Jay Meehan: Negative mass
Park Record columnist
So I’m leaning in to give my quite challenged auditory cone a better shot at picking up the college physics instructor’s end of our barroom conversation. Whatever topic is on the table with this guy, the rewards of participation are always off-scale. So you want to be able to at least catch his narrative even if the digestion process arrives later.
My main prerequisite courses up to this point in the evening involved more than a few samplings from the Speyside region of Scotland and, boy, were they yummy! But I digress.
My friend is a renaissance man and we could just as easily have been dishing on Sidney Bechet or Charlie Byrd. Let’s just say he covers a lot of interesting ground. Who knows what brought us around to recent happenings in the sub-atomic sphere, but there we were.
An offhand comment revisiting “string theory” might well have led up to it. Or, possibly, it may have been the recent goings-on at CERN with the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) and the resultant discovery of the “Higg’s Bosun,” also known as the “God Particle.”
I don’t mean to suggest that the trappings of a classroom dominated the landscape. We were in a honky-tonk saloon, for Hag’s sake — partaking of one of those Texas red-dirt bands from southern Idaho that are all the rage these days. And, to further embellish that thought, dance breaks and “another round over here, kind sir” interludes were almost mandatory.
There did arrive a point in our somewhat slurred conversation, however, when I leaned in even closer and a conniving grin began to spread across my mug. It seemed that folks populating the physics lab up at Washington State University had come up with a “superfluid” containing the properties of “negative mass.”
I took another looong sip and let that sink in. A fluid that acted as if it possessed negative mass? Most interesting. I felt as if I had been chosen to expand its application menu. Why else would I be leaning against this particular tooled and polished section of western timber with this erudite gentleman at this specific moment?
There were forces at work here larger than my own. I’m not saying it was like a “burning bush.” It was more like Richard Dreyfuss and a mound of mashed potatoes. But epiphanies come and epiphanies go, as they say, and this one had my name all over it.
Theoretically, when pushed, negative mass vamooses in the opposite direction – toward the applied force rather than away from it. Now how could I best employ such a behavioral trait in my ongoing public lands war with the Trump administration? I need something up-and-running prior to when his National Monument attenuation posse shows up to clip the Bears Ears.
I’m assuming of course that safe methods of transport are available for the superfluid in question. I don’t want this to turn out like a remake of “Flubber.” I wonder if it could be smuggled into a ball-wash at Mar-a-Lago in time for one of his daily rounds. That’s it. His fingers could then serve to deposit residuals in his nose the next time he is forced to ponder.
From the nasal passages to the brain would be the next logistical puzzle. You don’t think this could backfire, do you? Like, say, completely derail a mindset that’s already off the tracks. Things can always get worse, of course, but in Trump’s case, it’s difficult to imagine a scenario with room for additional downside.
I wonder if there are kits available. I’m certainly no Walter White but, as a first-grader with access to a Chemistry set, I was able to concoct the necessary components for gunpowder into a chemical reaction that charred much of my folk’s kitchen. Give me enough potassium nitrate, sulfur and charcoal and I can re-enact the Big Bang.
From a bit of post honky-tonk research, I figure all I’d need would be some more single malt and a laser to cool a fistful of rubidium atoms down to near absolute zero. Then all you have to do is alter their spin to the point where they begin to behave like “negative matter.” Sub-atomic behavior modification, you gotta love it! Don’t forget the Speyside.
Jay Meehan is a culture junkie and has been an observer, participant, and chronicler of the Park City and Wasatch County social and political scenes for more than 40 years.
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Tom Kelly reflects on ski season. “Saturday ski groups didn’t work this year. We waited longer in lift lines, often silently. More people discovered our personal secret access points. But we survived. And we skied.”