Tidbits of Inspiration: Quantum Entanglement

I read this today.

Don’t worry if you don’t get it.  I’m no physicist.  I don’t really get it either.  My highest education in the field of physics came in my Undergrad career when I took the slightly-more-difficult and rigorous Calc-based Physics as my required Science class instead of the mushy, cake-walk Physics for Dummies class.  (I did well, by the way, getting As in both semesters.  But that was somewhere in the vicinity of a decade ago, or more, now.) 

Anyway, Quantum Entanglement was one of those high-class physics concepts that was mostly beyond the scope of the classes I took.  But it’s a pretty important concept for the development of future technology.  Basically, it means this: two particles can be “entangled”, which means that the state of one effects the state of the other, even if the two are separated by a great distance.  In effect, this can theoretically allow for faster-than-light transfer of information, because changing the state of one instantaneously changes the state of the other.  Or something like that.  I may be misstating this, so if this piques your interest, I suggest you educate yourself from someone who’s actually knowledgeable and an expert.

But what I read today?  It blows that idea out of the water and takes it further than I thought possible.  Basically… in this experiment, there were two pairs of entangled photons: Pair A and Pair B.  One of each of these pairs (one from Pair A and one from Pair B) was sent to separate machines (Machine A and Machine B) that measured the state of the photons.  Machine A and Machine B are independent and do not share information with each other.  The second photon from each entangled pair was at a later time sent to a third machine, Machine C, which decided either to entangle the the two or not to entangle them, and then measures them.  Of critical interest here: the decision made by Machine C to either entangle or not entangle is made after the measurements at each of Machine A and Machine B were made.  Also to note: if Machine C decides not to entangle then you have two independent pairs of entangled photons.  If Machine C instead decides to entangle the second photon of each pair, then you have a chain of four entangled photons: the first photon of pair A is entangled with the second of pair A which is entangled with the second of pair B which is entangled with the first of pair B. 

And the result?  When Machine C decides not to entangle, then there is no measurable correlation between the states of Pair A and Pair B.  But when C decides to entangle, the state of Pair A and Pair B are correlated.

In layman’s terms: the entanglement performed by Machine C extends backwards in time to affect the states of the first photon of each of the newly entangled pairs.  Or in other words: Machine C sent information into the past!  I am probably overstating things somewhat.  But still.  Into the past!

This is truly mind-boggling.

Back to the Future, anyone?

Tidbits of Inspiration: Mysterious Island

The deep history of science fiction is replete with stories of strange islands and mysterious, hidden valleys where creatures thought long exctinct still roam the earth. 

Sometimes… the truth is as crazy as the fiction. 

In the lonely Tasman Sea, between Australia and New Zealand, there is an island… a sharp rock jutting up from the ocean.  And it is a mysterious island… for there, researchers have discovered that a species of rare walking stick thought extinct for half a century has in fact survived.

It’s an amazing discovery.  Which is why I thought it worth mentioning in today’s “Tidbits of Inspiration”.  Read about here on the blog of NPR science correspondant Robert Krulwich.

It’s a classic pulp-era science fiction story come marvelously true.

Tidbits of Inspiration: Ghost Ship

Now here’s a fun little bit of true-life inspiration: the tale of the ghost ship The Mary Celeste.

It has a very “Scooby-doo” vibe to it, if you know what I mean.

She appears one day under full sail, but completely abandoned and devoid of her crew.

And then they put her back into service, only to have her last captain try to pull a scam – and he would’ve gotten away with it, too, if it weren’t for those kids!

This little tale is worth the read for some inspiration on ghost ships and stories set on the high seas.  I find the unexplained mystery of what happened to her original crew tantalizing.

Tidbits of Inspiration: Pictures of the Post-Apocalyptic… Abandoned Places

Dystopia.  Post-apocalyptica.  Themes from the-end-of-the-world have been a part of genre fiction for a long time.  I’m sure it says something about us, our fascination with our own demise. 

If you’ve been spending any time thinking about the inevitable zombie apocalypse – or maybe the inevitable saurian uprising, or perhaps that’s the inevitable robot rebellion, or the inevitable alien invasion, or what-have-you for inevitable eschatologies – maybe you’ll find some inspiration in this collection of images.

