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April 15, 2024

Eleven Questions Honoring the Fortieth Anniversary of the New York Times Science Page

By Charlie Brice

Eleven Questions Honoring the Fortieth Anniversary of the New York Times Science Page1

1. Does the Universe Still Need Einstein?

Where is Einstein's brain?
Missing for a while after his autopsy
it was sliced into thin flakes.
Forty-six slivers of it may be measured
in Philadelphia's Mütter Museum.

Mystery solved?

Not at all.

Einstein's brain forms the core
of our most grand black hole:
He was a star that clearly collapsed,
was very dense, his own singularity --
never anyone like him.
His supernova lit up dark space.

Yes, the universe needs him.

We all need him.

2. When Will We Solve Mental Illness?

What equation would we use?
Loving parents + economic security
+ accidents of birth and blood
x a culture of care ÷ separation + growth
= Mental Health?

Most try so hard.

Some don't care.

3. How Did We Get to be Human?



4. How Can We Unleash the Immune System?

Has it been tied up, shackled?
Who is its jailer?
What was its offense?
How long is its sentence?
Is there a possibility of parole?
Can it be rehabilitated?
Where did it go wrong?

5. Is There a Ceiling on Life Expectancy?

What is meant by "life" -- the duration
of cellulose, bone and blood?
Hair or no hair, is that the question?
What about the nexus of others with whom
we share this still green planet --
loved ones who make our flesh
more than something measured in a lab,
stretched or creamed to make us
look young -- the ones who carry us
on this bloody voyage, this passage
from womb to morgue?

6. Where's Our Warp Drive to Other Star Systems?

If we had one, what would we do when we got there?
Dig up their fossils and turn them into pollution?
Crush their pleasure with Yahweh, Muhammed, Jesus?
Sell them ray guns?
Teach them the art of war?

7. Will We Ever Cure Alzheimer's?

At ninety mother didn't remember father,
didn't recollect calling him a drunken sot, S.O.B.,
or her twenty-eight-year scream of divorce.
Instead she slept with angels,
snuggled into nursing home nirvana
afflicted by the sweet smile of no-mind --
Father Time's penultimate reprieve.

Do we want to remember it all?
Who really suffers when a parent can't recognize her child?
Don't longer lives give large lapses a wide birth?

8. Why are We Still So Fat?

What's wrong with fat?
My two Diet Pepsi, ten thousand calorie-a-day, diet
keeps me feeling pretty good.
Some friends have poor eyesight and hearing,
back pain, hips that don't work,
trouble getting out of chairs.
They tell me I'm killing myself
with Diet Pepsi, pizza, cheeseburgers --
but I feel pretty good.

9. How Will We Outsmart A.I. Liars?

Our president's intelligence is artificial.
His hair looks like the fuzz on a Kewpie doll
won at a carnival
after you knocked down
the weighted milk bottles
with a soft ball.
He's a softball.
He's the carnie-in-chief.
Hey Rube! Hey Rube!
Someone raise the flag,
raise the flag upside down,
run it up the flagpole upside down!

10. Why Aren't there Vaccines Against Everything?

We're working on it.
We already have a vaccine
against the truth.
Look at our politicians.
Look who we elected president.

11. Will We Survive Climate Change?

No, but our planet will.
It will have the last belch,
the last guffaw,
the last hurrah.

From "11 Things We'd Really Like to Know (And a Few We'd Rather Not)," New York Times, November 20, 2018

Article © Charlie Brice. All rights reserved.
Published on 2019-04-01
Image(s) are public domain.
1 Reader Comments
08:10:51 AM
I love the progression of this poem, how it is both weighty and light.
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