects.

In his Einstein book, Isaacson reminds that the most famous equation in science, namely E=mc2, where E is energy, m is mass, and c is the speed of light, assures us that the following is true—the energy contained in one raisin could power New York City for one day.

This seems, of course, gigantically preposterous. But the accuracy of the equation has been proven beyond question. When you work out that the speed of light squared is a rather large number (about 55 billion), you realize that you’re going to be dealing with a very large amount of “E,” no matter how small your “m.”

Anyway, one of the things this brain-boggling reality does is remind us that when it comes to energy procurement, efficiency and utilization, we really are still rather ape-like. That may be a bit harsh. Let’s say instead that we’re in about the fourth grade in the School of Energy Harnessing. It reminds us that we have a ways to go until we graduate from this particular high school.

Another nice quote from the Einstein bio is one from a contemporary of Albert’s, the great Danish physicist Niels Bohr, who once told a colleague, “Your theory is crazy, but it’s not crazy enough to be true.”

That one leads me, predictably enough, to one of my all-time faves, uncorked by British geneticist J. B.S. Haldane in 1927. “My own suspicion is that the universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose” (probably the best ever use of the word “queerer”).


Just a quick mention on behalf of Ed the Waver, who recently died in Iowa at age 75.

Ed’s existence is proof that you can make your mark on this Earth in many ways, and not all of them involve egomaniacal power-tripping. I mean, God bless the guy, he basically made his name by walking around waving pleasantly at people, our local happy face New Age prophet, vibing us up with good-natured cheerfulness.

He was a man who said, “My job will be to walk around and wave at my fellow man.” In diligently doing so, he became locally famous and beloved.

Ed would just wear you down. He knew that the first time you saw him, you’d think, “Who the hell is this ding dong?” He also knew that the 10th time you saw him, you’d be all right with it. You’d be all right with him, and you’d be all right with yourself. And then, you’d wave back. Which was probably the whole point.

The position of local Waver is currently open.