Gordon Lebredt, Ripple Rock Blowup 1975/78, acrylic and enamel on canvas, 274.3 x 365.7 cm. Collection of the artist. Photo: Ernest Mayer.
GORDON LEBREDT: BY THE NUMBERS
Gallery One One One
November 10, 2005 - January 27, 2006
ATOMIC PHYSICS AND THE ART OF MOTORCYCLE REMINISCENCE
by Dr. Jeanne Randolph
It was not midnight. The city street was not empty, nor was it quiet. There were thousands of noises, of traffic, of conversation, of footsteps, of potato chips crinkling, of radios, a distant siren, a helicopter overhead, a toddler's tantrum, a busker's crummy guitar, perhaps the squeaky whoosh of frantic pigeon wings. The psychotic fellow at the corner heard the difference between the green and the amber light. The blind man at the corner heard the shadow of a cloud passing across the sun. The runaway wolfhound heard a whistle that wasn't fluted through his master's teeth. And then, as if it were a long chrome stripe of silence, a perfectly tuned speeding motorcycle bisected the din.
The passenger held his body against the motorcycle driver, his left hand holding the driver's left shoulder, his right hand holding a bar at the back of the seat. The driver's black leather jacket was body-warm Greenbaum horsehide crafted by Langlitz Leathers of Portland, Oregon. It closed snug with a diagonal zipper and industrial strength stainless steel snaps at the collar and waist.
The passenger was wearing a white T-shirt, blue jeans and Kodiak boots. He had strapped the spare yellow helmet over his brown stringy hair. The hair writhed in the breeze, sometimes stinging where it lashed across the side of his neck. This nicotine-stunted passenger was a genius. His buddies called him little einstein. While he rode, gripping the driver, his mind held on to the idea of the mean free path.
Like The Big Einstein, the passenger would daydream in class, such as in his physics class that very morning. Like The Big Einstein, little einstein's day dreams were comprised of thought experiments. During this morning's class little einstein had dissolved his material environment. His consciousness was that strong. Because of its strength, the shifting of paper, the sliding of ballpoint ink, the shuffling of the soles of sneakers, the serial tid tid tid tid of a nervous kid's four fingers tapping, the slight whistle of the wheeze of the Grade 12 physics teacher, everything physical had dissolved. Of course little einstein had closed his eyes. Of course he had closed his mind to all that was beyond it.
The physics teacher was a goof. The teacher had used Serway's visualization to explain the idea of the average distance between collisions for a traveling molecule. He had made it seem so simple. Too simple.
In a given volume of gas, pi d-squared line t, where d equals the diameter of a molecule and t equals time, line v would be the distance the molecule traveled, assuming n sub v, the number of molecules per unit volume, is known. The mean free path would be
vt___ or _1__.
According to the teacher, the idea of mean free path was cool. The teacher had also distributed a diagram with some two hundred black dots, through which, on an ascending diagonal, was a red dotted line whose upper end was a starburst. The red dotted line passed between the black dots, missed them all until a starburst collision. The caption read mean free path 93 nm.
As usual little einstein had been pissed off. Unlike his sullen alienated self, no one else had noticed the Serway model assumes all the molecules to be motionless, except for the one that has a mean free path. Realistically, if one took account of the average relative velocity of molecules in a volume of gas, calculating any one molecule's unimpeded distance until collision would require a revised equation. After approximately three minutes little einstein had not heard a buzzer, nor had he heard the simultaneous closing of twenty-one books, yet he had sensed when his buddy began waiting for him outside, on a motorcycle.
By the time the two pals were traveling at 93 kilometers per hour, one of little einstein's thought experiments superceded his five senses. Would it be possible, given the Einstein-Bose hypothesis, to bombard a mass of supercooled molecules with a single molecule traveling at the speed of sound and to actually shove aside the cooled motionless molecules to create a mean free path, calculable in terms of the energy required for the single speeding molecule to attain the speed of sound? Little einstein imagined a white-hot molecule zooming through the black molasses of a supercooled atomic puddle.
