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Thursday, May 04, 2006

Generation gap

Dr Piers Stockton
Of Cambridge University,
Is spending the day
With his young nephew,
Aged 8.

They find themselves
In a hamburger emporium
In the remote
Cathedral city of Ely.

Despite the fact
That both his parents
Read arts subjects
At a northern university,
Young Alexander is
A surprisingly bright child.

Dr Stockton is introducing him
To the rudiments
Of quantum mechanics.

“Now obviously, Alexander,
In a classical mechanical system,
The state-space
Composed of n particles,
Obtained by specifying the values
Of 6n real-valued quantities —
Three components of position and
Three of momentum
For each particle in the system —
Is a 6n-dimensional coordinate space ….”

“May I have another
Butterscotch milkshake,
Uncle Piers?”

“Not until you’ve grasped
The rudiments
Of quantum mechanics,

“But Uncle, that will take
Millions of years
And by then
All the butterscotch milkshakes
Will have become the
Fossilised artefacts
Of a bygone age.”

“Only if you accept uncritically
The prevailing Western notion
Of linear time,

“Yes, Uncle Piers.”

“Now clearly, the situation
Is a little different
In quantum mechanics,
Where there are mathematically
Describable ways
Of combining the values
Of the quantities
That don't represent
Physically possible states.
Indeed, the state-spaces
Of quantum mechanics
Are special kinds of vector spaces,
Called Hilbert spaces ….”

“When I grow up,
Uncle Piers,
I’m going to be a politician.
And then I’m going to
Use my power to
Steal some extra votes
In Florida, Ohio and Sedgefield,
And become
A benign dictator.
And then when I am
A benign dictator,
I will ban all science –
Not just practical science –
I will ban all talking
And all thinking
About science.
Only in that way
Can the world
Become a better place.”

“Yes, Alexander.”

The Piers Stockton cycle of koans

More Norfolk koans

Science = Religion ?

Index of blog contents

Spirituality websites worth watching

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