Heat Death 101

The clip of the professor’s entrance was shown – years later – at a psychology seminar. The combined conclusion of the audience was that he “floated in with a strange grace like a hot-air balloon.”

That was not an unfair description. Professor Yano looked like a bodybuilder, but he moved as though underwater – it is disorienting to see such a volume moving with ballet-esque form. The effect is redoubled since the volume has a fixed reputation for being an alarmist doomsday prophet.

“Welcome – ” Professor Yano slapped his lecture notes onto the podium – “to – ” he strode over to the first of the sliding blackboards and wedged his hands underneath, tensing himself – “Heat Death One-oh-ONE!” and he flung the blackboard upwards, revealing the grimly scrawled course title on the board beneath.

The blackboard flew up, bounced off the frame, and came uncertainly down again, mostly covering up the words. Professor Yano did not move. The rest of 155 2/3 Dwinelle did not move, except the one student in lightweight rowing (caught mid-yawn, he was left with his mouth gaping open).

“This is a small class,” said Professor Yano, still facing the chalkboard. “You are all expecting syllabi right now.” A statement of fact, and BANG. “You are here to learn about how it all ends and when it all ends, not to worry about syllabi!” he’d slapped the board for extra emphasis, and whirled round wide-eyed to glare at his students.

The portion of 155 2/3 Dwinelle not onstage was only slightly more composed than the evangelical professor. Even for unconventional and liberal instructors, this bordered on being radical.

“My name is Professor M. Yano, PhD. The ‘Ph’ means ‘acidly,’ and the ‘D’ of course can only mean ‘deranged.’ I will be your instructor for this two-unit course about the ultimate death of everything, everything, EVERYTHING, from which there is no escape. December 21 was NOTHING. The sum of all doomsday predictions ever made is NOTHING.Your family, your friends, your home, your happiness, will all be NOTHING. There’s no coda. There’s no additional reading. There’s no extra credit. You, me, EVERYONE – we’re all DEAD!”

And nobody had anything to say to this.


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