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John Winters Columnist

Published Sunday, July 08, 2012

Some questions will just never be answered

Time, apparently, can be toyed with.

I don’t mean setting your watch five minutes fast to help you be on time. I mean actually adding time to a day. And apparently, it’s legal and necessary.

If this past June 30th seemed rather long, it was - by a second no less. Yes, June 30 was actually 24 hours and one second long. We have the fine folks at the Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service to thank for that. That’s the group responsible for keeping atomic time and plantetary time on, well, the same time.

And you thought a day was 24 hours; and time is all based on the rotation of the Earth around the Sun. Apparently not. It appears we now base time on atomic time, not rotation. And a second isn’t really a second, or rather its definition has changed.

To wit: “A second is defined as “9,192,631,770 periods of the radiation corresponding to the transition between the two hyperfine levels of the ground state of the caesium-133 atom.”

So there you go. And no, I am not making any of this up.

So I’m thinking about this whole time thing, which of course leads me to think about how long is infinity and can you actually think to infinity and that leads to the “why questions” about those things that go bump in the night, because I’m a journalist and I ask “why” a lot, and that led me to pull out some old emails where friends and I would exchange questions as to the why of whatever subject we were discussing; said discussions started after watching a Steven Wright standup comedy show years ago, where he also asked the whys of life, and everyone started sharing those “why” questions, because the biggest questions facing mankind are “why (fill in the blank.)”

Tell me that wasn’t a Faulkner sentence.

So now you and I know the “why” to the extent we can say, “no, a day is not always 24 hours.” But there are other “whys” out there. And so in honor of Mr. Wright and all the others, some food for thought.

Why is abbreviation such a long word? And why isn’t phonetic spelled the way it sounds?

Why is there an interstate in Hawaii? What do you add to powdered water? Why do they sterilize the needle for a lethal injection? Why doesn’t glue stick to the inside of the bottle?

I know that firefighters fight fires; crime fighters fight crime; freedom fighters fight ...? Why is it when you transport something by car, it’s called a shipment, but when you transport it by ship, it’s called cargo? Why is bra singular and panties plural?

That indestructible “black box” they always find on airplanes - why isn’t the whole plane made of that? And on that subject, if flying is so safe, why is the airport called the terminal?

What happens if you are traveling at the speed of light and you turn on your headlamps? If you choke a Smurf, what color does it turn? What do chickens think we taste like?

What do people in China call their good plates?

If a cow laughs, does milk come out of its nose? If you squeeze olives to get olive oil, how do they get baby oil?

Why is there Braille on the drive-up ATM machines? How does the guy who drives the snowplow get to work?

I need to wrap this up as my batteries are dying. I bought some more, but they weren’t included.

There are a lot of “why” questions out there. Some are humorous, silly even. Others test the very core of our being - why did he have to die; why did she get cancer; why did my kid get into drugs?

Too often I think we focus on the why and then try to fix it, or at least come up with some answer that satisfies us to some degree. There are some “whys” that simply cannot be answered this side of eternity. And we can’t really fix them, and time doesn’t really stop simply because we play with the second hand.

We are not God.

As Pastor Rick Warren said in one of his daily devotionals, “the day you resign as general manager of the Universe, you’re going to find that it doesn’t fall apart. You can relax in faith, trusting that God is able to run things without your help.”

*****

John A. Winters is a staff writer for The Newnan Times-Herald. His personal blog (Just Flip The Dog) is at http://justflipthedog.com

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