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Speculative Fiction 'JACK AND JILL: An Existential Problem'

Arun Somasekharan, Warping of a Strange Attractor


"Characters from a nursery rhyme? That’s new!” Jill was amused. Then she was silent for a moment as she further processed what Jack had said. “But how would these strange realities come into existence if the odds of that happening are miniscule?" she asked with furrowed eyebrows.

"Ah, now you ask the right question, Jill," Jack smiled at her.

"Reality, or let's say the universe, is just a superposition of quantum wave functions for all possible states, from which immediate reality is derived based on the probability of the states," as he explained his brows furrowed and his eyes gained an intensity that she was familiar with. Jill could fully-well comprehend Jack's preoccupation with the subject. He was even more endearing now.

Jack continued, "There are infinite probable realities, most of which have the tiniest of the tiniest fraction of a chance to decohere. Information is a key player in creating those probable realities. In this case of the well, for instance, the moment you thought about the hand, it has become a probable reality. The information in your head has just added a new state. Although it is a reality that would never see the light of day, unless its probability becomes favourable due to some work performed by something to make it a reality. Information is physical as it requires energy and space. The probability of a state becoming a reality increases when more and more information is generated for that state. Now this has wider implications in the creation and propagation of quantum states. It's a quantum information system."

He paused theatrically. "Are you with me, so far? What's wrong?" He noticed Jill smiling at him.

"Aside from the quantum information bit, completely with you, sort of. Nothing’s wrong. Just watching you. I love watching you explaining complex topics," Jill teased and he blushed.

"Ahem ok, so where was I? Ah, yes reality states. And don't worry about quantum thermodynamics. We'll come to that later. Now for reality states to come into existence, probabilities of those states would need to become favourable. And something, that is unknowable to us, influences those probabilities. I think that is what Kant was implying philosophically through his doctrine of transcendental idealism. If observation is a means to decohere a state, change probabilities, then maybe we can assume that there is an unknown thing that observes and changes probabilities of superpositioned quantum waves of reality," he looked at her wide-eyed.

"You mean an ultimate observer? God?" Jill was surprised and wondered if the discussion they were having all this while was leading up to some sort of spiritual reconciliation.

"No, not a God nor a demon or any sort of intelligence. The observer need not strictly be a conscious being. It could be something, anything. But with a capability to affect probabilities," Jack clarified.

"Ok let me ask you this, why is there a need for an ultimate observer? If, we, as observers can affect probabilities, then can we not create realities?" Jill countered.

"You're right. We can affect and create realities through observation, but in a localised region not extending beyond the quantum range perhaps," he pointed out. "The type of probabilistic effects that I'm talking about cascades from the quantum world out into the macro. And as we ourselves are within this universe our causality radius is limited. We could only affect those events that fall inside our causality radius, nothing outside of it. Which, as I said before, is not larger than quantum dimensions."

"I'm having a hard time believing that there's something influencing the course of action our lives take. That our fates are written by some larger-than-life-as-we-know-it force?" Jill said with some perplexity.

"Ah no. Nothing actively affects our lives. We're too tiny and too unimportant in this vast universe. Reality is created and it is entirely up to us to decide what to do with it. But the reality created, I believe, is a remnant of wave function collapse from a chain of causal events that is beyond our understanding. I mean the higher realities of which we are just a tiny ripple. This decoherence is brought about by an act of observation of said events by the unknowable thing," he corrected.

"So, things that we haven't even seen are brought into existence, because this... unknowable thing observed it at some point. If it is unknowable, how do we know what it is? I have a feeling that is the point to which you are arriving," Jill posed the question with a quizzical look on her face.

Jack had the hint of a smile on his face as he studied her.

"That is the ultimate question, isn't it? Ok, think about this, how can you conclude that the Earth is spherical without leaving its surface?"

"Well, look for a ship at sea and watch it disappear over the horizon. Or use lasers to tag markers at periodic distances and measure the height of the tag on the markers, maybe. I don't know, you tell me, you're the scientist,"Jill challenged.

"Actually, that was quite good, Jill. Especially the laser one. Very intuitive," Jack complimented her.

Jill felt a flutter in her chest. She felt a hot flush.

"I guess the point I'm trying to make is that you have to observe things externally to your local context to get the bigger picture. If you are inside the universe how do you know what it looks like from the outside?" he clarified.

"Are you planning to travel outside the known Universe then, Jack?" Jill asked, half seriously.

"Nothing so elaborate, but you got the outside part right. You don't have to travel outside the universe. In order to definitively check if the Earth is a sphere, you just need to send a satellite into space, right? And examine the photos you receive. I was thinking along the same lines. I needed a satellite. It had to be something created through a process divorced from the formation processes found in our Universe. It had to be external, an out-of-context object, capable of context violation. Such an object, by the very act of being present in this Universe, could cause a probabilistic turbulence in reality waveforms, corporealising the unknowable into something that we could perceive."

"Jack, sometimes you speak of the strangest things,"she smiled at him. "But I guess that's why I like you. You unground me, from my otherwise grounded existence, with such strange conversations," she gave him a nudge.

"Anyways, what is that?" Jill asked probing further about the box. “And you cannot change the subject again,” said assertively.

Jack glanced at the box and turned away, as though unsure about whether he wanted to reveal what was in the box.

"I was working on something the past few days, at the accelerator lab," he was looking out to the distance as he said it. He turned to the box, picked it and placed it in front of them, on the grass and gave it a pat. "This is a stasis field," he said as if that made everything clear.

He looked at her. "Going back to our conversation, remember I was telling you about an outside-context object?" Jill nodded.

"This box contains an outside-context object. It's called a Boltzmann Brain. The only one in existence."

"A brain? You have someone's brain in there?" Jill asked incredulously. The expression on her face was abject horror.

To be continued...

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