Sorry about my absence yesterday but I was hit, not once but twice, with severe GBB - that's Galloping Brain Boggling for those of you unfamiliar with the latest in 'medical-speak'. The first attack of GBB occurred, of all unexpected places, at my local PROBUS club - and I've told you before that I am not entirely sure what 'PROBUS' stands for but in essence it is a collection of retired old farts who meet once a fortnight to listen to a guest speaker. Yesterday, the subject was bees - yeeeeees, quite, you can see what us old farts will do to avoid being involved in housework! Anyway, within minutes I could hear that 'glup-glup-glup' sound in my head! Hitherto, I had dismissed bees as being one of those bloody things likely to ruin one's picnic. I had no idea of their, literally, fantastic life styles. Did you know, for instance, that when a bee finds a source of nectar it flies back to the hive and does some sort of a dance in the dark to indicate the direction of the food supply in relation to the position of the sun - and allowing for the fact that the position of the sun is constantly moving! Cue: sounds of 'glup-glup-glup'! I am now determined to find a book on bees!
Returning home with my head buzzing - "Oh, very witty, Wilde!" - I couldn't find my book on the English civil war but I came across a book I have mentioned here before - I started it but that bloody Charles I interrupted me! It can truly be described as a slim volume because it only has 82 pages! Entitled "Seven Brief Lessons on Physics", it is written by an Italian physicist, Carlo Rovelli, but it has been excellently translated into English and beautifully reproduced in an elegant hardcover by Alan Lane, the publishers. It has one other great virtue, it slips easily into a jacket pocket!
In all honesty I cannot tell you that I understood all (any?) that it explained. As you may have noticed, I'm not that much of a swot and anyway, within a few pages that 'glup-glup-glup' noise began again! To take but one passage as an example, it shows a reproduction of a photograph taken by the Hubble telescope in space which provided an image of deeper space than any previous telescope. Frankly, the picture looked like the top of one of my book shelves, smooth and flat but covered in zillions of specks of dust - as the 'Memsahib' keeps reminding me! If you could view just that image with the naked eye it would be just a tiny segment of the black sky at night.
Each black dot in the image is a galaxy containing a hundred billion suns similar to ours. In the past few years it has been observed that the majority of these suns are orbited by planets. There are therefore in the universe thousands of billions of billions of billions of planets such as earth. [My emphasis]
Do you know, when I read that, all of a sudden I couldn't give a flying fig for the EU referendum, or anything much else, really! I am tempted, God help me, to quote that keen political philosopher, Hillary Clinton, and say, "what difference at this point does it make?” Or even worse, I might dwell on Shakespeare's bleak summary of the futility of life and mutter, "As flies to wanton boys, are we to the gods, they kill us for their sport". But, of course, that sort of fatalism is not only fatal but useless. We are what we are, and that means we are trapped in this galvanising existence ordained to struggle and shake our puny fists at ... well ... what, exactly?
Oh dear, glup-glup-glup . . .