The Parallel Universes Intersection Ride

Background Reading


Cycle Smithy

Cycle Smithy

Brian Greene was interviewed by Terry Gross on FreshAir recently (actually a year or so ago). An article in NPR said:

Our universe might be really, really big — but finite. Or it might be infinitely big.

Both cases, says physicist Brian Greene, are possibilities, but if the latter is true, so is another posit: There are only so many ways matter can arrange itself within that infinite universe. Eventually, matter has to repeat itself and arrange itself in similar ways. So if the universe is infinitely large, it is also home to infinite parallel universes.

Does that sound confusing? Try this:

Think of the universe like a deck of cards.

“Now, if you shuffle that deck, there’s just so many orderings that can happen,” Greene says. “If you shuffle that deck enough times, the orders will have to repeat. Similarly, with an infinite universe and only a finite number of complexions of matter, the way in which matter arranges itself has to repeat.”

Greene, the author of The Elegant Universe and The Fabric of the Cosmos, tackles the existence of multiple universes in his latest book, The Hidden Reality: Parallel Universes and the Deep Laws of the Cosmos.

Recent discoveries in physics and astronomy, he says, point to the idea that our universe may be one of many universes populating a grander multiverse.

“You almost can’t avoid having some version of the multiverse in your studies if you push deeply enough in the mathematical descriptions of the physical universe,” he says. “There are many of us thinking of one version of parallel universe theory or another. If it’s all a lot of nonsense, then it’s a lot of wasted effort going into this far-out idea. But if this idea is correct, it is a fantastic upheaval in our understanding.”

I can relate to you that I have in fact experienced parallel universes today. Let me explain.

We stopped for breakfast at the Centera Starbucks and along with some oatmeal from the Jamba Juice next door enjoyed a quiet moment before setting out to discover that parallel universes do in fact exist.

The Bicycle Universe Intersects With The Automobile Universe

You can drive down to the UIC Taylor and Halsted parking center using a combination of the Reagan and Eisenhower expressways. Maybe the fact that two very famous GOP stalwarts had these roadways named after them might explain my experience of the first universe.

I was passing under the 1st Avenue on ramp just west of the Forest Home Cemetery on the north side of the highway. A large green SUV was in the rightmost lane and was running even with me as we approached the bottom of the on ramp. A large truck was barreling down that on ramp and made it to the bottom before the green SUV could get in front of it.

Suddenly the SUV driver decided that, rather than slow down and settle in behind the truck until he could safely pass, he would attempt to pass the truck on the left by entering the center lane where I was. At the time I was probably even with him and moving at the same rate as he was. But the truck in front of him was going through his gears so he was slowly approaching highway speed. The SUV decided to force his way in front of me. He moved to his left and accelerated a bit to get his nose in front of mine and did so by simultaneously moving left. After having begun the lane change he turned on his left blinker (I guess to legitimize what he was doing).

When I realized that he was going to try and force me either into the lane to my left or failing that to have to slow down myself, I slowed down. He moved smartly into the lane and then “sat down”. I was furious at what he had done. He had made a decision to take a lane in a dangerous fashion without any real reason for that move. No safety awards here folks, just a fellow on his way to church no doubt. How ironic.

I pulled up alongside him and glared at him but he kept his gaze straight ahead and did his best to ignore me. Not a great way to start a day when you are almost forced into a collision without any real warning.

By the time we had reached the parking lot and headed out it was about noon. The parking lot these days are filled with folks who come down to purchase things at the flea market that on the other side of the Dan Ryan Expressway on Des Plaines Street. We were heading over to the Lakefront Trail along Harrison heading eastward. At that point Des Plaines to the south of the intersection is barricaded off.

A fellow and his son or perhaps his younger brother (about 10 years of age) were heading away from the Flea Market. The fellow was pulling a trailer behind his bicycle and his son was following on his bike. As you cross the highway the roadway pitches downward and since we had the green light we were crossing through the intersection.

