Sunday, June 19, 2011


“What is the name of the newest element in the universe?”

AOD had stumbled upon a series of articles about advancements in technology realized in the year 2010. She had already enlightened us on LHC details, that King Tut had now died of malaria, that hobbit people found in Indonesia were named Homo floresiensis (which I found especially interesting), and that someone had rolled out a prototype mosquito-zapping laser fence.

DORK-MINIUM!” answered AYD.

“It is Element 117, and a halide. It was discovered in Dubna Russia. They observed six atoms of the new element, each of which decayed in less than a millisecond.” continued AOD without pause.

DORK-ONIUM!” Answered AYD.

Ununseptium; though this is just a temporary name. They will choose a permanent name once the experiments showing it exists have been repeated.” answered AOD.

“If it is a halide shouldn't the name end in 'ine; like chlorine or bromine, or iodine?” I asked.

DORK-INE!” answered AYD.

AYD was having a difficult time with AOD. AOD had messed up a delicate arrangement of the father's day Buckyballs AYD had been carefully sculpting since I had unwrapped them earlier in the day.

“If they were looking for this new element then how could they ever see it?” I asked. “According to some folks the density of observation causes a collapse of wavefunctions that actually can stop time. The observervation couples the wavefunction to its environment, and there fore prevents it from changing at the moment it is observed. The more a particular situation is observed the less time there is for it to change; observe a wavefunction continuously, and time stops. If you have a situation where a particular state is not known to exist until is observed to be decaying isn't that the same as continuously observing it? It's called the Turing or quantum Zeno effect.

“That sounds stupid” stated AYD.

“Have you heard of Schrodinger’s cat?” I asked.

“That's the cat that is both dead and alive. Like a zombie or something.” Answered AYD.

“Schrodinger’s cat was in a box that had a bottle of poison gas in it. The bottle was broken when a particle decay was detected. “ began AOD.

“That was Schrodinger’s diabolical mechanism” I chimed in. “A way of coupling a microscopic event with macroscopic effect”

“The cat both alive and dead until someone looks in the box and sees it either alive or dead” continued AOD.

“That sounds stupid also” stated AYD.

“It does sound stupid.” I replied. “That's why Schrodinger came up with the cat-in-a-box word picture. It was his attempt at reductio-ad-absurdum. Now-adays a lot of folks think this was actually an attempt at describing the way he thought things really were. What if the person looking into the box had no idea there was a cat in it? What if they thought the cat Schrodinger put in the box was actually in Ohio? Would the cat exist in a dead-Ohio-alive triple-state until someone looked in?”

“Well Mr' Schrodinger would have observed the cat in the box when he put it in.” replied AOD “Therefore you could not have an Ohio triple-state”.

“Let's say I devise a diabolical mechanism to place the cat in the box without anyone seeing”. I add

“It's still a forgone conclusion that it will occur” replied AOD “If you closed your eyes when you put the cat in the box you would still have enough data to know it was in there”.

“If the decay of the particle that released the poison occurred with a sub-zeptosecond half-life, and we waited a year wouldn't we be as certain as anything that was real that the cat was dead?” I asked.

“What's a zeptosecond?” asked AYD.

“One sixtillionth of one second” I replied “Ten to the minus twenty-one seconds. As small as I can think of off the top of my head. Really-really-really-really small.”

“That's a dead cat” Stated AYD.

“What does that mean for physics?” asked AOD.

“I'm not sure” I replied “Some people believe we can take what is an absurd notion and apply it to other aspects of our world-view because people who understand the 'standard theory' of quantum mechanics have stated it. If something sounds ridiculous we should demand more explanation and proof for it rather than use it as explanations for other ridiculous notions. Generally things that sound ridiculous are; of course things that sound ridiculous and are not can be very cool.”

“So what about Ununseptium?” asked AOD.

“Dumb name” I replied “I like dorkonium much better.”


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