Multiple Enthusiasms

Infinite jest. Excellent fancy. Flashes of merriment.

Tag: quantum physics

Love this.

I’ve read a lot about all the people who are worried that CERN’s upcoming activation of the Large Hadron Collider on Wednesday is going to either:

a) destroy the world,

b) open up the gate to hell, which will destroy the world, or

c) create a microblackhole, which will suck the Earth through it, which will (you guessed it) destroy the world.

Obviously, all this speculation has a common denominator:

that, according to Brian Cox, a professor at Manchester University, anyone who believes any of it is a ‘twat.’

Which is awesome.  I’m so tired of ignorant people who claim that both sides of any argument need to be given some attention.  This is why the creation/evolution argument is still a debate; people want to be tolerant of other people’s views/beliefs, whether those beliefs are inherently ignorant or not (they are).

Scientists get death threats over Large Hadron Collider – Telegraph.

I’ve been reading more stories, lately, about the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN, which is the European Organization for Nuclear Research (its acronym refers to the French Conseil Europeen pour la Recherche Nucleaire, which was its original provisional body before it became an organization in 1954). CERN is on the Franco-Swiss border in Geneva, and its reason for being is fundamental physics.

I’ve always been fascinated by physics, though in specific ways; I always sucked at math, and indeed nearly flunked physics in college, but I’ve always loved the study of black holes and relativity (at least, so nearly as I can understand them). When I was in high school, I read Leon Lederman’s The God Particle; I got through the first few chapters but then gave up when it started with its equations (which has always been where my brain shuts off. Numbers, fine, but I can’t handle letters if they’re not in writing and books).

The LHC is the latest in a series of 8 particle accelerators, which use electric fields to propel charged particles at high speeds. Basically, I think of it like if two bullets struck each other to explode and you studied the fragments, which is probably overly simplistic, but I’m no physicist. But the general idea, I think, is that, like, two protons or quarks or whathaveyou will collide to explode, thereby freeing the particles that make them up, and scientists are most excited about one theoretical particle in particular: the Higgs boson. It is, so far, theoretical, but it’s the only particle predicted by the Standard Model of particle physics that hasn’t been observed; scientists hypothesize that it may be the particle behind the property of mass.

They are excited because, as it is the largest, most advanced, and most powerful accelerator ever, they believe that the LHC experiments might produce one.

Some, however, have speculated it’s not all the LHC might produce.

As with everything that very few people fully understand, one of the things I’ve been reading about the LHC is the catastrophic results that may or may not occur. Everything from some wild speculation that it might cause a microscopic blackhole that could, in turn, suck the planet through it to the wilder speculation that one of its explosions might release enough energy to cause a small tear in the fabric of spacetime that would actually be a doorway into Hell and allow Satan and his legions of demons through to initiate the endtimes. In his novel FlashForward, Robert Sawyer wrote a story in which, for 8 minutes, all of human consciousness flashed forward a certain amount of years (I’d link to it, but I ultimately thought it was pretty bad). Richard Cox explored the idea of the Higgs in his novel The God Particle, which is more of a technothriller (and, to my tastes, better [though not quite as good as Cox’s other book, Rift]).

But the coolest, most awesome speculation I’ve heard?

That the LHC won’t actually work.

Because apparently, if it does work when they fire it up, the effects it produces might cause backward ripples in time, which could prevent its previous self from properly functioning.

I’ll give you a second to read that sentence again.

Z. O. M. G.

It’s one of the most exciting ideas I’ve ever heard in my life.

Of course, admittedly, the chances of its occurring are probably slim to none, and Slim just left. But even still, just the fact that a couple of major scientists (one from the University of Copenhagen, the other from Kyoto University, so it ain’t like they’re academic slouches, or anything) think it’s possible just blows my frickin’ mind.

I’ll admit I’m also excited for a rather selfish reason. You see, both the Higgs boson and CERN figure into The Prodigal Hour as major plot points. And yes, I tell you that to tease.

You can read more about CERN and the LHC here.

Not long ago, for my business course, I had to do some market research for ‘competitive’ projects; books or other media that were somewhat like mine but not so much. Acknowledging there’s anything out there remotely similar is difficult; whoever wants to admit that their stories aren’t actually unique? One’s first instinct, often, is to point out differences; no, that’s not at all like what I did. My characters are like this. Etc.

While browsing through time travel fiction on Amazon, though, I encountered a novel called Discipline, by Paco Ahlgren I’ll admit I clicked through, at first, based on its cover; it really is a good-looking book, with a well designed (if rather vague, now that I think about it) cover. Its description mentioned quantum mechanics, time travel, and Buddhism, and I was all kinds of like “Sold.” It also mentioned chess, which is up there with golf in terms of activities I just don’t get, but I figured, hey, I’ll give it a go anyway.

The novel follows Jasper Cole as he learns about some unique abilities he has. It’s approximately like The Matrix, story-wise, except without the Matrix thing itself, which I liked; Ahlgren sets everything pretty much here and now, and its ‘fantasy’ elements can be explained away to quantum physics/mechanics. Uncertainty principles and the like.

This is an idea I’ve been fascinated with; the question of reality, and what it means. There are places where philosophy and quantum physics supercollide, and this novel is sort of about them.

It’s not perfect. There are some long sections of pretty much completely expository dialogue, where one character explains something to another pretty much for the sake of the reader. Cole, too, comes off like a whiny little bitch sometimes because his mentors feel, at moments, that he is not yet ready for new concepts, which would be fine except one gets the impression Ahlgren is simply holding his cards just yet, which makes Cole reader-proxy. It clunks down at times, and it neither starts nor ends well; I get the sense it’s because it’s the first in a planned series, but still it could have satisfied more.

At the same time I ordered Alhgren’s, I ordered Caprice Crane’s new book, Forget About It. The premise is rather awesome; a girl with a life she doesn’t much like gets into an accident, so she fakes amnesia for a ‘do-over.’ I was a huge fan of Crane’s first novel, Stupid and Contagious, with which this new one shared its wit and charm.

It isn’t quite without its problems, either; for a do-over, its protagonist, Jordan, starts down pretty much the same path she’d led before. She’s a bit of a pushover (which is part of the premise), but she also seems like she tries her best to avoid every confrontation she could have with people. Which is true to life, certainly, but novels aren’t life.

Overall, I enjoyed it for what it was; light and fun, with some romance and plenty of humor.

So what was the last good book you read? I’m looking for suggestions for my next read.

And by the way, A couple new photos (again of fountains) over at Imagery.