GOV. MARK SANFORD

GOV. MARK SANFORD

It goes without saying that Gov. Mark Sanford wasn’t the first person to take a powder because of an affair of the heart. What may be more rare is the response from the governor’s wife, Jenny, who quoted the Fourth Psalm and Archbishop Desmond Tutu in explaining to the Associated Press why she might forgive her husband for his transgressions. The archbishop’s take, according to Jenny Sanford, is that “forgiveness is the grace by which you enable the other person to get up, and get up with dignity, to begin anew.” Presumably, Dina McGreevey doesn’t subscribe to this formula.

In a way, Sanford’s adventure has been done to death, but it turns out that the novelist Agatha Christie had a unique take on the unexplained disappearance. She vanished for 11 days in 1926 because her husband was having an affair. After throwing the British public into a panic and providing the newspapers with a sensational story, Christie turned up at a resort hotel where she had registered under the name of her husband’s paramour. This was never publicly explained, but it seems to have  been part of an elaborate scheme to prod her husband — who had already asked for a divorce — into reconciling with her. It didn’t work, and she ended up in a satisfactory relationship with another man.

This is all spelled out in a new biography of Christie by Richard Hack. There’s an entertaining review in the Los Angeles Times:

http://www.latimes.com/features/books/la-et-book2-2009jul02,0,2014380.story

AGATHA CHRISTIE

AGATHA CHRISTIE

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BUSTER CRABBE as Flash Gordon

BUSTER CRABBE as Flash Gordon

I once saw a cartoon panel taped to the wall outside a psych professor’s office at Kean University. A man of middle age was slumped in an easy chair in what seemed to be a state of depression. His wife stood over him, hands on her hips, and addressed him more or less as follows: “What I can’t understand is why you would read a book called ‘Oblivion and the Abyss’ in the first place!”

Well, I just got around to reading “Physics of the Impossible” by Michio Kaku, who is a theoretical physicist. In this book, which came out last year, Kaku discusses the possibility that various achievements that human beings have imagined and even tinkered with will become practical realities. We’re talking here about such things as teleportation, telepathy, time travel, invisibility, and visitations from “outer space,” concepts that have been the fodder of science fiction from Jules Verne to Flash Gordon to Star Trek.

I don’t know why I was disappointed; I think I already knew the overall thrust of what Kaku would say. Certain of these concepts – invisibility and teleportation, for example – are not contrary to the known laws of physics and may be achievable within a forseeable amount of time, where what is forseeable might be measured in hundreds of years. (I’m oversimplifying this.) Others, such as travel to other galaxies, are not contrary to the known laws of physics but are beyond the capabilities of a civilization of our rudimentary level of advancement. Still others — perpetual motion and travel into the past, for example — are contrary to the known laws of physics and impossible, period.

SATURN

SATURN

Intellectually, I’m not surprised, but I’m disappointed nonetheless. I would rather have continued nursing the fantasy, born while I watched Flash Gordon and Doctor Zarkov matching wits with Ming the Merciless, that some day, somehow, I would board a space-going vessel and leave the gravitational pull of this planet, at least for a long weekend.

But Kaku has taken the wind out of my sails, if I may be allowed the metaphor, and I look with a twinge of melancholy at the images of Saturn and her moons being transmitted by the Cassini craft — and particularly the one in which Alpha Centauri gleams in the perpetual night sky far beyond the great planet’s rings (http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/index.cfm).

MING THE MERCILESS Charles Middleton

MING THE MERCILESS Charles Middleton

A friend of mine told me a couple of years ago that her employer had reserved a place for her on a voyage into space as soon as such a thing became available to consumers. That would have been all right as far as it went, but the trip envisioned would have been a little more than 300 miles each way. My ambition far exceeded that, and Kaku has made it clear that I was deluding myself.

Well, it was a relatively short time ago that some of the ideas that Kaku fools around with — such as an electron that can be in two places at the same time — were not only unknown but unimagined. So rather than put my vacation to Alpha Centauri out of my mind, I’ll put it on hold. After all, I’m only 66 years old. In the meantime, I still have to see the Grand Canyon.

CASSINI VIEW OF ALPHA CENTAURI OVER THE RINGS OF SATURN

CASSINI VIEW OF ALPHA CENTAURI OVER THE RINGS OF SATURN