Jennifer’s cat

2010-08-07 00:00

NOW I wrote a couple of weeks ago about the Watchtower hit squad who cornered me in my front garden and the theologicobobble debate which ensued, and how this ended with the old duck in charge flinging down the gauntlet with her final knock-’em-down-dead challenge: All right, prove there is no God. Take your time. I’m waiting. You needn’t wait, said I, because it’s against the rules of logic to prove a negative. If I said to you You know, there’s a T-Rex other side of the Berea, and if you said you didn’t believe me, I couldn’t say to you: Well prove there isn’t a T-Rex there, and if you can’t prove there isn’t then it follows that there is one there.

Well me old chum and honderd-perdekrag Godfearing-type lady name of Jennifer McKenzie, who is a scientist nogal (Chemistry), she reads this and emails me chopchop saying: What about Schrödinger’s Cat, then? And I have to go and sit down a bit, because in South Africa if you enter into any serious debate it’s generally bloody bitter because you have to prove, whatever it takes, that your ideological stance is the correct one. Only this lady hasn’t learned how to be bitter, it’s against the rules of science.

So then, what Herr Schrödinger said some 80+ years ago was v. naughty then and remains v. naughty to this day. He said if you put a cat in a box with some poison then by classical reason you can say after a bit that the cat is either dead or alive, and the only way you’re going to find out is by opening the box. Not so, says Herr S, before you open the box the cat is both dead and alive, each condition in its own spacetime continuum, each condition has a Wave of Probability, and by opening the box you collapse the wave of one or the other, and the one you collapsed continues in its own spacetime universe. Which is to say there’s an infinite number of universes. It got called the Many Worlds Interpretation. Laws were for the time of Isaac Newton, theories for the time of Darwin, you could put them to the test. This is an interpetation because you can’t test it, but I like it because it is so bloody startling, it is not for the smug.

So I sit down, as above, and take a noggin to steady the mind. And suddenly with noggin #3 or so it occurs to me that if Herr S. were to come to me with his T-Rex-behind-the-Berea bullshit he’d have to prove to me beforehand that he had a T-Rex to put or not put behind the Berea. Otherwise he could come to me and say there was or was not a Chinese Dragon behing the Berea, or Satan himself, which God forfend. Come to that, he could say that God Himself was or was not behind the Berea, and if the Watchtower Hitsquad were to go and have a look they might collapse the wrong probability and find they were in a Godless universe and God had shunted off to another parallel one, which doesn’t bear thinking about. Please, dear reader, remember this is hard science we’re talking about, though that’s hard to believe at times. There’s a Nobel Prize waiting over there for any one of you who can nail together the physics of the wee tiny sub-atomic micro-Universe and that of what we choose to call the everyday observable macro-Universe, the universe of stars, planets, grandfather clocks and wind-up toys, Newton’s universe.

Newton’s equations are reversible, see, they would apply to the pendulum of the grandfather clock whether this clock was running forwards or backwards. Everything was utterly predictable and God was in His Heaven, forever. Then ±150 years ago came the dreadful shock of Entropy, which declares that all physical systems fall into increasing disorder. Thermodynamics, heat and motion, which caused industrial revolutionists to shudder because it meant decreasing profit as their coal gave out and their steam-engines malfunctioned . Entropy implied the Arrow of Time, see, time moves in one direction, birth to death of the Universe and all within it. Fine for Godpeople, the creationists. Then give it another 100 years or so and up comes the Big Bang idea, everything came out of a point of no size, a singularity, which all ungodpeople seem to believe these days although we’re dealing with less than 10% of the Universe, the rest being unobservable Dark Matter, and a big bang is merely another way of saying creationism. Just add a god to the recipe and we’re all cosy again.

And all the while, way down there where it really itches, the sub-atomic world goes about its weird business. Events can both happen and not happen, particles go in and out of existence, be in two places at the same time, such like nonsense, all according to mathematics using the square root of minus numbers and other absurdities. And I’d better believe it, the computer I’m working on was designed according to the same maths. Maybe Jennifer will explain what God was doing before he created the Universe, and what the hell gave him the idea of making a place as daft as this. He must have had baked beans in His Head.

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