Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Alone and Unobserved (a short story)

The year is 3715 AD. While a swarm of constructor nanobots were excavating the ruins of some civilization in the area of Old California, a make shift fall-out shelter was discovered in an almost undamaged state. Inside it was a mummified remains of a human male who; through Submolecular DNA Half-life Analysis, was determined to have lived about 1000 years ago and had a life span of 400 years, making it the oldest documented human of all time. Next to the body, a box containing letters, clippings and notes was found. All the letters were addressed to a certain [undisclosed name] including the one published below for public consumption:

January 1, 2010

To my ever loyal [undisclosed name];

The gravity of the situation is preventing me from greeting you on this supposedly joyful holiday. (Nevertheless, I’ll just pray that you and your future (no matter how long or short it might be), will be showered with happiness and goodwill.)

I have already contemplated diligently every aspect of this decision. I have considered each and every consequence of my choice and among all these, leaving you was the gravest.

Many people have already asked why I have chosen to do this. They ask if living alone on a secluded cave is worth leaving all I have in my life. I give them a brief, scientific answer. Surprisingly, as technical as my answer may have seem, they would understand. But then again, the craziness of my idea may have given them the impression that I am indeed crazy, and that I deserve to be locked away from “normal” people like them.

I am giving you the most detailed and most accurate answer, as you are a scientist like me and you would never accept a shallow explanation like what I give the others.

Surely you know Erwin Schrödinger, and his thought experiment. He is by far my most favorite free thinker of the modern world. Only a mind like his could come up with the most profound and meaningful ideas. His was the reason I’m doing this. He and his cat. I am of course talking about his thought experiment, commonly known as Schroedinger’s Cat.

"...A cat is penned up in a steel chamber, along with the following device (which must be secured against direct interference by the cat): in a Geiger counter there is a tiny bit of radioactive substance, so small, that perhaps in the course of the hour one of the atoms decays, but also, with equal probability, perhaps none; if it happens, the counter tube discharges and through a relay releases a hammer which shatters a small flask of hydrocyanic acid. If one has left this entire system to itself for an hour, one would say that the cat still lives if meanwhile no atom has decayed. The psi-function of the entire system would express this by having in it the living and dead cat (pardon the expression) mixed or smeared out in equal parts..."

This can be interpreted as a criticism to the concept of superposition, which states that in a subatomic scale, a particle exists in a superposition of all its possible positions until it undergoes quantum measurement. In the experiment, it can be deduced that the cat exists in all its possible states until one actually opens the box and observes it. That is, unobserved, the cat could be both alive AND dead.

Which can be further generalized to everything for that matter. Thus my reason to remain alone and secluded. Without anyone observing me, I can be both alive and dead at the same time but definitely not dead. Alone and unobserved, I can be immortal!!!

Come to think of it, the act of observing really shortens the lifespan of anything. Look at what happened to our virgin rainforest. Without man knowing of its existence, it would have stood there unharmed for eternity. Yet, once man learned of it, it was gone in a flash.

Look at our vast marine ecosystem, the great animals, and the free birds— who once flourished on earth. Who would have thought these noble creatures would disappear in a blink. It is our fault. We discovered them, and now we destroyed them.

And look at our civilization. We started tinkering, we began questioning, and we began observing. Now we are on a steep descent, with nothing to stop us but destruction of ourselves.

So, I chose to seclude my self. So that I might salvage what is remaining of my humanity. And in the process I will become an immortal.

That is the short of it. Good luck to you on the outside.

Your friend,
Dr. Pen Rose