Popular Science

Schrödinger's Inspiration

Having an undergrad education in physics meant many things. I’ve remember seeing college football players in NCAA majored in the same topic and I wondered if they can not only score hotter girls than I can, but crunch gaussians better and faster.

Jokingly aside, I’ve always been troubled by my natural ineloquence, let alone when attempting to explain to people the fundamentals of particle physics and what little of the standard model that I know. Forget about telling people what the hell chiral symmetry means in application to QCD–I barely remember what it means myself. Having lacking formal education on modern physics made things difficult to some degree. Quantum math notation looks familiar but means little more than gibberish to me.

Well, that’s not the worse part. If you are asking me to explain these things to you, it probably means you are even worse off. Trying to explain the basic idea of M-Theory isn’t out of my reach, when I’m talking to my friend who has a PhD in chemistry. Trying to explain why photons have no mass is a magnitude harder when I’m talking to my sister, who barely passed high school math. Why do I lament? Or bother in the first place? Because theoretical physics is wonderful.

When Makoto Shinkai teased about teleportation of matter off our 3-brane in his wizardry, ivory tower in the trailer for Beyond the Clouds, I was excited. In fact, knowing his shtick it was the only unexpected element in his then-new film that left me curious plot-wise. It’s a terribly uncertain plot device, and for good reasons.

And it was to good effect for those who know. I fear that’s not a large group. However now that I’ve given some thought as far as if some breed of M-theory were to debut in popular fiction, this is possibly the most elegant and mood-matching way to do it. For starters, it is just nigh impossible to even come up with an abstraction that we can visualize. PBS’s series on string theory tried pretty hard and it works for the most part, but that kind of luxury is reserved for documentaries. Even if in reality all that wonderful science served not much more than wallpaper for background scenes, evoking the proper subtext to uphold (at least) my suspension of beliefs was a treat of a lifetime. Or at least I hope as it being the first of many to come.

But to be fair the quantum divide is not new. John Bell‘s entanglement experiment is marvel, and you can read about it even in science fiction books (or catch Noein). One could even consider Rahxephon in such a light. Granted, the show itself didn’t at all evoke the science, but the science fits the show to a tee. From the divide of Tokyo Jupiter to its liberal aural allogories, it all draws from the same spring physicists draws their inspirations.

Einstein did say imagination is more important than knowledge.

I sort of miss the days when science fiction was the predominant form of geek entertainment. It’s not to say the old days were better than the new days, but in our pursuit of the Good Story or Perfect Flair, we can forget that details may warrant our attention in as of itself. Neon Genesis Evangelion is one of such example, and the details were what made its equally compelling drama credible. It is the glue that allowed for a harem with giant robots to be taken seriously. I can say even more about Serial Experiments Lain–some of its fans are fans only of its subject matter. Even a show like Scrapped Princess relies on its careful symphony of pressing the right sci-fi/fantasy buttons in order to take us the whole way through Pacifica’s philosophical dilemma.

It matters.


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