The Canadian Writers' Collective

Writing, and writerly tangents

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

The Existential Nature of Visitation

by Steve Gajadhar

Clean up the house, put away the Xbox, and get a haircut. It’s time to entertain, to cook and drink and have deep meaningful conversations on religion and pseudoscience. We have visitors! Canadian ones! And this reaffirms something oh so important for me: Canada still existed 4 days ago.

Yes, if a tree falls and all that BS (I need something to keep this blog going…). You see, according to some of the quirkier aspects of quantum physics things don’t exist (take shape to be more precise) until someone or something interacts with them and I haven’t interacted with Canada since I renewed my work Visa 4 months ago. Keep your hands down class. I realize that there are others interacting with Canada, and therefore keeping it around, but let me have my fun.

First a brief explanation of the probabilistic nature of quantum mechanics:

According to our current sub-atomic physical model of the universe everything is fuzzy. Fuzzy like an infinite, uneven shag carpet. Bear with me! Say you’re eating some toast over the carpet and a single crumb tumbles from your lips to the shag. For arguments sake let’s say that your crumb didn’t fall straight down, but could have fallen anywhere in the whole infinite shag rug. Odds are it didn’t. Odds are (like 99.9999987655%) it did fall reasonably straight down from your messy mouth. The real quirk is that you won’t know until you get down on your hands and knees and look for it. Until then, the crumb exists as a probability fuzz-wave-membrane spread across the whole rug. Think of each fiber of the shag as a probability spike in the membrane-fuzzy thing that contains the potentiality of the crumb—the higher the spike the greater the probability that the crumb will be found there. At your feet the shag fibers will be considerably taller than the fibers found throughout the rest of the carpet, and this symbolizes the massive probability that the crumb will be found near your feet. Your act of looking for it makes the crumb randomly choose where it will exist, but it doesn’t exist until you actually look for it. And if you repeated this whole crumb dropping fiasco a few billion times that crumb just might pop into existence in the heart of the sun, or in the lower left corner of the Horsehead Nebula. Here’s the point: at its smallest scales the Universe (our visible portion of it) doesn’t exist in a definite location until we interact with it. Sort of pulls the rug out from under you doesn’t it? I’ll understand if you stop reading now…

Let’s say I take the view that the Universe has no independent existence outside of my perception of it. If I’m not looking it’s not there. This is a popular philosophical quandary, one that’s been getting kicked around for quite some time. The logical extension of my taking this view is that Canada doesn’t exist unless I’m interacting with it, because it’s my interaction that makes the Universe exist, and not anyone else’s. Apply this same axiom to our Canadian visitors: Canada exists for them when they are interacting with it. So that means that Canada existed up until the point they left to come to Hawaii (and Hawaii didn’t exist until they stepped off the plane).

And that’s why I love having visitors! I admit this is specious at best, but I’m filling up space with words. This can get deeper, so much deeper, so much much deeper that I’m getting a headache just thinking about it.

Next post: how many angels can fit on the head of a pin?

Next next post: if it takes interaction to make things exist, then who, or what, is continually interacting with each of us?



Blogger Andrew Tibbetts said...

Can you interact with yourself, Steve? Or is that illegal in some States?

Wed Sep 06, 05:03:00 am GMT-4  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

This kind of thinking can drive you INSANE! Is it time for you to come home?

Wed Sep 06, 03:03:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Steve Gajadhar said...

Nah, we luv it here!

Wed Sep 06, 05:31:00 pm GMT-4  
Anonymous redpen said...

Nicely written analogy, Steven. I hardly notice the clash of gears as you deftly ratchet up from sub-atomic scales to our macroscopic everyday experience. Quantum tunnelling means I can walk through walls, right?

Wed Sep 06, 06:32:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Steve Gajadhar said...

Yep. You've got about a .0000000000000000000000000897% chance of making it.

Wed Sep 06, 10:16:00 pm GMT-4  

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