Saturday, December 28, 2013


2012’s NYI also brought with it the uncertain experience of finding myself in a relationship.  Quantum physics remained on my mind and they mixed into what follows.  (For some more background, see this post: The Quantum Moment).
The course also examined Michael Frayn’s play, Copenhagen.  It describes a meeting between the two atomic physicists, Neils Bohr and Werner Heisenberg, during World War II.  Bohr, a Jew in occupied Denmark; Heisenberg, working with the Germans.  Former colleagues, now separated by The War.

The meeting went badly, and its purpose was never understood.  Why did Heisenberg come to Copenhagen?  To advance the German nuclear program?  To warn the Allies of it?  To try to sideline the development of atomic weapons by both sides?  The play explores this question, Bohr and Heisenberg going through “several drafts of the paper”, so to speak.
One theme of the play, is that decisions—like the particles—can perhaps not be understood until after the fact.  That the act of analyzing and observing them can change them (see the work of psychologist Elizabeth Loftus).
We read the play, and watched the PBS movie version. I find it rather melancholy.  The score behind it is one of those beautiful sorrows that adds to the mood (based, incidentally on Schubert’s Piano Sonata in B Flat Major, D. 960 2nd movement, which Heisenberg briefly plays in the film).  The final dialogue is no less hollowing than Macbeth’s “tomorrow” soliloquy.

We've all felt it, right? The gnawing uneasy excitement, spinning around in our head, our stomach, our chest. You like someone. Do they like you back? Mathematicians might call it a "Nash Equilibrium" (dimming the likelihood of a "yes" answer for them): no one is willing to say anything, because neither is sure of what the other is thinking. Each person thinks they are making the right choice by staying silent. But together, it's the wrong one.
What if the answer is yes? But no one could break the silence?
Then again, what if the answer is no?
Either way, the relationship is going to change forever if you go for it. Do you?