Quantum physics


Blogging at this time of the year runs the risk of falling into the black hole caused by the gravity of Christ-mass. It has so much pull regardless of what it means to individuals there is no escaping it. So here’s me skirting around the event horizon trying not to fall in and realising I’m already there. Black holes are theoretical and mysterious and darn right scary which is how I feel about most aspects of anything associated with Christmas.

I’m all for people wanting to celebrate and attach whatever significance or value they want but how about the option to not participate. In much the same way as quantum physics tries to explain black holes, we have formulas for doing Christmas from whatever perspective you want to take, but it’s still compulsory.

So I’m picking a side and going with the full on Santa version. The one for the kids where anything is possible so long as there is an adult willing to stick their reputation on the line and fully embrace the concept that candy canes will grow out of the garden if you plant tic tacs. Why Santa? Because it is not about me and I can legitimately indulge in fantasy and make believe with full entitlement and bring joy to children by demonstrating that being open to the idea that however unlikely something might be it could be and that sometimes the permission to wonder and dream is the biggest gift you can give.

Having said that, I’m still waiting for my HMX Supermax BMX from 1981...yip still a kid, maybe Santa can time travel? Heck if he can get around the world in one night he’s got some Tardis type qualities in that sleigh so bring it on!


A Plutonic Relationship

It has taken nearly 10 years for the New Horizons to reach Pluto. Radio signals take four and a half hours to get back, nothing new if you’re used to trying to get a response from a call centre. Pluto represents a threshold of sorts. Probes are the new ships of discovery at the mercy of Newtons laws and the winds of political and scientific change. Billions of kilometres travelled and yet not even a stones throw from our door step. On the same day another group of physicist discovered a new quantum particle, a pentaquark. Pluto or particle these are moments of wonder to expand our still limited and sheltered understanding of reality. But as we look outward and beyond or inward I can’t discern the difference. I feel simultaneously a drop of water in the ocean and the ocean. However above all else seeing other planets that have no life as we know it living on them reminds me of how absolutely insane the human race is. Our relationship with the world we inhabit is nothing short of psychopathic. We are not custodians but criminals at best. There is only one thing driving the ecosystem to the brink and it is us. If there was a lonely planet guide for the earth it might read something like:

“The jewel of this system with liquid water and amazing biodiversity. However it is currently experiencing a human plague so best to give a wide berth as they are hostile and paranoid with egos and childlike needs for power. Their selfishness and fear is matched only by their untapped creativity and love. The level of contamination and destruction of life this one species has created in the name of what they call progress suggests they will either destroy themselves along with this wonderful one of a kind world or die trying. Explore the rich ocean life while you can. Remember they believe they are the only intelligent life to have ever existed so best to go incognito. If you intend to stay for a while masquerading as a scientist is easy just do not tell them they are wrong about anything and best not to leave anything behind they could blow themselves up with, they discovered nuclear power and still haven’t learnt their lesson. The best example of a human disguise is going by the name Steven Hawking, however the physiology did not merge so well in the end. Finally you will need to get used to the concept of money. Again, do not try and convince them do not need it to survive”.

Thanks science for the amazing pictures but what really needs a good probe is us.

Sleighing Santa With Science

I break into a cold sweat around this time of year. For me at least, Christmas represents a morphing of social, cultural, religious, and consumerstic psychosis, wrapped in narcissism and tied with ribbons of expectation, contradiction and excitement. It is a potent combination and one that is set to stay for some time yet, so those of us who feel like the ‘festive’ season is more like a festering sore season need to find ways to cope because to be outed as anti Christmas is rapidly becoming less acceptable than wearing crocs to a wedding.

I’ve also been pondering the dilemma’s parents face when the Santa subject inevitably comes up. Parents are entitled to a short window of blackmail each year. What better way to emotionally manipulate small children into complying that to threaten the potential for complete rejection from big red himself. In a world rapidly running out of a love of mystery and the unknown, where imagination and the realm of folk-law is being eradicated by the insatiable rationalistic machinations of science, we have a curious opportunity as a culture to blend some of the new sciences such as quantum physics with these colourful patchwork rituals that seem to be permanently sewn into our collective consciousness.

This is not to say I am an expert in quantum physics (people get pretty zealous when it comes to stating an ‘understanding’ of this kind of knowledge). However it is hard to ignore the allure of some of its more popular concepts that have become fodder for life coaches and gurus world wide espousing the power of ‘manifestation’. But with science making the quantum world more available as a backdrop for conversations, where time and space can be overcome and reality is ever unfolding, we can make some tentative connections to the role of consciousness and the observable world. Rational, logical, empiricist parents may now safely enter the Santa conversation armed with scientific back up! Here are a couple of simple explanations exploiting BASIC quantum physics:

Schrodingers Santa – This is based loosely on the experiment conducted by Erwin Schrodinger about the relationship between the location of particles and consciousness which has spawned the somewhat macabre obsession with killing cats…perhaps Gareth Morgan is related. Anyway Schrodingers Cat: Very simply cat is in a box, there is something deadly in the box with the cat (gunpowder or poisonous gas…depending on choice of death…ethics were a little different in the 1930’s) the fate of the cat is tied in with the observer, the cat is both alive and dead until the box is opened…or something close to that (plenty of Youtube videos willing to explain it to you much better than I can). So here is my Santa version, as he comes down the chimney this is ‘the box’ and upon waking in the morning ‘naughty or nice’ will be decided by what is under the tree. So this means that santa list is only valid until the moment of waking in the morning – all possibilities exist until children wake up. It means being able to extend the ‘be good or else’ hold for so much longer.

Santas special sleigh – if time and space can be overcome through manipulating wormholes or creating star gates of sorts then it is possible for Santa to cover the entire world in one night because he would have the power to time travel. The sleigh would be for show and the santa sack would be a quantum field of infinite depth where all presents would fit. Anti-gravity technology fits the sleigh and the reindeer of course could stay as part of the picture as he doesn’t want to leave a carbon footprint…just a snowy one.

The awkward conundrum for those in the southern hemisphere is the seasonal issue. Explaining why Santa is dressed in a coat and is dressed for the snow is kind of hard in the middle of summer. The fact that Santa is based at the North Pole could mean that he needs to stay cold so has built a force field around the sleigh to keep him feeling at home. Having said that, the capricious nature of NZ summers means it could be snowing in the South Island at Christmas.

So there are a couple of possibilities to get people started. I will continue to remain proudly detached from Christmas as a whole, but I respect those who have particular rituals, and beliefs that add to the significance of this time of year. My wish this year is for people to think beyond presents to presence and make the most of the connections and love with all things.

No cats were harmed in the writing of this blog…yet…just be mindful if they are playing in boxes.