21 March 2007

Gravity c. 13,700,000,000 BC-2007 AD

A lack of gravityGravity (or, as its friends in the physics community knew it, "Gravitational Force") has gone to join the ether, phlogiston and Victoria Beckham's tan among the choir invisible of scientific no-noes, following the inauguration of the Grand Canyon Skywalk – a glass-bottomed horseshoe-shaped construction which allows visitors to stand in mid-air 4,000 feet above salivating coyotes, rattlesnakes and personal injury lawyers shouting, “Jump!”

Gravity was born roughly 13.7 billion years ago with the formation of the Universe. From the moment of its arrival, the heavy child set to work on its even heavier task of forming stars and planets, keeping celestial bodies in orbit and ensuring that when you place a cup on the coffee table it’s still there five minutes later and the scalding coffee hasn’t floated up and burnt the underside of your chin while you’re reading the newspaper.

Despite this seemingly useful physical property, Man longed to slip his earthly bounds and float free above the Earth or, in Daedalus’s case, let his son Icarus take out those new wax wings he'd invented on a test run, "you know, just in case" …

When Isaac Newton was brained by a Cox’s Pippin and began preparing for his lawsuit against Gravity, he accidentally stumbled across the three gravitational laws that (quite literally) underpinned its lifelong purpose. Though the subsequent court case failed Gravity’s secret hold on Earth was fatally loosened from its fingers.

Soon, Man was clamouring to rise up, up and away in his beautiful balloon and dreaming of faster and higher trips into the blue. The Wright Brothers early beach-hopping experiments inspired Wernher von Braun to design the rockets that destroyed much of London during the final years of World War Two allowed Man to finally escape earth’s atmosphere and put Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin et al on the Moon.

For those of us not fortunate enough to make the grade as NASA graduates or have the necessary millions to join Stephen Hawking on the so-called "Vomit Comet", ordinary earthlings' only chance of escaping Gravity was to take their lives in their hands on an amusement park rollercoaster or take their lives in their hands on a short-haul low-cost flight.

Inspired by the mid-air back-pedalling of Wile E Coyote, construction began on the Grand Canyon Skywalk in 2004 – the ingenious addition of a glass walkway ensuring that visitors would not plummet earthwards – leaving a visitor-shaped hole in the canyon floor below… before being flattened by a loosened boulder… a falling grand piano… and an ACME anvil…

As Buzz Aldrin stepped out onto the Skywalk with the immortal words, “It’s one small step for man, one giant step for… Buzz Aldrin…! Yeah, that’s right…! Buzz F**kin’ Aldrin…! In Your face, Neil Armstrong!” Gravity was done for and let slip its grip on the world.

Gravity will not be buried but released directly into the heavens to drift slowly upwards into the wide, blue yonder – if it doesn’t collide with a plethora of 747s, spy satellites or Professor Stephen Hawking.