Saturday, October 17, 2009

Werner Heisenberg: Clueless or Just Uncertain?

When looking at behavior through the lens of quantum physics, it is helpful to keep in mind that the major thrust of examination is matter, which is expressed as particle for the purpose of investigating properties such as form,intensity, and location.  

There is an expressed duality in matter, which can present itself as wave or particle, a fact that more or less made the day for a physicist named Werner Heisenberg, of uncertainty fame.  Through the Heisenberg uncertainty principal, we are able to say, quantum physics style, that a watched pot does boil faster.  Heisenberg demonstrated that position and momentum, two properties of matter, cannot be known simultaneously to arbitrary precision.  In fact, the more one property is known, the less certain can we be of the other.

When looking at story through the lens of a vital dramatic quality such as, say,ambiguity, we have the duality of character and plot, which is to say the two elements cannot be known simultaneously to a certainty that the character produces or determines plot or the plot determines the behavior of the character.

Since we are on the subjects of ambiguity and duality, each of which I introduced as essential to the quantum physics of story, I posit that these conditions are to one another as character is to plot and, indeed, as wave is to particle.  

I wish to present a scenario in which a character says and or does something that will lead most readers to conclude the character is, arbitrarily, happy or, just as arbitrarily, unhappy.  The more the behavior of the character is tracked in terms of action, the greater the potential for a not insignificant portion of the audience to interpret the emotional outcome differently than my intention.  (We will not dwell for any time on the But-it-really-happened-that-way defense because the writer who does so is presenting evidence that the narrative is not drama but rather biography or journalism.)

Story has to present a duality, not so much for the democracy/bureaucracy of free choice as for the ambiguity resident in event, which is after all the staple of story.  Enough event and you have the basic unit of story, which is the scene.
Quantum mechanics presents a particle as being able to be represented in a mathematical formula that will indicate more or less where it can be found or in what state, an ambiguity that has to be reckoned with in a measurable way.  

Story also has propositions or proposals, but these thrive on the duality of possible interpretation and the ambiguity of intent triggered in the beholder.  I am, the protagonist says in story.  You are what? the duality asks.  I am vulnerable.  How is that to be measured and why should we care?  

That is to be measured by the degree to which you realize you are vulnerable, the degree to which this makes us aware of our own vulnerability, and the plan(s) you have devised or need to devise to extricate yourself, as well as what overall effect this will have on you.

The agony of moral choice which the protagonist in a character-driven drama is driven to make is one way of charting, quantum mechanics style.  How instructive would it be to graph out Henry Tudor (aka VIII), Thomas Moore, and Cromwell as each pursued the quantum mechanics of his agenda.

1 comment:

Querulous Squirrel said...

What a wonderful application of the Uncertainty Principle. My old empiricist professors would roll over in their graves if they were dead.