Note — Mar 14, 2021

The Edge of Our Existence

The other part of the title is “A particle physicist examines the architecture of society.” Which, to me anyway, frames the piece as some kind of analytical decrypting of society, it’s actually something much more heartfelt. Dr. Yangyang Cheng takes us from her childhood in China, to her immigration in the US, and the evolution of her thinking since then. Making astute observations on real and metaphorical walls, inequality, privilege, race, the colonization previous forms of knowledge by science, the barriers and assumptions of language in science, then some history, and the sci-fi of Liu Cixin (she’s really not a fan) thrown into the mix. Even with that enumeration, I’m not including everything. Just a really good read.

Sometimes, walls do not appear in clay or concrete. They take shape through uniformed officers and flashing blue lights, through property deeds and zoning policy, through food deserts and underfunded public schools. […]

In The Wandering Earth, our planet is converted into an intergalactic spaceship, but its society and politics have barely evolved: The nation-state outlives the sun. An engineer by training, Liu, like many of his peers, is more comfortable bending the laws of gravity than reimagining the forms of government. […]

Doctors and nurses run short on protective gear, while the police use military-grade equipment to disperse peaceful protesters. The ones without a shelter cannot shelter in place. The ones without the luxury of space, the poor and the incarcerated, cannot practice social distancing. The system rewards grifters at the top and traps the less fortunate in cycles of despair. […]

The border is not an edge but a new beginning. The ones who have persevered in the periphery hold the key to our future survival. Their presence disrupts our comfort, challenges our norms, uncovers the paucity of our moral imagination.