the bridge

No. 16 in the series Tuesday’s Torrent.

Photograph courtesy of Tim Corbeel.

Capital “T” Truth

A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.

~ Max Plank


Before Thais was interested in architecture she had an ambitious interest in physics.


Thais became engrossed in physics after reading a paper published in 1933 by the Swiss astronomer Fritz Zwicky showing that visible matter is only a small fraction of the universe. She learned that just 18 percent of the matter in the universe is composed of the material we know and the remaining 82 percent constitutes ‘dark matter’.

Dark matter is made of a type of particle that doesn’t like to interact with normal matter very often and it is very heavy and very massive. It is rather difficult to find dark matter given it doesn’t interact much with other particles so the way to go about the search for it is to wait for a particle of dark matter to come into contact with other matters in detector machines.


Thereafter, Thais left her studies in Cairo to learn more about dark matter.


She came across many astronomers in Geneva, Switzerland who reinforced this view. Thais learned that the presence of dark matter helps explain why our galaxy is stable. Having been brought up near the ancient Girga Road in Egypt, she already knew The Milky Way is a disk that rotates like a merry-go-around and what keeps it from flying apart is gravity. There isn’t enough visible matter in the galaxy to account for the amount of gravity needed to hold it together therefore the existence of ‘dark matter.’

“That is why we know that there must be other matter there that we can’t see.”

Sometimes a sentence, like saying a particular name, is a falsetto that reverberates our core.


Thais couldn’t focus on her physics studies thereafter and choose not to finish her research in astronomy. Instead, she left for Abruzzo, Italy, the region’s western border resting less than 50 miles (80 km) east of Rome.

A student of philosophy, her neighbor, had once casually mentioned a man named Gus somewhere in Abruzzo who knew of a different dark matter. It was said that Gus was an old man who was a direct descendant of the Praetutii, who were an ancient tribe of central Italy.


Thais didn’t expect to find Gus but she left for Italy anyhow not knowing she wanted to recall what she could once see.


Thais did meet Gus because she got on the wrong train which took her to the city of L’Aquila. L’Aquila sits upon a hillside in the middle of a narrow valley surrounded by tall snow-capped mountains of the Gran Sasso.

At L’Aquila, while trying to arrange her way back to Rome, Thais had a short conversation with a blind woman who was on her way to the sheep herding village of Assergi. The blind woman was headed up to the mountains near Assergi to reach the spring of San Franco.

Thais didn’t know about San Franco and she had never heard of the town of Assergi. Thais told the blind woman she must head back to Rome to ask about a man named Gus and shared what little she knew about Gus. Thais could barely hide her surprise when the blind woman told her Gus is the man who gives directions to the spring and caves of San Franco, also more properly known as Saint Francisco Assergi.


It was a night filled with fog and few stars when Thais finally met Gus.

Perhaps it was her hair rolled under a men’s motoring cap, instead of a scarf over her head, that lead Gus to mistake Thais for a boy at first, despite her lissome figure.


“You are not here to find the path of Saint Francisco Assergi.”

“No.”

“You are not a boy. I was expecting to meet a boy.”

“You were expecting me?”

“I was expecting to meet a boy.”

“I get confused for a boy sometimes,” Thais said, hopeful this information would alleviate the disappointment.

Gus wanted to say he knew but didn’t care to speak unnecessarily.

Thais told her all that she had learned about the dark matter and Gus listened.

They sat quietly, not quite facing each other, breathing fog onto fog, for quite sometime.

“They still don’t know what the dark matter is,” Thais said aloud, surprised at the sound of her own voice. She continued, “They may never find proof of it. But they know it exists. So they keep looking.”

“Have you ever stood on a bridge and looked down?” Gus asked Thais instead.

“Yes.”

“What do you see?”

“A reflection.”

“Of?”

“The architecture, myself, everything. Depends how far away the bridge is from the body of water.”

“The reflection is clear.”

“No,” replied Thais. Then asked, unsure, “It is?”

Gus didn’t answer.

“Depends on the water I guess,” said Thais.

“Depends what you are looking to see,” replied Gus.

“You know what that is?” Thais jumped at the sudden movement by the old man as he reached his hand out and touched her stomach.

“My solar plexus,” Thais said.

Here there is a nerve plexus situated behind the stomach and in front of the aorta and the crura of the diaphragm and contains several ganglia distributing nerve fibers to the viscera,” said Gus, pulling away his hand.

“The bridge between what you do and don’t understand is the Soular Plexus of Spirit Nerves. That’s the other dark matter.”


Thais didn’t sleep well that night and the following day, before leaving Assergi, she came to say goodbye to Gus.


“I suppose I go on looking for this bridge,” Thais said, “not knowing if it even exists.”


“Provando e riprovando,” said the old man and then added, “you should know those aren’t my words.”

“Galileo said them, I know,” Thais replied. She continued, “I also know it means ‘experimenting and confirming’.”

“More accurately, ‘trying and trying again’.”


Thais began to understand the architecture of a search for something one may never find.

The search is the bridge. For dark matter within and out.



Initial research provided by an interview article on Elena Aprile in the July/August 2010 issue of Discover magazine.

2 thoughts on “the bridge

  1. Bravo! There were too many phrases which I found delightful, that if I were to list them here, I would simply be reprinting the post in its entirity. So I say it again, Bravo.

    The historical references and the science really add a wonderful texture to this story.

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