Friday, January 08, 2010

What you don't know only makes you...clueless.

I’m starting to think that there’s a moment in almost everyone’s life where they feel really, really smart. Where you have confidence, swagger, positive feelings and an unparalleled belief that you are in control of your destiny. I’m also certain that moment hasn’t yet happened for me.

Honest to God, most of the time I feel like I must have experienced some kind of coma or otherwise unconscious period that no one talks about, where I lost possibly many years of everyday, ‘everyone-knows-that’ type of accumulated knowledge. I can’t be certain this coma actually ever happened, probably because everyone around me is either too polite to bring it up or doesn’t want to stir up their own memories of that time. But I’m pretty sure that had to have happened.

Otherwise, there is almost no explanation for something like this:

Tonight as we sat around the table enjoying our Friday night pizza, I mentioned that a colleague had emailed me an aerial photo of England, which showed the country covered in this season’s surprising amount of snowfall. He also told me that last night, it was colder in the Scottish Highlands than it was in Antarctica. (That sounds about right to me. I once shivered through one of the coldest evenings of my life in Edinburgh, Scotland – in July.)

This conversation led to one of my sons talking about the first Ice Age, which came about when an enormous iceberg type thing (I don’t think he actually said ‘type thing’) broke off of Greenland and as it melted, masses of frigid, cold air wafted over Europe and sent the continent into a deep freeze. Everyone at the table seemed to know that was the cause of the first Ice Age except me.) He claims it’s happening again and that’s why so much of the world is experiencing such a harsh winter.

The conversation shifted slightly, and we discussed the very cold weather in Florida and what that might do to the citrus crops growing there. Following that, we had a brief global warming / climate change / skeptic / supporter debate that didn’t get too far. And that’s really for the best. Friday nights and pizza are not built for debate.

Somehow, that launched a discussion about dinosaurs and how interesting it is that no one really, truly knows exactly what killed them off. I offered some pathetic explanation about ‘the cold’ killing them (as if the boys had never heard that before.) The conversation then took a turn again, into a discussion about the meteor that hit the earth and how the resulting gasses and particles that lingered from it blocked the sun, creating the cold that killed the dinosaurs.

Ahem. What? A meteor hit the earth? It did? And blocked the sun? And killed dinosaurs?

My kids looked at me in disbelief. “Well yeah! [Implied but not stated: “You didn’t know that?”] It may have been the same meteor that some people say created the Gulf of Mexico.”

Ahem. A meteor created the Gulf of Mexico?

“Well, it could have but then how could you explain Pangaea? Where did that land go? How could the continents have been connected if it took a meteor to create the Gulf of Mexico?” [I’m pretty sure that last part may have been for my benefit but inexplicably, I did know what Pangaea was. I really did.]

Let’s recap. I had no idea that melting icebergs created the first Ice Age in Europe. I had no idea a meteor had ever hit the earth. I had no idea that the cold that resulted from that meteor blocking the sun may have killed dinosaurs and created the gulf of water off of Mexico.

I’ve left out the carbon-dating discussion, the creationist vs. scientists and the ridiculous nature of the Creationist Museum, and finally, the roster of the members of the Wu Tang Clan, along with the complete CV of The RZA and his upcoming book, The Tao of Wu. If you’re confused, imagine being me at that table. And I live there.

So there it is. Well, most of it. A very partial, very rudimentary list of the bits of accumulated knowledge I missed out on while I existed in a multi-year (secret) coma. God knows what we’ll talk about next Friday.


ljr said...

perhaps your fortunate - the rest are running around in the land of ideas - awareness is not a product of thought

ljr said...

or krishnamurti

or idris shaw

or listen to bob dylan

or gordon lightfoot

or the platters

or yourself


i drink and am a real smart ass sometimes

sometimes not so smart

ljr said...

will fade away if you wish

ljr said...

are you a virgo

perhaps with a gemini moon

ljr said...

i try to read your stuff but the way you hammer out words makes my head hurt - so many words

renee said...

Which is exactly why the blogsosphere so satisfying. Lots of choices about to read, right?

I hope your headache is better.

Kathy said...

OMG. Hilarious! I'm so glad I wasn't at your table because, by God, I probably know less than that. I'm doubting this Gulf of Mexico thing, enough to look it up. I'm going to cry if it's true and I didn't know that.

renee said...

Kathy -

Okay, we need to stick together on this. I prefer to think of it as 'discretionary thinking' and having too many more important things to keep in my head. (Although I still never, ever heard of the meteor thing. Never.)

Thank you for your comment!

Carl said...

Well if it makes you feel any better, as far as I can tell, none of the things you didn't know are actually true. Ice Ages in general are the result of variations in the Earth's orbit and the Sun's luminosity, coupled with continental drift, and certainly can't be caused by anything as trivial as an iceberg snapping off of Greenland. Greenland only generates the small bergs that come off of glaciers anyway, since unlike Antarctica it doesn't have a huge floating ice sheet.

What else? Oh, the average winter temperature in Antarctica is -74F at the pole and about -20F on the coast, far below the temps in the Highlands. The crater (Chicxlub) possibly formed by the impact that may have killed the dinosaurs is half under the Yucatan peninsula and about 112 miles across, which is big but only about 12% of the size of the entire Gulf of Mexico (930 miles).

renee said...

Thanks Carl - that does make me feel better.

Turns out, my boys alerted me after they read the blog that some of this (all of it?) is theoretical at best. But at least they read the theories.

Regardless, dinner with my kids (now almost 20, 18 and 18) is always enlightening, entertaining and truly makes up some of the best moments of my life.

Welcome! Thanks for adding a voice of resaon to my confused state.

stnom said...

I, apparently, have experienced the same "secret" coma. Or maybe have just spend too much time thinking about how I want my clean laundry to smell.

renee said...

Hello Stnom!

Thanks exactly my point! We're all too busy worrying about laundry to know about meteors!
See where this can lead?

I'm convinced this is all connected somehow. :)

Thanks for joining the discussion!