Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Quantum Leap Year

If you’ve ever studied Quantum physics or even watched the series, “Quantum Leap,” you know the principle behind Schrodinger’s Cat.

For those non followers of the captain of Enterprise before he was Captain Jonathan Archer, the theory works as follows: The scientist puts a live cat in an enclosed chamber with a compressed bottle of poisonous gas. The gas is released into the chamber. At some point, the cat inhales the substance and ceases to be alive. But until one opens the box, one cannot know if the cat still lives or has ceased to be. In the interest of full disclosure, this summation comes via the internet and it's many wise references, I am not taking physics on the side in my spare time.

Schrodinger meant it as a mental illustration of more complex issues that are beyond my wee brain. Some yahoos who didn’t get this as a theoretical exercise, created the Many Worlds interpretation, and gave rise to multiple bad cross issue storylines in comic books and television shows in the late 80’s.

In the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics, which does not single out observation as a special process, both alive and dead states of the cat persist, but are "decoherent" from each other. When the box is opened, that part of the universe containing the observer and cat is split into two separate universes; one containing an observer looking at a box with a dead cat, one containing an observer looking at a box with a live cat.

In other words, in one universe, I am looking at a winning ticket for the lottery. In another universe, I’m looking at a worthless scrap of paper that entitled the state of Maryland to two extra bucks of my money. I have trouble with this theory if only because I wonder what determines a decoherent universe creation. The flap of a butterfly’s wing? Chosing Diet Coke over Diet Pepsi? The consequences of not just a decision but every action and even inaction take on cosmic significance. Inhale, a universe now exists. Exhale, oh look, another.

The range of alteration I presume depends upon the origin of that other world’s existence. For example, in some universe other than this one, decoherent is a word that means something other than how I am before my first diet coke in the morning, because someone created a “Don’t Tase Me Bro Leave Brittany Alone!” moment for Youtube that made it “The Word for 2008.” I imagine in that other universe, I fulfilled the resolutions I made last year, rendering this year’s resolutions superfluous.

Living in that wonderverse, where Wikipedia is accurate, baseball players never used steroids and campaign commercials are banned until after the 4th of July the year of the election, I’m a discovered highly financially and professionally revered author. SUV’s emit gases that smell faintly of chocolate chip cookies, eliminates unwanted cellulite and provides additional conditioning for dry or dyed fine hair. All toddlers in my home are toilet trained and I’ve mastered Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, including the hard middle part that has kept me trying to learn the piece since I got the piano back in 2003. I’ve also lost twenty pounds via diet and exercise.

So this year, my resolution is to find a way to live in the universe where the Schrodinger cat still lives, and hope this week’s winning lottery numbers are 3, 7, 8, 11, 23, and 25.

Happy New Year!


Ello said...

What an insightful and then hilarious post! Loved the little physics lesson - something I was never good at even though my mother was a physics major and tried to force me to like it. But, I was a big fan of Quantum Leap!

Happy New year to you and can you let me into your wonderuniverse also? I need to shed some poundage!

elasticwaistbandlady said...

Well SUV's don't smell like cookies but there is an iventor in England who fixed up his car to run on turkey fat. Of course he's not American but he stated that his car smells like a Thanksgiving feast every single day!

In a parallel universe is a smiling infidel that conquered her internet obsession like she promised to do in 2007. :)

SherryTex said...

I'm from Beaumont, raised there.

Leaving a comment is a form of free tipping. But this lets me purchase diet coke and chocolate.

If you sneak my work, No Chocolate for You!