By DAVID NG
First of all, I totally get it. You’re watching Super Friends or reading some Justice League of America comic book, and what do you see? Wonder Woman floating in mid air, in what is apparently an “invisible jet.” And for some reason, the fact that you know that it’s an invisible jet (because someone has gone to the trouble of outlining the jet with white phantom lines), is supposedly meant to make this OK.
Except that it doesn’t. You know this and I know this, and well, everybody knows this. Because the truth is: Wonder Woman looks kind of stupid floating in mid air. I mean, seriously, what is the point of having an invisible jet if the pilot—and a pilot wearing bright sparkly superhero colors—is so… well… visible?
So I get all the hate, I totally do.
But listen: I invented that invisible jet! That invisible jet is my research. It’s my baby.
And the reality is that the invisible jet was never meant to hide the pilot. It was just meant to be invisible on its own. If you don’t believe me, then by all means, look it up—my doctoral dissertation and my research publications are quite clear about this.
Wonder Woman totally got this. Actually, she was pretty amazing about it. She was like, “whoa… invisible jet… that’s pretty cool.” And then I was all like, “Yeah, but you know that it’s only the jet that goes invisible right? You know that you won’t be invisible when you sit inside it, right?” And she was like, “Yeah, I get it, but that’s OK, because well… invisible-freaking-jet!”
She basically said that it was totally fine to spend a whole bunch of her money on it because (a), it was a good way to support interesting science, and (b), well… it was just awesome.
Unfortunately, her Super Friends buddies were all idiots about it. They were all like, “Diana… you know we can still see you?” And Superman was prone to flying in a seated position and making steering motions and going, “look at me,.. who am I?” Meanwhile, Batman was all like “my utility belt is way cooler.”
But she knew what was going on. She knew that the reality was this: that the jet is a goddamn SCIENTIFIC MARVEL! Something that should be admired—because ingenuity, years of hard work, and significant research funds was all involved to develop that piece of technology.
Now, do I want to continue my research so that things entering the jet also become invisible? Sure—because that would also be pretty awesome. And maybe, one day, I will work on that research goal, and if I do, Wonder Woman is totally going to get first dibs on that piece of hardware.
Because listen, folks: this is how science works, one small step at a time. It’s not fast (like a speeding bullet), or able to make progress (in single bounds). It’s not about gimmicky quick fixes (like the kind you pack in a utility belt), and it takes serious investment (we’re not all caped billionaires with money for caves and batmobiles). This discovery stuff is slow and incremental, and that my friends, is the honest to goodness Lasso of Truth.
(Originally published at McSweeney’s)