Category Archives: superposition

The truth and storms – Irene, Goodnight, 2011

Irene wasn’t really a hurricane when she finally reached New York after some 18 hours of waiting, waiting, waiting.  By 6:00 am on Sunday, August 27, 2011 Irene was a tropical storm.  The most horrifying aspect of the storm for us in Brooklyn was the waiting.  It was like being stuck behind a slow walker or a tourist or a sudden-stopper on the sidewalk.  Horribly aggravating, enough-so to ruin a day, or at least a morning.

I live across the street from the Prospect Park Parade Grounds.  A number of photographs featured on this blog have come from this very street, Caton Ave, some even from the same dining room window from which these two Irene videos.  From this vantage point I was able to record the storm safely.  By 10 am on Sunday, the storm was largely over.

Finally, by the early afternoon I was ready to go find brunch.  After being cooped up in the house for 24 hours, my son and I were eager to get into the fresh air.  On our way, we documented our journey to the Windsor Cafe, just across Prospect Park from here.

Notes and Credits

These videos were taken with my new Canon Powershot SX20 IS.  It’s a baby camera, a point-and-shoot, but it’s a good camera for me.  These videos and hundreds of photos I have taken since buying the camera have convinced me of its fit with my needs.  Ironically, I decided to buy the camera to document my vacation in Nova Scotia with my father and son.  The vacation was set to begin Saturday morning, August 26.  Then my father abruptly canceled, claiming that Hurricane Irene posed too great a danger to travel.  On my end, I though the trip to Nova Scotia would be the perfect hurricane evacuation, which it would have been.  My view, however, was not the majority view, and I lost.  So for Irene, my son and I spent Friday night through Sunday afternoon preparing and enduring the storm.  Ugh.  It was so good to get outside and take these pictures!

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Filed under danger, life, myth, superposition

The truth and unicorns, part 1

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Unicorns are mythical creatures, but many people believe in them.  They don’t necessarily believe in the immanent possibility of seeing a unicorn on the street or in the woods any time soon.  They believe in believing in unicorns.

Myth speaks truth to reality, and the truth is that we need unicorns.  In the dialogue between myth and reality, we see the supposedly real world for what it really is:  impermanent, ever changing, mutable, a place that doesn’t have to be what it seems.  A place that isn’t really all that real, if by real you mean solid, concrete, tangible, or certain.

Without myth, the present is all we have (hello, Leonard Shelby).  Myth helps us to understand the world of now by freeing our dreams of worlds that might be, quite apart from whether or not they ever really happen.  Myth allows us the reveries of worlds lost, races won, loves cherished, sufferings endured.  Myth makes livable the stresses and oppressions of the moment.  Myth binds the present to the possible – the past that was, the past that could have been, the futures that may and may not come to pass, and the imaginary worlds that, without ever existing, will feed our passions and determine which future of the real world will, in fact, come to pass.

Myth is to our mundane world what relativity and quantum mechanics are to the world of Newtonian physics.  Newton’s laws work very well to explain the world of human-level sensory experience.  There’s a reason why an apple hits you on the head, and why every hanging apple on earth will do the same if you put a person under it at the right moment.  Newton explained the stuff we all see and helped us understand what was happening.  His laws extended our vision beyond the moment, predicting futures and explaining pasts.

Then came Einstein, whose Newtonian gaze extended much further than Newton could have dreamt, and in turn demanded a new reckoning.  With the theory of relativity, Einstein pushed our sight into the world of massive bodies – stars and galaxies – and the astronomical distances between them.  At the same time, Einstein’s discoveries also helped others (Max Plank, Neils Bohr, Erwin Schrödinger, and more) to gaze into the world of the infinitesimally small, smaller than the atom itself, and quantum mechanics was born.
The Unicorn in Captivity

The Unicorn in Captivity

At either end of the spectrum – the massive or the tiny – Newton’s laws don’t make sense, even though they explain the world in between quite well.  In relativity, things that happen now might occur before something that happened already, depending on where you’re looking from.  At the quantum level of subatomic particles like electrons and quarks, things can be in two places at the same time.  To believe in the physics of the massive, or of the tiny, is to suspend belief in the world we can see and touch.  And we can deal with that, because our minds constantly ask for more than what’s just beyond our noses.

This is why we have relativity, the 10 or 11 dimensions of string theory, the superposition of quantum particles, positrons and anti-matter, quarks, and unicorns.

Afternote: For a real treat on the marriage of design, art, and Isaac Newton, go to The Newton Project at the Dutch Art Institute.  Click on the artists’ names and see their designs.  My favorite is the one by Meiyu Tao.

Credits

Leonard Shelby:  See the post, “The truth and tattoos” and Memento.

Gold unicorn:  Norman Walsh, photographer, Bristol, England,  http://norman.walsh.name/2003/10/08/bristol.

The Unicorn in Captivity, from “The Hunt Tapestries,” Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Cloisters.  Image from:  http://www.geocities.com/area51/corridor/5177/hunt.html.

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Filed under Albert Einstein, Erwin Schrödinger, ideas, Isaac Newton, Leonard Shelby, myth, philosophy, superposition

Truth and sleeping dogs

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Truth is a sleeping dog.

Truth is in the details.

Truth is a black-light poster in the valley of darkness.

