I've suggested (& published in 21 journal papers) a new theory called quantised inertia (or MiHsC) that assumes that inertia is caused by horizons damping quantum fields. It predicts galaxy rotation & lab thrusts without any dark stuff or adjustment. My University webpage is here, I've written a book called Physics from the Edge and I'm on twitter as @memcculloch. Most of my content is at patreon now: here

Tuesday 23 October 2012

The Star Trek London Convention

This last Sunday I went to the Star Trek Destination London convention. It is only the second Star Trek meeting I have been to, but it was extremely interesting, also when I assess my own reaction to it: I wandered around in awe. There was Chekov (Walter Koenig) walking around smiling broadly with a cap on, Data (Brent Spiner) looking out of this world with his bright white hair, all five Captains in booths, hidden by autograph queues. I paid particular interest to the characters from Enterprise (Bakula, Keating, Mongomery, Trineer). I like that series since in many ways it is more realistic, and closer to home timewise, and I like Scott Bakula's portrayal of Captain Archer, I saw his blond hair and big nose from afar. Archer is less decisive and passionate than Kirk, less Professional than Picard, maybe less caring then Janeway, who I also saw from afar (I haven't seen much DS9), but for me Scott Bakula gave the most realistic portrayal of all the captains of an explorer: someone trying to push the human envelope despite huge obstacles, and trying to work out how to do something right, that has never been done or imagined (note: I had only seen Enterprise Seasons 1 & 2 at this time).

I paid to get the autograph of William Shatner, who I have adored since childhood, and paid to see his talk, which was characteristically entertaining. When asked which film was his favourite he said of course: his own Star Trek V. For this film he'd ordered a rock monster breathing fire, but after paying $250,000 a guy in a monster suit showed up with a couple of rocks on his back and instead of breathing fire he emitted a wisp of smoke that blew away in the desert wind. I've read this story before, but Shatner's telling of it was as white-hot passionate as ever. His final comment was that he'd tried to play Kirk with "Awe and Wonder" at the universe, even when faced with death. I looked down at my four year old son, who was asleep draped across me and my dear wife (who reluctantly, but kindly, accompanied me to the convention). Awe and wonder: that is indeed what the universe deserves... No, Shatner didn't dissapoint me. Earlier in the day I got his autograph, and after thanking him I said I'd written a paper (and submitted it to a journal) suggesting that faster than light travel is possible, but he just said "You're very welcome". He was probably in a daze having thousands of people traipse past his booth.

I was certainly in awe and wonder, but also at my own reaction. I am well aware that these are actors and are paid to pretend to be explorers, so why do they affect trekkies this way? Well, sometimes as children we see a situation that we'd love to be in when we grow up. Like my son, who'd love to drive a train. Maybe Star Trek is like that for humanity (the technically-minded part of it anyway). It is a good future for us, with decent morals, interesting explorations and the possibility of healthy growth, and these actors remind us of this future. We are fooled by it, of course, because it is just imaginary, but we allow ourselves to be fooled, since it makes us happy.

There's a saying by Johnny Cash: "You gotta be what you are. Whatever you are, you gotta be it". I think this means that, while feelings may indeed seem to be based on rubbish or even illogic, if it makes you happy: go with the flow. This is like going with the grain of your internal nature instead of across it. More importantly, feelings can be wise in ways that logic can never hope to follow. The initial impulse for research can be irrational too, and although ultimately logic and data must be shown to agree, it may be true that if we believe in the possibility first, it may just be the thing needed to make it all come true.

Anyway, I had a good few hours wandering around in my irrational nirvana.

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