Researchers across a broad range of scientific specialties are huddling at conferences and in online chatrooms to compare findings that increasingly point to an unprecedented yet undeniable conclusion: the universe is getting dumber.
Scientists at CERN, the Brussels-based atomic research facility, first stumbled upon empirical evidence of this trend when they discovered that the sub-atomic Higgs boson, sometimes called the “God particle,” whose existence was long theorized but had only recently been confirmed, had suddenly ceased to exist and had retreated back into the realm of pure theory, leaving no forwarding address. “It’s the damndest thing,” said Fabiola Gianotti, Director of CERN, in Italian. “One minute it was there, and then shortly after Trump was elected it disappeared again, and we haven’t seen it since.”
Meanwhile, physicists at UC Berkeley working on practical applications of “quantum entanglement,” the phenomenon by which photons separated by huge distances nonetheless reflect one another’s quantum states (described by Albert Einstein as “spooky action at a distance”), noticed that the photons had suddenly stopped “speaking” to each other. “It’s almost as if they just hung up the phone,” said one rattled researcher who spoke on condition of anonymity lest her grant be withdrawn. “A bit of subatomic empathy just evaporated out of the ether, and I don’t think it’s coming back.”
No sooner had news of the “dumb” protons spread across the Internet than the renowned Indian mathematician Mudumbai Narasimhan announced that, despite his repeated attempts to prove otherwise, the measure of Pi has apparently simplified significantly, shortening to only three decimal places; specifically, 3.143. Asked by incredulous fellow academics how and when this had occurred, Narasimhan replied that he couldn’t be sure, but that Pi had seemed to check out at its usual million or so digits just before Trump’s inauguration.
The biological sciences haven’t been spared the recent turmoil. According to a paper recently published in The Lancet, neuroscientists working with the brains of bonobos at Columbia University have identified a heretofore unknown, rapidly-growing type of beta-amyloid, seemingly unique to “apex” males within a given tribe, whose only function appears to be to block the operations of the higher-functioning frontal cortex when presented with a younger female of the species who can’t get away. “Some of the brightest males suddenly turn into complete idiots,” reports Monty Baumsiegel, chair of the Neuroscience Department. “Normal judgment just goes out the window. We never suspected that such rapid degradation was possible, but fortunately it seems limited to the males.” Asked if there might be a similar amyloid growing in higher primates, Baumsiegel scoffed. “We’re talking monkeys here,” he said, squeezing the reporter’s knee.
These startling revelations all come, of course, in the wake of the recent scandal at the Smithsonian Institution, where shamefaced archeologists confessed that they’d long been overstating the rate of radioactive decay used as the benchmark for carbon dating, meaning that the Earth is really only about 8000 years old, and that both humans and dinosaurs roamed the continents at the same time. “Turns out that history is just a shoddily-produced B-movie,” admitted one crestfallen paleontologist, in an apparent allusion to Roger Corman’s 1958 clunker, Teenage Caveman.
Moreover, it now seems that even our previous perceptions of astronomical reality may have been overly enthusiastic. At a conclave of cosmologists in Aspen this October it was announced that, on further review, there appear to be only around 15 galaxies, rather than the “billions and billions” previously thought to exist, and that they’re all pretty close together. The assembled stargazers also revealed that, rather than expanding outward from a supposed “Big Bang,” these star-systems are just sort of hanging there, and blamed their previous, more dramatic theories on an excess of exuberance and some “bad math.”
Similarly, some much-heralded investigative reporting on the part of the New Yorker uncovered previously-suppressed computer simulations conducted by the NASA Ames Exobiology Branch, which concluded as early as 2016 that the likelihood of life on other planets was essentially nil, not because there weren’t a large number of Earth-like planets in the cosmos, but because the simulations, which ran millions of scenarios, concluded that intelligent life could never arise on Earth either. At that point the project was abandoned.
Then, just this week, the American Geosciences Institute announced that a collaboration of geologists across the globe, armed with lasers and GPS satellites, had found that the Earth has gotten significantly flatter during the administration of Donald Trump than it had been throughout the entire prior history of the United States. “At its current rate,” said Ben Kork, current Administrator of the AGI, “the Earth will be completely flat by 2024.”
On the other hand, a majority of scientists continue to believe that the universe isn’t yet dumb enough to avoid climate change. So there’s that.