A group of New Physicists gathered out on the point the other morning, close by where I live. I get up pretty early (too early), and since not many do, I wondered what they were doing standing around in the dark.
I went over and introduced myself, which is how I learned they were New Physicists. One of them, a woman of moderate years, explained that they were waiting for the sun to rise so that they could take some measurements.
“But you’re facing the wrong way. East is the other direction.” I pointed over my shoulder.
She said, “No, West is the right direction. This is West.” There was a murmur of agreement.
“Oh, I see. You’re trying to see how the sun’s rising in the East affects something in West?” I swear I heard somebody whisper a word that, I promise, sounded like “Bigot.”
The lead woman sighed. “East is the direction assigned to the rising by the patriarchy.” She had evidently dealt with nosy people like myself before. “We let the sun decide for itself which direction it rises in.”
The woman who I thought said “Bigot” was staring hard at me after this, as if she was daring me to say something. I did.
“I get it. You mean words like east, west and so on are only cultural constructions. They could have been reversed—the words, I mean—if circumstances had been different. Or like how they say higashi in Japanese, whereas we say east.”
Lead Woman put a restraining hand on Staring Girl, who I could now see—the light was increasing—had blue hair. She was fuming. The men in the group began to back away. One
with a scraggly beard stepped out into the water. Which isn’t as warm as you’d like it this year.
“You’re trying to use language to obscure the fact that the sun,” Lead Woman said, “is one of an infinite variety of stars. They don’t fit in simple categories. They get to pick where they rise depending on how they were born. We don’t. You can’t force your binary thinking on stars. Stars aren’t binary.”
I reminded her some stars are said to be binary.
“Binary isn’t binary!” Her patience with me was ending. But she hadn’t given up on me yet. “You’re trying to use your bigoted perceptions on what the sun can do. That’s the old way of thinking. We now know that it’s best to let each star decide for itself which direction it rises.”
Yeah, I told her, but this one is going to rise over there. I pointed to the east.
“Risephobe!” shouted Blue Hair.
“She’s right,” said a skinny fat guy. “You can’t impose your judgement on the sun’s rising according to how the sun really is.”
But it will rise in the east, I told them.
“You don’t know what the science says,” says Skinny Fat. “What you’re talking about is the old outmoded science. We now know—we have sophisticated models to show this—that stars can rise in whatever direction that best describes their true being. We have to respect that.”
Well, sure, I said. On other planets, the stars could conceivably come up opposite of ours. That’s just the way the gravity, or whatever, worked out there. But it’s silly to say the stars on those planets “really” revolve around their stars opposite of how they actually rise. Anyway, this star, our sun, will rise over there.
“Risephobe!” Blue Hair’s repertoire was limited.
During all this it was getting lighter and lighter. The scientists saw this, too, and did their best to ignore me as they finished setting up their equipment. My delay cost them valuable time and they hurried at their tasks.
Now there was a breeze blowing from the north. It wasn’t a gale, you understand, but there were some decent sized waves coming in. No white caps or anything; just standard waves.
I kept my mouth shut and watched as they pointed everything they had west. I looked east and, sure enough, there was the sun, poking up on the horizon. I had begun to doubt myself, such was their ardency, so I confess this was a relief.
A couple of minutes later, the sun was full up. It was a brilliant day. It wasn’t too long before the sun glinted off a wave to the west.
One of the scientists looked up from his instrument and shouted, “I got it! I got it!”
They gabbled among themselves, but all took turns looking at me in triumph. I smiled at them, but said nothing as I went back in to get more coffee.
Buy my new book and learn to argue against the regime: Everything You Believe Is Wrong.