The Astronomer

Sherwood Scroll 1978

"How anybody can believe the junk they feed you at the universities these days is beyond me!" a local astronomer told us recently. The amateur scientist, who prefers to be unnamed for reasons of funding expectations, has been watching the sky closely during the past five years. "Ask any building contractor how you go about keeping an object as massive as the Earth suspended in empty space, much less making it float along at twenty miles a second the way the scientific establishment says it does" he said, "and watch their reaction. It's just not possible!"

He showed me his own model of the world: A construction of wires and fishing line nailed to a large wooden frame. To these wires were attached a variety of objects commonly found around the house. A colander, several metal funnels, pieces of plastic silverware, as well as an assortment of salad jars which still smelled faintly of their original contents.

"In a few weeks I'm going to make this available to the public." he said as he demonstrated the tension on one of the wires, "It's taken me a considerable amount of time to build as you can imagine. But I'll be able to clear up a lot of misunderstanding with this model. I'll probably make a lot of money just demonstrating it in colleges and universities around the country."

He explained how the wires represented not some sort of gravitational vector line (as I had supposed) but real wires. "These are what really hold us in place." he explained, adding that if "we" could only find the positions on the earth where the actual wires were attached we would then be able to harness the stress or something they contain to generate enough electricity to power several municipalities. "It's possible that some of these locations are already known to the Soviet Union." he confided.

I took out the list of questions I always save for science interviews, not wishing to betray my ignorance of the topic. "Some scientists say the Universe is infinite but others say that it is merely endless." I said, "What do you think?"

He suddenly started trembling with rage. "There is no such thing!" he yelled, "Haven't you been listening Why do you fools always talk about the `Universe' as being something real? It just doesn't exist!"

"Oh!" I said, as I glanced down the list of remaining questions, realizing that none of them were valid now, "There's no Universe? Nothing at all out there for our space ships to land on?"

He focused his eyes on me for the first time during the interview. He smiled triumphantly.

"...no empty space" I continued saying, "except the space between your ears. You're crazier than a Christmas turkey!"

Suddenly the crowbar he had been holding was rising over his head. He hurled it at the ground full force and turned and walked away, stomping his feet all the way to the house. "You were supposed to help me get some funding!" was the last thing I heard him shout.

I listened to the door slam wishing I could have such supreme confidence in my work. A sudden feeling of gloom came over me which I had not been prepared for. As I kicked my way back to my car I couldn't stop meditating on all the times I had been wrong, on all the opportunities I had missed. The entire front street was enveloped in fog, as though the city itself had been erased from the earth. Or as if the ground beneath me had broken away from the continent and was now adrift in the North Atlantic.

And then I noticed an automobile looming ahead of me. I waved my 35mm SLR camera at it and a bright row of teeth appeared in the windshield. "Politicians!" I murmured. It was the wrong time of the year for politicians.

"We've come to grant the scientist a small plaque in appreciation for his special contribution to the way Oregonians think about themselves." one of the politicians said, straining to be photographed through the side window.

"That's fine." I answered, "As long as you didn't come here looking for directions."

Copyright 2005 by Clyde List


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