Opinion » Maxed Out

Maxed out

Stupid decisions explained



I was kinda procrastinating writing this column. Wednesday mornings generally follow a fixed routine: get up early, drink strong coffee, hope the muse visits, write a column. But this week there was a Wednesday morning wildcard. There was an outside chance the world would end before it was time to wake up and follow that routine. So I slept in a bit. Why waste a column if there wasn’t going to be anyone around to read it?

Sometime during the middle of the night, eager scientists outside Geneva flipped the switches and powered up the Large Hadron Collider. No one was certain exactly what would happen when the world’s largest proton accelerator began accelerating protons. The optimistic scientists, many of whom had worked more or less their entire professional lives designing and building the US$8 billion machine — affectionately referred to as the God machine — simply hoped it would start. The pessimistic scientists worried the machine, designed to recreate the universe-spawning conditions that existed a trillionth of a second after the Big Bang, would open up a black hole that would swallow the Earth like an after dinner mint.

It worked, therefore I write.

But all is not settled. Like the first finger twitches of Dr. Frankenstein’s subject, the machine simply came to life. After gently breaking it in for the next several months, the real fun will begin. Sometime in the late fall, the first full-power experiment will take place. Asked what will happen when the whitecoat in charge puts the pedal to the metal, Dr. Pier Oddone, director of Chicago’s Fermilab — until now the worlds most powerful particle machine — shrugged his shoulders. “That there are many theories means we don’t have a clue. That’s what makes it so exciting.”

Don’t have a clue? If that seems a bit Homer Simpsonish to you, given one of the possibilities is the End of the World, relax. I mean, there are a lot worse ways to go. Look on the bright side, if they make it up to full power by Thanksgiving and the doom & gloomers are right, we’ll avoid the somnambulistic slide of another Harper minority government, not to mention the equally doomsday possibility of John McCain and the Barracuda giving the Republicans another four years to slowly destroy what little economy and credibility the US has left.

We also wouldn’t have to remain in suspense about Whistler’s next council and mayor and all the annoying little ways they’ll come up with to overspend, rack up more debt and find new and more exciting gimmicks to nickel, dime and dollar us to death.

Dr. Oddone’s comments have to be kept in perspective though. The guy’s been in charge of the world’s most powerful machine in the world’s most powerful country. The Fermilab’s accelerator smashed bits together with the energy of 1 trillion volts, the kind of energy you’d have if you had a flashlight that held 667 billion AA batteries. The US was going to build a bigger machine, bigger even than the one in Geneva, but congress nixed it when the price tag rose to $11 billion, the cost of either 11 months or 11 hours of the war in Iraq, I can’t remember which.

The Large Hadron Collider will collide protons at an energy level of 5 trillion volts. You couldn’t make a flashlight that big so it doesn’t matter how many batteries that works out to.

Clearly, Dr. Oddone is feeling shrinkage and his comments should be understood in that context. He’s suffering shrinkage because, well, scientist or not, he’s a guy and the sad, unavoidable fact is guys think with their dicks. I’m sorry; I know this is a family publication and everything but I can’t sanitize the subject of dickthinking by calling it penilethought or something less offensive. If it bothers you too much, go back and read Feet’s movie reviews or rip out the back page before the kids come home.

Guys think with their dicks. Not all the time, of course, but frequently. More than once a day. Some guys think exclusively with their dicks. The thoughtful, well-meaning ones have fought long, hard — keep your mind out of the gutter here — consciousness-raising battles to keep their dickthinking to an absolute minimum but even at that level, it happens more frequently than you’d imagine.

I know this concept seems weird to the 50.4 per cent of you who only have a brain to do your thinking with. If I could explain the mechanics of it, I would. The fact is, I don’t understand it myself. I know it has something to do with men having external genitalia and learning, as boys, it’s the only true friend we can rely on for dependable solitary amusement and understanding. But like you, I always thought it was one of those things boys would outgrow when they became men.

Not so.

A respected philosopher and observer of the human condition — I think it was Robin Williams — once commented on the fact that the human male body has insufficient bloodflow to operate both the brain and the dick simultaneously. Guess which one dominates when both try to operate at the same time?

Now as stupid as this all sounds, the evidence is incontrovertible. Bill Clinton emasculated his presidency when Monica went all lollipop on him. George Bush set the country into a flat spin by invading Iraq. Can you honestly believe either man was thinking with his brain when he decided those things sounded like good ideas?

Closer to home, much closer to home, we have the Olympics, themselves the product of dickthinking and a suitable stand-in for the penis-fencing antics of a certain species of monkey. Women didn’t sit around and say, “Hey, let’s spend a few billion dollars and bring the Olympics to Vancouver.” Of course they didn’t. Women think with their brains 100 per cent of the time.

Was Stephen Harper thinking with his brain when he nixed including Elizabeth May in the leaders’ debates? Rhetorical question alert. Looking as uncomfortable as always, Stevie muttered something about the Greens and Libs being in cahoots as his rationale. Does that sound like something a reputably bright guy would come up with using his brain? Of course not. Like most men, Stevie’s afraid of the power women might wield when they finally realize they should be running things and start voting like they believe it.

Me? I’m all for it. Dickthinkers have screwed things up long enough and I for one will be really happy to turn things over to people who only think with their brains. Women of Whistler, are you listening?

Of course, every time I say that, someone like Sarah Palin comes along to make me wonder whether women might not have another thought centre too. But like the scientists in Geneva, I’m willing to take that risk.