By David Aitken
I won’t really understand much of what I am about to write, so perhaps if you do, you might kindly explain it to me later. I don’t imagine any ‘spoiler alerts’ will be necessary for what follows.
Professor Stephen Hawking — see what I mean? — is on record as saying, “When it began, the universe is thought to have had zero size.” (Sounds like a dress for a very skinny model.) Were there any witnesses who could confirm that? A minute or so later the temperature would be “a thousand million degrees,” and I reckon any bystanders would be long gone, if they had an ounce of sense, and a large jar of sun cream.
It’s difficult to be sure of anything nowadays. Does the FN key on my new laptop still mean ‘Function’, or is it now the abbreviation for ‘Fake News’?
When I first spotted the sails of a ship coming over the horizon, and only later saw the hull, I immediately realised that the earth might be round, or at least not flat. Later the same day — how is this for a coincidence? — an eclipse cast the earth’s round shadow on the moon, and confirmed my earlier suspicion, a word we astronomers sometimes cautiously employ. I’m aware that one or two people had allegedly figured this out before me, but you couldn’t always trust those old scientists. They thought the earth was stationary and planets whirled around it like spinning tops, which hadn’t even been invented yet!
“For the next million years or so, nothing happened.” What did Professor Hawking expect, estate agents? Scientists, there’s just no telling them, is there?
All material objects are an illusion, believed one philosopher, or at least he did until he stubbed his toe on a large stone, causing him to stumble and grasp a nettle. He also claimed space and time didn’t exist, but I have neither the space nor the time to go into that here.
As a would-be (now has-been) athlete, I used to be convinced I could measure the speed of light by running alongside it, at sunrise, say. It was only when I moved out of running shorts into long trousers and learned that light travels at 186,000 miles per second that I realised why I always finished in the silver medal position, and seriously out of breath. We live in a galaxy that is a hundred thousand light years across. I never stood a chance, with only my brother’s pair of canvas trainers at my disposal on alternate days.
An ex-forger of my acquaintance once said to me his career was ruined by “rheumatism and combustible ink.” Seeing my puzzled expression, he added, “You just can’t be sure of anything these days, who was going to be fooled by euro notes that burst into flames, or scorched dollar bills?” I’m glad I never asked to borrow any money from him. But really, blazing euros and charred greenbacks? I told you I didn’t know what I was talking about.