Des Plaines is one way heading southbound. He and his son were riding the “wrong way” northbound and decided to shoot the gap between the curb on the southeast corner and the barricades. He simply picked up speed, never signaling or even glancing towards me and came through the gap and crossed my path before entering the eastbound lane just in front of me. I had to brake sharply to avoid first hitting him and then the trailer he was pulling behind.

His son had not been able to follow his father through the gap and had instead waited until everyone had passed and then come forward to join his father, by passing up on the left. At the light the father made an over theatrical look of surprise that we were right behind him. I asked if he knew that he should have come to a full stop at the previous intersection before making his turn. He replied in the affirmative but asked me was a I really serious? I said yes. After all he had nearly causes a collision and there was not reason for him not to stop other than his personal insistence on being first.

I thought back to the encounter with the SUV and realized that these were indeed exactly analogous situations. The interesting thing is that in both situations I was riding a vehicle which was comparable to the one that the other operator was using. In both cases the driver had been belligerent and had nearly caused someone else to be injured if not himself as well.

One driver was in a car and the other on a bicycle. So much for either kind of operator being more courteous than the other. It also occurred to me that the very same thing had happened on Friday when a westbound bicycle rider on Harrison had also made a righthand turn onto northbound Jefferson without every having come to a full stop and had done so traveling at a very high rate of speed. Had I hit him (and I had to brake sharply to avoid that) he would have been likely writing his tale of woe on the ChainLink about the need to eliminate cars from our streets. And had I been able to pull up alongside him at the next light I probably would have explained to him as well that you have to come to a full stop before making a right turn on a red light.

But I had a feeling that none of these folks would have cared to hear anything about vehicular law and safety.

A Calmer Ride Along The Lakefront Trail

I really do not know what can realistically be done to engender better behavior by cyclists or motorists when they are bound and determine to drive as if they are the only ones on the roadway. It explains why there were so many deaths tallied on the sign that you see before heading onto the Dan Ryan. Every time I look up and see the hundreds killed thus far in the year it makes me shudder.

What characterizes these kinds of situations is that whenever you have an operator that feels entitled to do what he or she wants you have only one choice, back down. If you do not these are the kinds of people who would rather “play chicken” up to and including the point where a collision occurs. If they are cyclists they will run towards the keyboard of their computer to dash off a nasty gram about how terrible this or that motorist is or how stupid this or that cyclist or pedestrian was. But never once does it ever occur to them that they were simply being “piggish” (all apologies to any porcine readers).

I guess if you drive an oversized SUV (and this one was the largest that GMC makes) you feel that the only other kind of vehicle willing to stand up to you would be another oversized SUV. Sometimes cyclists get so used to riding around in the city and doing death defying things that they never get out of the habit.

On a Sunday morning when the traffic is light and the sun is warm why try to do something dangerous while pulling a trailer? And why do it in front of your son? After all he is going to learn how to handle himself as a cyclist by modeling your example. Never have I more fervently wished that I was wearing a helmet camera than today.

So when we hit the Lakefront Trail it was busy but oh so much more sane than the streets. No volleyball nets up just yet but the runners and dog walkers were out. We helped a group of three ladies in one of the pedal cars find their way to the trail section just north of Navy Pier. It was funny to watch them teetering from side to side afraid to pick up speed for fear of flipping the entire rig.

At the Theater on the Lake we headed inland along Fullerton to reach Damen and then in to Native Foods Cafe. The place was quite busy today. And lo and behold lots of runners from the Shamrock Shuffle were there. And I should also mention that I noticed a significant number of African-Americans enjoying the food. This is great news!

Heading Back

It might be warmer this weekend than it has been in the recent past, but you cannot convince my arthritic knees of that fact. By the time I was back at the van my left knee was no longer bending without effort. But back in the car (after packing up the bikes) we headed out for hot tea. Just that little bit of warmth makes a huge difference.

Stay safe out there! Be mindful of the folks around you when driving or biking. Remember to share the road.

Cyclometer Info

Distance: 14.2 miles
Time: 2h 01m 35s