Tag: quantum mechanics

Pique the Geek 20120617: Helium, Indispensable and Finite

Helium is one of the elements that most people see (well, not see since it is a colorless gas) in everyday life.  We are familiar with it because it used to fill toy balloons so that they rise in air.  We shall get around to the calculation about that later.

Helium also is used for large balloons, blimps, and dirigibles for the same reason:  it is lighter than air and so provides lift (not aerodynamic lift, which is provided by air passing over a wing surface) and so causes objects to rise, but these large craft have a payload where toy balloons do not, at least in most cases.

We also know it as the gas that causes voices to take on a bizarre, high pitch.  We shall also discuss the reasons for that.  But for me at least, helium is of extreme interest because of its quantum mechanical properties.

Infinite In All Directions: An Essay On “Generation Kill”

The war is real, the ultimate reality show, and we don’t get to watch it, because we forgot to create checks and balances on the cooption of the fourth estate, because in the days of the framers we didn’t have journalism, we had a half-crazy nudist vegetarian with a printing press and illegitimate children all over the place. Fast-forward a few centuries, and you have a war that’s been going on since my college graduate sister was in junior high, without a single body on TV, because reporters can’t ask or tell about the war, or else they won’t get access to anything else. You’ve got Evan Wright, for whom this enterprise is a career-maker, and… that’s about it. Half the guys in the original article got discharged for talking about real shit. But there’s the filter of memory, and then the next filter, of Evan Wright telling about this. And then the filter of words on paper, into a book, which is taken and filtered through the dramatic sensibility into a TV show whose only mandate is to match up to the original Xerox as well as possible. From all accounts, it feels the same even if the facts are different, which is the only important thing if you’re the original article, the book, the script, or the performance of the show itself.

And then there’s me, trying to recap the drama of the book of the story of the story of the thing that happened. Postmodernity is all well and good, but I think the point where you actually masturbate to the idea ends somewhere around sophomore year of your finer liberal arts universities and institutions. It’s an infection you eventually burn out because Eco and Foucault and Calvino and Baudrillard are not the story: they’re the story about the story. At the end of that particular hall of mirrors, there’s beautiful Rudy who is either dead or alive, in a second you can point to with your finger and say: that is real. I mean, I triangulated on Nate by reading his book, and I do love Brad Colbert, but all that is just looking through a lot of layers of obfuscation that’s not even purposeful: we’re all trying to tell the real story, all down the line. Not often you could say that about something that’s come through this many hands. So imagine what it would be like if one of the people along that line, from Evan to David Simon to me to you, who had an agenda that wasn’t at least trying to be about telling a greater truth? I’m not setting myself up as a storyteller at all, that’s not my intention: I’m saying my intentions are to say what I think honestly happened, based on looking at what somebody else thinks honestly happened. But if it got dirty administration hands on it? Even one layer? Much less all the ones we casually accept now?

My point is, there have been a few moments throughout that made me feel like we were seeing something real: Doc Bryan’s line to Brad a while back, when he asked what he could do. That hit me in the face. “November Juliet” and Evan’s total adrenal breakdown this week. That wandering shellshock guy that Brad tried to feed. Trombley’s… everything about Trombley. It’s scary shit. But looking at actual Rudy looking through that hole in the fictional windshield, and seeing superimposed over it the well-rehearsed image of actual Rudy looking through the actual hole in the actual windshield? I’ve been trying to ignore the weirdness of this assignment, because I don’t really feel up to grasping the fact that those little fictional kids were very real and are very dead. They didn’t get married or have kids or join the army or have a job or anything little kids get to do. They just died.

~Jacob, recapping Generation Kill for Television Without Pity

There has never been any television show like HBO’s Generation Kill.  It is almost impossible to imagine how there could have been.  But of course, there has never been a war like ours in Iraq either.