Archive for October, 2017

A Wave to Gravity

The famous analyst Carl Jung was fascinated by the possibilities of synchronicity.  I share his excitement when things seem to line up just perfectly, out of all rationality, to make way for something wonderful.  Today, because Remke’s was out of my Fage Yogurt last night, I had to stop off at Kroger this morning to replenish my supply.  It was a bit of dust that had stuck in my i-Phone’s on/off switch that caused me to miss all incoming calls yesterday and took me past Kroger on the way to the Verizon store to address the problem.  In the Nature aisle I met a friend.  If we had chatted much longer, or even a mite less, I would have missed the most exciting announcement I had ever heard on Public Radio:

“The discovery of gravity as a waveform,
emitting from the collision of two black holes.”

That byte of knowledge had won the Pulitzer!  It would become the basis of thought experiments, fodder for human’s creative imagination for the rest of our lives.  Learning that gives me great joy!

As a teen on a church sponsored retreat and tucked into my cot one night, I began humming. The array of bare coiled springs under the mattress hummed back, but only when I hummed certain notes.  Later I asked my dad why.  He explained the concept of sympathetic resonance specific to the precise (tuned) frequency of that set of springs.  He explained that all flexible structures are capable of bending in response to external pressure, then returning to a relaxed state.  When subjected to a discrete frequency of vibration, a structure will attempt to flex and relax at that frequency, and at a proportional amplitude; the stronger the signal, the stronger the responding vibration.

The physical world is amazing, this case in point being the simple coiled set of springs supporting my camper’s mattress.   Everywhere I looked there were wonderful things to learn about.  In this case, the resonant frequency was determined by the composition, shape, and gauge of the spring wire, by the form and additive effect of the coils, by the fixed locations and terminations of the individual elements and by the nature of the couplings at the points of fixation. Not to be ignored were the length, width, and breadth of the integrated construct.  I have a suspicion that my presence, a weighted shape pre-loading the system, had an implication, but I hesitate, not wanting to spoil what I have understood as a lovely reality by introducing yet another complexity to obfuscate clarity of insight.  (Keep it simple, Stupid!)

In 1955, while being interviewed for a possible university scholarship, I explained that my most serious educational goal was to invent anti-gravity.  The money came through, along with an acceptance letter from Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon).   Waveforms permeate the universe, presenting a panoply of amazements.  Ever since I met the electromagnetic spectrum it has held a special fascination for me, but gravity was a problem.  It exists, but where can it be represented in our thought?

Surely not on the electromagnetic spectrum, as is light, that presents as a wave but is also particulate, to the puzzlement of scientists the world around.  Now we can likewise see gravity as a waveform.  Like two precisely opposing frequencies of sound or light input to a single receiver, they will cancel each other out, and darkness or silence will result.

Bose uses this trick with sound waves to make their noise cancelling headphones.   Any two differing frequencies input to a receiver will provide a beat frequency that can be utilized, as in a Theremin, a more than way-cool musical instrument.  It is a rectangular electronic box that sprouts two radio-antennae, one vertical, one horizontal.

The player faces the instrument, addressing it with upraised hands.  The trembling right hand produces melody, depending on its distance from the antenna, adding texture and richness with its sensual vibration.  The left is less difficult; it merely controls the volume of the sonorous output from the right frequency-controlling vertical antenna.  The only limitation to artistic expression is the ability of mind to imagine and hands to create and control the flow of the musical output.

The Theremin can sound like just about anything analog.  It can howl like a wolf, shriek like a banshee, or mimic a ghost.  It can even convincingly imitate a passionate violin, viola, or cello.  What can we do with gravity, now that we know it to be a wave?  Have I finally found my illusive anti-gravity?

My point, however illusive, is that if Remke’s had filled their stock of Fage yogurt, I would have missed out on a life altering tidbit of science, and I wouldn’t be here today blathering about pairs of colliding black holes, offset or in opposition, causing perturbations of gravity in the universe.  Is that synchronicity?


I was part of the first tide of fearful but courageous young women who beat and broke bodies and brains against the irresistible menstrual flood wall of male science.  Now women take it as a given that they are welcomed and often even appreciated.  It’s tempting to resent them for giving little credit to us who paved the way for those who followed.  I do resist that temptation and feel only pride and happiness in their achievements.  That lovely confidence they claim as their natural right, makes me a retrospective winner in my own right.  Sounds like resonance to me, a gravitas subject.

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Dale Warren Taylor

Dale called last night at ten, and we were still talking after one.  I marvel that we are so satisfactorily bridging the generation gap, but wonder how he will get out of bed and face tomorrow.  He is a rural mail carrier in the marginally civilized portion of West (by-God) Virginia, his routes taking him into dark hollows that see him as their most important link with civilization.  Born in 1958, he is now pushing sixty, as husband, father, and grandfather.  When, as I often do, I reduce a person to a word, my son Dale is integrity.   Some chalk that up to stubbornness; I see it as having the courage to be real.  Dale is who and what he is, no more, no less.  His equilibrium is linked to his inner ballast; he doesn’t do courtesy or propriety, but his own brand of kindness and honesty turn him out to be a true gentleman.

Dale is my eldest, agreed by his siblings to be the smartest.  I don’t have an opinion on that score; to me they are all three, Dale, Lane, and Kurt, equally tack smart.  The Kelsey Martin gene seems to be dominant, be that for good or for ill.  His knowledge as an autodidact does appear encyclopedic, due no doubt to his obsession with the science and history channels, crossword puzzles and Scrabble.  The New York Times puzzle always loses expeditiously to Dale’s pencil stub.  During one frightening visit, our play demonstrated that I could no longer beat Dale at Scrabble, ever.  I must be losing it, or he has achieved a competitive level I can’t match.  Time will tell.

Maybe with his three hour call to his mom he is working off a bit of guilt since for the first time ever he forgot my birthday card.  I was anticipating its arrival with birthday girl glee, but the mailbox remains stubbornly empty or trashed with commerce.  No wonderful card with just the right sentiment, the perfect words to say he loves me for my own true self, not for having given up all to bake cookies and live vicariously through achieving children.  It must take a lot of reading to weed out the trite and select that just-rightness versified.  I do prize him for that.  He loves his mother, as do all three in their own uniquely tormented ways.  I was far from being a perfect mother, having my own agenda which didn’t make of raising a passel of kids priority one.  They each have their own unique rage which they hang on the horns of my own, complementary dilemmas, theirs and mine still snorting and pawing the ground.

If…if only…if only I had done better, they could love me without having to work so hard at it.  I should have been an everywoman.  That would have made it right.  No!  Not that again.  That is a well-rutted track that I have trod a million times and more, looking for the perfection that eludes and runs away laughing in its banshee voice, bouncing off trees and rocks until it damps to the soft resonance of the swamp and gets tangled in spikes of cattail reeds.  There it dies, as well it should.  R.I.P.  “Rrrrrip, rrrrrip, rrrrrip,” agree the frogs.

This is a story that can be told, that should be told, that must be told.  Truth is a fine blanket that covers all with understanding and forgiveness once all is known.  One day I’ll get around to it.

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