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Monday, April 9, 2012

Soliloquy for Two Diamonds

Quantum physics isn’t just far out, its though-the-looking-glass far out – and it can make you see double. According to quantum theory, objects can be two places at once. “Superposition” its called, and recently Oxford researchers devised a laboratory demonstration

They placed two diamonds about six inches apart and fired photons (laser pulses) through a device called a beam splitter. Most of the photons went toward one diamond or the other, but a few went both ways at the same time! Yes, its counter-intuitive, but it happened. 

When the amazing two-track photons struck the pair of diamonds, they caused vibrations called phonons within each of the crystals. But because the diamonds were “entangled” – meaning that even though separated in space, they were sharing one vibration between them – it was (inherently) impossible to know which diamond was vibrating. 

Diamonds, photons, entanglements? Diamonds have always been mixed up with entanglement – nothing new there. But for something, photons in this case, to be superpositioned, or in two places at once – that’s a bit unusual. 

What if people were superpositionable, too – stay with me here – like photons? What if we had numinous twins or doppelgangers, doubles of ourselves who were still, well, just us? Might this account for stuff like astral projection or explain the mystery of quantum divergence? 

Imagine standing in front of and behind – at the same time, I mean – your interlocutor, clapping him on the shoulder forwards and back, conversing in stereo, making comments coming and going. Of course, you might just be talking in circles the way I’m doing right now. On the other hand, you might be experiencing quantum divergence, preternatural existence in two places at once, as did Groucho Marx several decades ago. 

In a memorable scene from A Day at the Races, the seductive Esther Muir ("Flo") urges Groucho to “Hold me closer…closer…closer!” 

A Day at the Races (MGM, 1937)
“If I hold you any closer," quips Groucho (Dr. Hachenbush) offhandedly, "I'll be in back of you.” 

Groucho, for whom nuclear fission probably went more to mitosis than megatons, would likely have had his own ideas about superposition, especially when it came to flora like "Flo." You imagine him morphing from in front of her to behind, and in the mind’s eye, readily see him in both places at once – Groucho was just that libidinous. 

Too, like some stand-up Lewis Carroll, he had an amazing facility with the highly implausible. “Either he’s dead or my watch has stopped,” exclaims Dr. Hachenbush.

And what of astral projection, the “out-of-body” experience common to many religions and spiritual beliefs? Could this be an example of superposition, with the votary’s quantum double zooming up to loftier astral planes while his quotidian earthly self stays put? Or are astral projectionists merely out of the their gourds, not their bodies, enraptured by, say, those last few tokes of the roach? (Even the first puffs of landmines like Arjan's Haze or Big King Bud may set psyche and soul to sharing a phonon between them.) 

Or who knows? Maybe it’s both. In order to disjoin quotidian from quantum, perhaps you must take leave of your entangled wits with the aid of a beam splitter like ganja.

Still, so long as ganja’s verboten, you might want to keep your hemp habit as photon-free as you can. After all, you can’t be in two places at once – Wal-Mart and the joint. No one should be of two minds about that.

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