The psychotic man at the corner kept his hands in his pockets and winced. The change from the green light to the amber one was as if the squeaky whoosh of an ascendant pigeon had changed to the rasp from a crow. The rasping amber photons were streaming down from above, pulsing between pedestrians huddled on the traffic island, radiating forward between the rolling cars, tracking straight to his left ear canal and tunneling to his eardrum. The rasp then travels along the acoustic nerve to the motorneuronal cortex, sears down his spinal chord and through the brachial plexus, and further down from the radial nerve it ignites both hands into fists. His left fist is not empty. It encircles the handle of a gun. The man is dreading the weeks of waiting between the crows-rasp amber and the kind warm calm of red. Deftly, in his peripheral vision, he then perceives a long chrome stripe of silence canceling all the colour, a shiny false horizon severing the urban sounds of the street from the skyward sounds of the air. He foretells its path. It is definitely going to bisect the impending red light. The kind warm calm of red will splinter into a thousand needles of broken shrieks. The man pulls his left fist out of his pocket. It is heavier than his right and there is cold metal at its core.
The incident as little einstein, his biker buddy, the psychotic man, the blind man and the runaway wolfhound had experienced it, was a phrase that characteristically pissed off little einstein when he subsequently read it in a newspaper.
Cado, cadere, cecidi, from which -cid-, the root of incident evolved, conveyed the image of something falling, sinking or dropping. Little einstein did not appreciate a remarkably-shared experience being written as if an inanimate object had dropped from somewhere, the sky perhaps, to sink until it could fall no further, till it hit bottom, hit urban reality with an unkind cold thud. To make an object of his experience, to harden it, was to imply the urban mess is caducum - destined to die, actually devoted to death. What little einstein -- and all who were connected to him -- had experienced was not incadere, consistent with, agreeing with, in accordance with death. Objecthood, reification, delineation, to sever him from the moving, three-dimensional milieux, this was the death, death by imposition of a word, a phrase. What little einstein, the biker, the psychotic man, the blind man and the runaway wolfhound had experienced hadn't even the appearance of a figure distinct from its ground.
The motorcycle driver had seen the amber light at the instant he felt little einstein's body mash against his own leather bound back. Like a claw the left hand clasped his left shoulder. The right arm embraced his leather bound waist like a python grasping a monkey.
The blind man heard horns honking of course, heard the moon moving toward evening, heard the thousands of noises, of traffic, of conversation, of footsteps, of a potato chip bag crunched into an overstuffed litter bin, radio noises, the noise of siren moving closer, of a distant helicopter, a toddler whimpering, a busker snapping shut his guitar case, and the pink plip of pigeon toenails balancing on a ledge. The blind man also heard a SNAP! And then what seemed to be a white hot molecule moving at the speed of sound through something thick as molasses, through something that sounded like red molasses.
The runaway wolfhound heard all of this, as well as additional exceedingly high-pitched sounds, and he suddenly caught the scent of kind warm blood.
As always the motorcycle accelerated during the amber light. When the driver heard little einstein sigh, and when the driver saw little einstein's kind warm blood sliding along the black leather sleeve, the driver considered whether to suddenly stop.
Commonly there are two independent motorcycle brakes, one on the right front wheel, controlled by a right-hand lever, and the rear wheel brake, controlled with the right foot. Usually the front brake is much more powerful than the rear break. The front brake can provide 79 to 90 per cent of the power to stop if need be. Inexperienced drivers fear that aggressively slamming on the front brake will stop the front wheel rotating and cause a skid. Inexperienced drivers sometimes fear that using the rear brake will cause their motorcycle to wobble. Wobbling is a seven to nine Hertz oscillation of the front wheel and often is relatively harmless, but it can alarm an inexperienced driver.
Little einstein's biker friend was experienced. He understood when to hurry and he understood when to slow down. Stopping had never been a problem. And now he knew this was an occasion for hurrying, while little einstein was conscious enough to keep holding on tight.
Little einstein began to day dream. One more thought experiment would cool the white hot starburst in his right lung. If an experience has no boundaries -- because there is never empty space between atoms, only relative wrinkles in electromagnetic gravitational force, isn't it possible to formulate a calculation of the width of wobble for a molecule speeding along a mean free path?
The Gordon Lebredt: By the Numbers CD-ROM includes links to other Gallery One One One projects: Gallery One One One, School of Art, Main Floor, FitzGerald Building, University of Manitoba Fort Garry campus, Winnipeg, MB, CANADA R3T 2N2. Gallery Hours: Noon to 4 PM (weekdays only).
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