Sunday Salon 9 November 2008
Anyway, food at the art gallery (which shall remain nameless) was very bad: dried up bread rolls, unbearably (and mysteriously) hot spicy soup which made our eyes water and noses run, even drier cakes and it took so long to pay for our tea that by the time we took it to our table it was cold. Null points - as they say in all the best Eurovision Song Contests.
However, I did read a book: FRED AND EDIE by Jill Dawson, which I loved - a mainly epistolary tale about a woman on trial for murdering her husband ... and not because he'd made her go and see questionable artworks in unfavourable conditions. At the end of it I briefly considered whether I preferred this book (which was short-listed for the Orange Prize and the Whitbread (now the Costa)) over another of her great books, WILD BOY, and decided I did not. Although both books are excellent, WILD BOY haunts me still - it is very clever, moving and made me reconsider few things I thought I knew.
Ah well, back to Quantum Theory Cannot Hurt You: I am, of course, learning a lot. It is the Salavador Dali of science. Nothing is what it seems. Concepts seem to flow and distort like semi-liquid clocks...and I have just read an explanation of why quantum mechanics only applies to the microscopic world, and why a photon can be at two places at once. Marcus Chown made this all seem like prefect sense when I was reading it, but unfortunately, now I try to recall it, it doesn't. It was something to do with a photon having the properties of both a particle and a wave ... and that if you take a single photon, since it is a wave it can have two components, so one component can go through a glass window while the other component is reflected back and so - voilá - two places at once.
Then, again, looking at it from the point of view of Everett's multiple universes, one component is in one universe and another is in another, and when they finish travelling, in order to see them they must come together in a sort of constructive (or destructive) interference ... but these interferences are vulnerable, delicate things - easily degraded by the environment, even the act of looking at them can extinguish them ... which is why, in the macroscopic world, where everything is necessarily observed, the interferences are destroyed, and so nothing, in quantum mechanical terms, can be measured ...argh...back to Marcus, who makes much more sense.
Added later: For another take on 'this sort of thing' see Gordon McCabe's hilarious review of the film 'Quantum of Solace'.