Truth is a symptom of consciousness.

Truth is fear itself.

Truth is the ballad of Echo and Narcissus.

Truth is the other shoe.

Truth is the uncertainty principle.

Truth is a mirage.

Truth is other people.

Truth is superposition.

Truth is the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

Truth is an oasis.

Truth is a fetish.

Truth is just another word for nothing left to do.

Truth is anisotropic.

Truth is a sandcastle.

Truth is absolutely necessary without necessarily being absolute.

Truth is the essence of dissolve.

Truth has fallen in the forest.

Let the truth lie.

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In memoriam: Duke, 1999 – April 5, 2009.  He was a really good dog.

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Filed under Duke, existentialism, superposition

The truth and chickens

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Which came first, the chicken or the egg?

Why did the chicken cross the road?

The first question is impossible to answer according to the ordinary laws of humanly observable nature.  This makes the second question all the more difficult, since we cannot answer it unless we discern whether it was the chicken, or the egg, that crossed the road in the first place.

Like Kafka, chickens have provoked controversies over some very important issues.  And, as with Kafka, the answers to these questions become harder and harder to find the deeper we get into the mundane circumstances of the chicken’s world.  Their lives are a maze of small doors and windows followed by a short plunk on the head in the service of something they will never understand.  They know not who their warders are, and their warders won’t even call the chickens (or the eggs) by name.

Note:  Cage-free chickens, their owners, and their consumers comfort themselves in the thought that these “free” chickens have been spared the Kafkaesque world of their cousins, but they haven’t – and you don’t need to be Sartre to see through this fowl illusion.  Their maze is just bigger and harder to see.  This will become apparent when free chickens reach a road.

The explanation provided by quantum mechanics is mathematically elegant and scientifically consistent, even if it’s at odds with the observable universe:  The superpositioned chicken and egg coexist in perfect harmony until the very moment you attempt to answer the question.  Then you have trouble, because the question forces you to put one thing before the other when in fact their natural state is to coexist in perfect, yet completely reasonable, contradiction.  The superpositioned chicken is both egg and chicken, and it is on both sides of the road at the same time.

This is the paradox of Schrödinger’s chicken.

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Credit: http://animalphotos.info/a/, photo of chicken crossing road with Schrödinger, or possibly Kafka, disguised as a dog, watching in the background.

Inspiration:  http://maghanlusk.com/category/exploration/, “Are You and Antiterminalist?”

See also:  “Schrödinger’s cat”

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Filed under danger, Erwin Schrödinger, existentialism, Franz Kafka, freedom, Jean-Paul Sartre, superposition

The truth and love

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I love you.

We fall in love, declare love, make love, and do crazy little things for love.  We search for love in all the wrong places and find the most incredible fulfillment in even the slightest glimpse of love in our lives.  The trouble with love is that, like the truth, love creates its own parallel universes of contradictory meanings and motives.  Lovers create worlds of intoxicating beauty and lasting contentment, but lovers do things that threaten to destroy love altogether.  Why is it so much easier to reveal our secrets and anxieties to strangers, rather than just tell the one we love?  By the time we can let it out, it’s all too much.

An old pop standard put it like this,

You always hurt the one you love
The one you shouldn’t hurt at all
You always take the sweetest rose
And crush it till the petals fall

You always break the kindest heart
With a hasty word you can’t recall
So If I broke your heart last night
It’s because I love you most of all

Love is the moral equivalent of the superposition of quantum particles – this is the phenomenon in which a small particle, like an electron, seems to be doing two contradictory things at once.  Like an electron, love spins right-side up and upside down all at the same time, and any attempt to know what is going on collapses its ability to be two things at once.  And if it’s not both things at once, it’s not quite the love we desire.  Love is always and everywhere on the precipice of its own demise, the strongest trust suddenly shattered by the right amount of pressure in the right place, the right place being that fault line we’re never really aware of.

The trick with love is to know when to leave well enough alone.  None of this means that love is doomed, or that love isn’t beautiful all on its own.  It is beautiful.  Love moves us, but like Heisenberg, we find that knowing one thing about love essentially blinds us to some other quality that will catch up with us later.

Like love, the truth requires us to remember that beyond the words we say, something else is always implied, even if we can never know what it is until we’ve lost something else.  To bring truth into relationships requires us to remember that contradictions are no mere accidents.  Contradictions – in principles, thoughts, words, or actions – are the substance of the truth and par for the course in the truth of love.

Truth dares us to learn how to heal.  Love dares us to be vulnerable, to be open, and to live without knowing everything about the one we love.  Love is a dangerous beauty, as another well-known song records it,

Some say love, it is a river
that drowns the tender reed
Some say love, it is a razor
that leaves your soul to bleed

Some say love, it is a hunger
an endless aching need
I say love, it is a flower
and you its only seed

At the end of the day, love and truth challenge us to be open to the greatest rewards, in spite of any risk.

Credits:  Allan Roberts and Doris Fisher, “You Always Hurt the One You Love,” sung by many, among other Clarence Frogman Henry and Ringo Starr

Amanda McBroom, “The Rose,” made most famous by Bette Midler

http://www.flowerpictures.net , rose photo.

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Filed under beauty, Bette Midler, Clarence Frogman Henry, danger, love, superposition