Empire of the drones: Terrence Howard takes us where no actor has gone before

<span>Photograph: Étienne Laurent/EPA</span>
Photograph: Étienne Laurent/EPA

In this day and age, it has become common for movie stars to develop their own little side hustles. Gwyneth Paltrow, for instance, has Goop, and Rob Lowe has a podcast. And then there is Terrence Howard. Terrence Howard’s side hustle is developing a new hydrogen technology to help defend the sovereignty of Uganda.

It almost feels like a shame to back this up with anything as ugly as details, but here goes. Last week, the actor, singer and aborted War Machine Terrence Howard was invited by Uganda’s agriculture minister Frank Tumwebaze to give an address to help attract investment from people in the Ugandan diaspora.

This in itself is fairly common. Getting a famous person to say some blandly inoffensive things about a subject or issue has long been part of the awareness-raising toolkit. However, this time there was a problem. The problem was that Terrence Howard doesn’t do blandly inoffensive. No, Terrence Howard only does impenetrably batshit.

“I went out to explore a new way of understanding how the universe works,” he told the crowd in a video that was quickly shared by UBC Uganda. “I was able to define the grand unified field equation they’ve been looking for, and put it into geometry. What I am saying is that we have invented a new form of flight that I would like to bring here to Uganda to replace the drones, to replace the helicopters, to replace the planes … This is the geometry of hydrogen”.

On and on he went, somehow managing to cram several decades’ worth of gobbledygook into two short minutes. He talked about his new drone system, the Lynchpin, that can apparently use unlimited hydrogen bonding and super-symmetry in order to form swarming colonies that can defend countries and remove plastics from the ocean.

Now, obviously this sounds wonderful, because who doesn’t want to have safer borders and cleaner seas backed by the power of super-symmetry? So I Googled “Super Symmetry” and found a website called Super Symmetrical Systems, which does little but blather on about how humanity’s purpose “was deliberately branded into our genetic code. Like a sub-atomic, interwoven prime directive for us to search for the Greater Truth, to recall lost echoes of conversations from the past and to reveal that which has never been uncovered”.

So I started clicking around, and found a link on the site called “Terry on Wave Fields”. This took me to the site where Terrence Howard explains his infamous (and arguably inaccurate) claim that one multiplied by one equals two. It contains one video entitled “Terrence proves gravity is an effect not a cause”, captioned by an explanation for phenomena such as “hyperbolic geometric inertial systems” and “Non-Euclidean chiral asymmetries of force in motion”. It also contains another video, of Terrence Howard singing the second song from an album he released in 2008.

Anyway, long story short, I am now convinced that Terrence Howard is the cleverest man in the universe. He has to be, surely. Because I don’t understand a single thing that he says. And, by all accounts, nor does anyone else.

Underneath the UBC tweet, you will find scores of people all painfully unsure of how to react to his solution of the unified field equation. All the coverage it received, far from luring the diaspora’s money to Uganda, only really achieves a kind of stunned inability to process anything. Even the people around Howard in the clip start to look actively uncomfortable the more he keeps talking, the same way you do when you realise you’re too far into a conversation with a Jehovah’s Witness to politely back out.

Oh fine, listen, one of two things is going to happen here. Either Terrence Howard has gone bananas, and reacted to the disintegration of his personal reputation (he has been accused of domestic abuse multiple times) by falling into a hole of obscure mathematics that will ensure he is never taken seriously again. Or he is right, and will one day have an army of weaponised super-symmetrical murder drones at his solitary disposal. And I don’t exactly want to get on his bad side if that happens, so you’ll excuse me for sitting on the fence.