Saturday, December 26, 2009

Quantum Physics as Mythology

Perhaps I'm searching too hard to explain reality beyond our senses, as I posited in my last post. The problem, as I see it, is trying to describe a reality beyond the one we know and connect it to the world we live in. Since we live in a world of cold matter on one hand and abstract thought and emotion on the other, maybe I don't need to look so hard.

As I said in the previous post, explaining the contents of kibble to a dog is beyond purpose. The dog can't grasp it and the owner should know that. Yet when marketers sell tinned dog food with chunks of meat, carrot and peas, some owners imagine that this makes a difference to the dog. It's the same conversation, only visual. These owners imagine the dog will understand the concept of peas and carrots if they look like them more than if they were pureed or freeze dried.

Advertizers personify everything into talking images that tell us we should love them so much we want to brush with them, chew them up, cure our ills or kill our environment with them.

So how could a lowly SF writer such as myself take advantage of the human need to personify everything we see and touch to describe and define a quantum world? I think the physics community treats the layman as the dog in this analogy instead of the owner. They explain it to each other in mathematical metaphors like branes, multi-dimensions, strings and so forth that require a good deal of noodle work and leave us poor dogs staring uncomprehending at the mess of peas.

The ancients like Greek and Mayans were on to this long before Madison Avenue. Creating myths to personify the universe helped to explain complex ideas to common folk. For example, the Titan, Cronus, devoured his children because the sages told him one of his sons would overthrow him one day. So his wife, Rhea, feeds him rocks and hides her baby Zeus who grows up to kill the old man. This story reaches us profoundly on a gut level so that we don't need to overexplain it.

I wonder if there's a way to reach people with quantum mechanics on a similar wavelength? I guess I have my work cut out for me.


  1. Ok John, so your blog is deep but i enjoy food for thought ( perhaps peas and carrots).
    I look forward to the easy explanation.
    I am just beginning to find my way around blogs. Yours has a great deal to peruse.

  2. I look forward to the easy explanation, too, Kathie. First, I guess I need a name for my mythology.