When I read articles and references about the universe and quantum theory, I have to tread lightly (loosely interpreted as, I’m way out of my league). My degree is in biological sciences. Physics and advanced mathematics had me shaking during exam time, but that was a hundred years ago. Reading Brian Greene’s, “The Elegant Universe”, and Richard Panek’s, “The 4% Universe”, took more than one sitting per chapter. Stephen Hawking’s, “Briefer History of Time”, a rewritten version of his earlier publication so nimrods like me might understand it, still sits partially read on my nightstand, mocking me for being a wuss.
So why do I torture myself? Because writing with science fiction elements today, one must be familiar with terms used in quantum theory 101 (or in my case, just “one”). What makes current quantum theory so much different, are recent discoveries that theoretically explain things we once made-up for fun. Fermions, bosons, black holes, wormholes, dark matter, dark energy, multiverses … neat stuff … though I’m sure astrophysicists have better descriptors than neat. And holy solar flare, Einstein’s theories are actually in question with discovery of particles traveling faster than light.
A recent review by WSJ’s John Gribbin, “The Loose Ends of the Universe“, summarized a book by Scientific American’s George Musser, with a title coined by Einstein to describe entangled particles, “Spooky Action at a Distance.” I like Gribbin’s reviews. He cliff-notes in simpler language complicated theories to spare me a WTF glaze-over in chapter one. And who can resist the use of Spooky in science literature?
“… Particles that have once interacted with each other seem to remain in some sense ‘entangled’ even when they are far apart. Poke one particle, in the right quantum-mechanical way, and the other particle jumps, instantly, even if it is on the other side of the universe.”
The fun doesn’t stop there. According to Gribbin, the premise of Musser’s book takes Quantum Field Theory into new territory with the concept of “Locality” versus “Non-Locality”. To paraphrase in simple terms, Locality is what we can see and measure in Einstein’s, nothing-is-faster-than-light universe. Non-Locality suggests the universe is composed of very different stuff, which allows for entangled particles from opposite ends of the universe to affect each other, and can certainly flout the light speed limitation, possibly using mini-wormholes to do it. To refine the explanation, you can read Musser’s Space.com interview here.
Musser goes on to suggest our “Local” universe might be alike a holographic image projected from a “Non-Local” higher reality. I’m reminded of the movie, “Men in Black”, where our universe existed within a universe inside a sphere, in which aliens used in a game of marbles. As far as I’m concerned, you are on your own with this one.
So why am I blogging about it? Because I’m at a critical juncture in my current story where I must decide between time-honored, space opera mechanics, or choose the newly forged path of today’s newer theories (like the movie, Interstellar). I’m going to get paint-balled for this, but if I read one more story with dauntless space soldiers on the bridge of a cruiser clicking 10X light speed, I might consider going back to reading fantasy. I can hear it now. So go … and don’t let the pod-bay door slam your ass while exiting.
No really … it’s not that I don’t like classic space opera. It’s more like we can’t just make shit up anymore. Granted, we had to ignore Einstein’s Theory of Relativity if we were going to have any fun. No way could we travel between galactic neighbors if light speed kept us locked within our own solar system, destined to watch cosmic events from afar. Today, the real possibility of connected or “entangled” particles within the Non-Local universe brings potential legitimacy to sci-fi story mechanics. This shit might actually get real … someday.
I still have to keep the science simple so as not to come across like Buck Rogers and the Clueless Author. I’m thinking string theory entanglement is a good approach to moving between cosmic addresses with my new project. Fun part, translation – shit I make up, is figuring how my intrepid characters create the mechanics of it at will, so it doesn’t sound like I … made it up.
And I still get to use cool words like wormhole.
BTW, if you’re looking for a killer, spot-on accurate reference for planetary world building, check out Stephen L. Gillett’s, “World-Building, A Writer’s Guide to Constructing Star Systems and Life-Supporting Planets“. Mine is a bit dog-eared.
As for all those science articles I collect to help me understand the universe we live in, I have a rather robust Pinterest Board from folks who know a thing or two. Feel free to visit it. I’m always adding to it.