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Waiting for the light to turn green

Some stop signs have been added at a few intersections in town lately and it's a good thing. It gives the guys on the less traveled streets a chance to get across the intersections where their streets have stop signs before but the other streets didn't. Now the four way stops level the playing field for cars coming from all directions. But an added bonus is that with more time being stopped, there is more time for thinking.

In case you believe very little thinking ever takes place while vehicles are standing still, consider the case of Leo Szilard, a Hungarian physicist who was an old friend of Albert Einstein. (If you thought Einstein was one tall glass of beer, you can stop reading now and finish your six pack.) Szilard worked in Berlin in the 1920s, then got out ahead of the Nazis and made his way to England in the 1930s and eventually ended up working at Columbia University in New York City on ways to create a nuclear chain reaction. Regardless of what you think of the idea of nuclear chain reactions (nuclear power? nuclear weapons?), the idea of creating nuclear chain reactions was conceived by Szilard while he was waiting at a stoplight in London a few years earlier.

Just think about that for a minute. What can you do while waiting at a stoplight? The choices are many. They include: a. Listen to mind numbing music, b. Listen to mind numbing talk radio, c. Sing to yourself, d. Fly into road rage, e. Talk on your cell phone, f. Text your teenage friends, g. Read bumper stickers, or h. Think about something important.

I was recently in bumper to bumper stop and go traffic coming out of Minneapolis at rush hour. In my mirror I could see a young woman in an SUV just behind me chatting on her cell phone. This wasn't a quick call about picking up the kids or getting a loaf of bread on the way home, this was a marathon call about "guess who I bumped into today and you wouldn't believe what she's gotten into..." The conversation went on so long she had to switch the phone to her other hand because of arm or ear fatigue. We started and stopped about every 20 feet. I just knew she was going to smash into me. I was hoping I could be a calm gentlemen when it finally happened. I was so obsessed with her on the phone I was a danger to the guy ahead of me. She never did hit me and I never did hit the guy ahead -- all she did was prime me for road rage -- a total waste of time and emotional juice.

Instead I should have been thinking about something important. After all, we still have diseases to cure, problems to solve and inventions to invent. Let's see, we still have cancer, diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer's Disease, Parkinsons, Down syndrome, blindness, crime, economic problems, governors running off to Argentina, carbon dioxide in the air, global warming, a health care system in question, worries about Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, North Korea and private issues like marriage, parenthood, the family, fidelity, jobs, security, retirement, faith, love and hope. All these issues can be pondered in depth while waiting for the light to turn green or for traffic to get moving.

I could have been thinking about the "Big Bang." Discoveries in astronomy and physics suggest beyond a reasonable doubt that our universe did have an abrupt beginning. Prior to that moment, there was nothing. They called the beginning the "Big Bang." What caused that to happen? A universe just doesn't come from nowhere. That was probably Day One of the creation. Adam and Eve didn't arrive until millions of years later on the Day Six of creation. It all fits. With Leo Szilard dead and gone, somebody has to ponder these questions when the light is red. Oh excuse me, the light just turned green -- I've got to be moving along.