Friday, March 30, 2007

Lowenkopf's Uncertainty Principle

A quantum is an invisible entity of energy, say a poem, or short story, or novel. Quantum physics defines the position and momentum of an entity, say a poem, short story or novel.

A vector is an arrow drawn to scale, representing the magnitude and direction of an entity, say a poem, short story, novel, or photograph as it moves from its source somewhere in its creator to its impact point with a section of the viewers kishke.

Conjugate variables is another term from physics that seeks to define such observable dualities as magnitude and direction, time and space, or possibly even time and energy.

Werner Heisenberg, arguably one of the more insightful interpreters of quantum mechanics, noted the increased difficulty in measuring such conjugate variables. Thus the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, reduced to simplistic image with the observation: A watched pot never boils. 

 The more accuracy with which we measure one of the variables, the greater the uncertainty attending our ability to measure, much less define the variables. Indeed, Heisenberg's spectral self seems to be hovering over those physicists who are trying to define the initial state of our universe, thinking this would allow them to be able to predict behavior in the universe infinitely into the future.

Asking what makes a poem, short story, or novel linger in my sensitivities and, accordingly, in any one's sensitivities, brings Heisenberg to mind as a conjugate variable with the Irish poet, William Butler Yeats. In the admittedly alternate universe in which I live, I find it necessary to have the quanta defined by poets and scientists. Yeats, one of my great favorites, was nuttier than the proverbial fruitcake. Indeed:

The Ballad of Wandering Aengus

I went out to the hazel wood,
Because a fire was in my head,
I cut and peeled a hazel wand,
And hooked a berry to a thread;
And when white moths were on the wing,
And moth-like stars were flickering out,
I dropped the berry in a stream,
And caught a little silver trout.

When I had laid it on the floor
I went to blow the fire aflame,
But something rustled on the floor,
And someone called me by my name;
It had become a glimmering girl
With apple blossom in her hair
Who called me by my name and ran
And faded in the brightening air.

Though I am old with wandering
Through hollow lands and hilly lands.
I will find out where she has gone,
And kiss her lips and hold her hands;
And walk among long dappled grass,
And pluck till time and times are done
The silver apples of the moon,
The golden apples of the sun.

Heisenberg was able to walk among the long dappled grass of mathematics and the relationship of concepts. I am happy to think of him as My Man in Science.

You have only to know me to recognize that I dote on modern short story writers and novelists, even though I have spoken with affection in these entries of Hawthorne. I also add herewith D. H. Lawrence, whose splendid and diverse stories, "The Blacksmith's Daughter," and "The Rocking-Horse Winner," represent some lovely alpha and omega, respectively a gem from a rural landscape and another from an urban one. For me, these two have clearly lasted, withstood the test of time in the linear accelerator that passes for my mind. I can and will revisit them, speak of them with enthusiasm. Today, on Ben Huff's post, I saw two photos that gave me the most agreeable chills, a decidedly good sign.

As a writer, a reader, a reviewer, and a teacher, I bring four conjugate variables to the dinner table. Poems, short stories, novels, and photographs, since I began by mentioning these separate arts, are quanta, sometimes wave, sometimes particle, sometimes--amazingly--both. Attempting to apply a scientific judgment to them somehow deflects or undercuts the brilliance of the light they emit and my ability to bathe in that light.

This week is Oldie Week for my book review column. I have chosen Glendon Swarthout's remarkable, Bless the Beasts and Children, first published in 1970. You can read the review here.

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