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A Microscopic Theory of Time

Recently the word prompt for the Ad Hoc competition was “Time”.  I enjoy researching prompt words before I decide what to write about. I look at the definitions and the synonyms, scan the Internet for obscure usages and applications of the word, and then think for a few days on how I’d like to use it in the flash fiction. 

It’s like spending days of window-shopping before a purchase.

When I volunteered to write the blog this week I decided to choose time as a theme for the sake of expediency.  As I scrolled through the Google hits nothing caught my attention until I saw an article that summed up the current philosophies of time as seen by physicists.  

And down the rabbit hole I went.

In some of their theories the past and present are interchangeable, in others, they co-exist, but in most, the future is a done deal.  One of the most recent, and by far my favorite, is the theory that the future is unknown and determined by present events.

Not a new idea with the general populace, but this time, quantum physicists think they have the evidence to prove it.

In the article “Time’s Arrow Traced to Quantum Source”, the author, Natalie Wolchover, uses hot coffee to explain the idea.  It’s all about when the pure elemental particles of the steam encounter the pure elemental particles of the air.   These then mix and become entangled components of a new probability before equalizing with their surroundings, and becoming something different.

Why describe these combinations of elements a probability? Because this theory is built on the idea that nature, and the future, is inherently uncertain.

I wondered, what kind of air particles did the coffee steam mix with?  Maybe a bacon scent, or light particles from a patch of sun. But, who knows? In my sister’s kitchen, she has a boa snake in an open aquarium.  Maybe the steam particles are inhaled by the mouse cowering in the corner of the cage, which triggers it to leap out.  Then, while the breakfast eaters scream and jump the baby crawls out of his highchair, falls, and breaks his arm.

Which brings in child services, which breaks up the marriage, or seals it, or, gives the child a unique pitching arm that eventually lands him a job as a professional baseball player.

And all this because, unbeknownst to us, the mouse spent its first few months of life in a lab that tested the effect of caffeine on mammals. Their discovery? That the mere inhalation of coffee can release enough adrenalin in a mouse to jump ten times it’s height.

As a side note, my guess would be the project ran out of funds or they were busted for animal cruelty and had to get rid of the evidence quickly.  Why else would the poor thing end up at a pet store as snake food?

Consider the possibility a mouse really did jump out of a snake cage and the last story line came true.  People, and storytellers in particular, like to go back and connect the dots to explain how the child grew up to pitch in the World Series.  Some science would call this a whimsical desire to make order in a world of chaos that is created by random and unrelated events.

But what if the idea that the future really is determined by the present and can be shown in equations?

Physicists proposing this theorem explain how the intermingling of events begins on a microscopic level, and they have data to back it.  The evidence is not yet bullet-proof, but apparently there’s enough to rattle the cages of “the future has already happened” folks.  

Telling stories from this perspective might begin like this:

Once upon a time the particles of Jessica, now equalized and in the new, pure state described as Jessica, met the pure state known as Logan.  They were instantly attracted to one another. Logan sensed Jessica’s pheromones and absorbed these through his nose.  Jessica saw Logan’s red, curly hair and absorbed this with the photons entering her eyes.   These particles entangled with their hosts’ particles, then reached a state of equilibrium, which created new, pure forms of Jessica and Logan.

Perhaps the rest of the story would go on to say that although they never saw one another again, their new, changed forms prompted Logan to marry a woman who wore the same perfume as Jessica. Jessica married a man with red hair so she could have red-haired babies. All the while using words like entanglement and particles and so on, of course.

In the end, we’ll probably tell our stories the same way we always have, with the same innate understanding that the future is built from the present and that one thing leads to another. 

With one slight change-up. I think my stories will never be quite the same.  I foresee a new pure form created by my story particles entangling with particles drifting from my (regrettably smug) attitude of I-told-you-so.  



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