EGI Notes

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Making the "Impossible" Possible

Food for thought.

Maybe I’m just too “Faustian” but I’ve always been extremely annoyed when people – and this applies for both science/technics as well as politics – say something is “impossible.” Not “implausible” and not “highly unlikely” and not “impossible for the foreseeable future” but absolutely and categorically “impossible.”

Keep in mind that at one time the idea that any useful work could be extracted from atomic/radioactive processes was deemed “impossible.”  The idea that anything could be done to prevent, say, an asteroid strike was deemed “impossible” but it is quite possible today to take action given current technology.  The EmDrive Thruster was considered “impossible” and “violating the laws of physics” yet it seems to work.  The idea of “warp drives” for interstellar travel was laughed away as sci-fi, but there is now serious theoretical work being done on that possibility.  And then there was the “impossibility” of the election of Donald J. Trump.

Today, we are told that, for example, extracting useful work from zero point energy is “impossible” and “violating the laws of physics.”  Preventing a supervolcano eruption is “impossible.”  I guess the White nationalist dream is “impossible” as well.

The proper riposte I think when someone says that “X” is “impossible” is to reply: Just assume that “X” is indeed (at least theoretically) possible; if so, how would you approach achieving “X?”

It may turn out that “X” is truly impossible, but one never knows until one exhausts all possibilities. An unexpected discovery, idea, or invention may make the “impossible” possible in science/technics. Of course, that breakthrough would never have occurred if all work on the problem was dismissed because of its “impossibility.”  And even if the truly impossible remains unachievable, the thought processes engaged in trying to understand how to achieve the impossible may bear fruit for other related problems and in those cases make the “impossible” possible.  And the same holds for politics. Always ask: If it were possible, how to achieve it? 

In that way, dreams may become actualized into reality.

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