I don't want to distract from the usual excitement surrounding a football weekend, but since UCLA and the 49ers won't play until next week, my mind wandered as it does occasionally - I'm in my 70s, so I'm entitled to lapses - to the Luskin Conference Center and what I see as the unfortunate set of priorities that allowed plans for the center to go forward.
(I assume the Luskins' motivations are commendable, but among the many other uses to which I think this money could have been put, there is the matter of the increasing costs of college and the potential value of scholarships for the many students now struggling to complete their studies.)
So, as I say, my mind wandered, and to make things worse, I looked at a site I often read, UCLA Newsroom (public relations central), and saw that ground had been broken for the center. That story, in turn, led to several others, and that's when I had what I think of as my Eureka! moment, specifically an article that appeared in April of last year in the UCLA Magazine. The story included the usual assortment of reasons to embrace the center, but it had something else as well. After first explaining the current situation, with its assumed limits, the writer then offered an alternative scenario with words to live by - or, perhaps, NOT to live by:
"Now imagine this: You're booked into an equally affordable seven-story conference center in the heart of campus, mere yards away from Ackerman Union and Pauley Pavilion. Your meetings are at the conference center, where you also can eat and work out. Between meetings, you see exhibitions at the Fowler Museum and browse in the bookstore. One night you catch a basketball game at Pauley; the next, you see ballet at Royce Hall. Westwood Village, with restaurants, shopping and movies, is a short stroll down the street."
Imagine my surprise - shock would be a better word - at reading the last sentence. "Westwood Village ... is a short stroll down the street." Have I missed the point or has one of the principal arguments for the center been that hotels off campus are too far away for those who attend conferences at UCLA? (BTW, if you have a minute, Google hotels in Westwood Village. There seems to be an interesting variety, to my untutored mind.)
At times, I can be compulsive, to a fault, as my wife often points out, but I couldn't get beyond this suggestion in the UCLA Magazine. I'm a humanities/social science guy who made a career in journalism. But even as a generalist, I know some of the basic parameters of physics; at least, I thought I knew them before I was enlightened by this issue of UCLA Magazine.
I suppose one starts with Einstein's belief - a core principle, as I understand it - that nothing can go faster than the speed of light, 186,000 miles a second. But is that really true, I asked myself, if it's possible to go faster (remember, we're talking about foot traffic, so congestion doesn't matter) in one direction than the other while following the same route? Perhaps in walking from campus to the village, travelers benefit from a time or space warp, which is not available to those walking from the village to campus.
At any rate, one of the unfortunate consequences of all this is that we now have reason to find fault with how UCLA's public relations staff works. I mean, if the supporters of the conference center have discovered it's faster to walk in one direction than the other on the same route, there may be myriad possibilities in the physical universe that we haven't thought of. Does this, for example, make space travel more feasible in the near future?
So far, I haven't heard a word from the news bureau at UCLA. Have you?