First, there’s these ten abandoned resorts.  I certainly found them evocative and inspirational.  It helps that the book I’m working on has shades of the post-apocalyptic in it.

Equally evocative is this collection of images of modern ruins.  There’s some overlap with the previous list, but a lot of new and eerie sights as well. 

Enjoy.

Tidbits of Inspiration: The Birth of Religion

Gobekli Tepe

Gobekli Tepe

National Geographic is, as ever, fascinating.  In this latest article, I found a piece that resonates strongly with me and with my writing.

I’m at an early stage of my writing “career”, such as it is, so I can’t really say there are any strong or recurrent themes on which I have frequently touched in the body of my work.  That said, I do feel like there is a pattern to it.  One strongly recurrent theme is the relationship between mythology and religion.  And religion is important to me, on a personal level as well. 

And so, this article was entirely fascinating to me, and is the subject of today’s Tidbits of Inspiration.  The article is about the excavation of an archeological site in Turkey called Göbleki Tepe (which I actually know how to pronounce by virtue of my visit to Istanbul).  What’s astonishing about the site: it appears to be a religious mecca – a massive temple complex – that dates back to the early Neolithic period and 7,000 years before the building of Stone Henge – a period when organized religion, according to old theories, had not yet developed.  The site suggests a profoundly different development of human civilization than anthropologists and archeologists had long thought: one in which organized religious worship was central to the development of human society from the hunter-gatherer period into the stable, agriculture-focused communities that gave rise to the long arc of human recorded history. Continue reading

Tidbits of Inspiration: Culture & Kisses

For most speculative fiction writers Worldbuilding is an important part of writing – whether you do it up-front before you dive into your narrative or more on the back-end as an organic outgrowth of the writing process.  And  if you’re worldbuilding, you’ll probably have to think, at least a little, about culture.

And so it was that I was fascinated to listen to this story, today, on NPR: “Of War and Kisses: How Adversity Shapes Culture“.  The article is about a study that draws a link between national adversity (war and contention with neighbors and other problems and disasters) and population density with the relative strictness or tightness of a culture.  There seems to be, based on this study, some correlation between nations that are constantly embattled or face regular hardship and a very strict culture, and likewise between very dense populations and a very strict culture, whereas the reverse also seems to be true: nations that are not constantly embattled or which have very diffuse populations tend to be less strict or tight, and more accepting of cultural faux pas.  Although, there are, of course, exceptions.

Still, it’s an interesting thing to think about, when you get to the part of your worldbuilding where you’re thinking about the cultures you are portraying in your story.  Go take a look at the story on NPR and let it muddle around in your mind a bit…

Tidbits of Inspiration: Bad Writing System

I found this article over on Language Log fascinating, so I thought I’d share it with you.

The article is about whether a better orthographic writing system – the way a language is written down – hurts or hinders either (a) the economic potential or (b) the literacy of its speakers.  English, for instance, is often considered to be a notoriously difficult language to learn because of the inconsistencies of its spelling.  (In fact, I believe English is quite consistent in the way things ought to be pronounced – but there are a lot of arcane rules that one must learn in order to understand how things should be pronounced, and there is a series of precedents for which rules are more important.  I saw this demonstrated once by someone who created a program for making sound changes to conlang words using systematic formal rules, and used the same program by setting up pronunciation rules for English, running english words through it, and outputting a “pronunciation guide” for the words.  It was a powerful demonstration of how systematic English pronunciation really is, and only a few words fooled his codified approach.  Alas, I no longer have a link to that site.  But I digress… a lot.)  Continue reading

Tidbits of Inspiration: Home Sweet Clan Home

I’d never heard of the Tulou of China before, but now that I have, I can’t help but find them fascinating.

If you are like me, and had never heard of them before, allow me to summarize.  A tulou is a type of communal housing: a large structure housing an entire clan of people.  It’s built around a central courtyard, facing inward, with earthen walls facing outward to defend against raiders and enemies. They are designed as concentric rings (circular or square) and rise up to four stories on the outside. But the description doesn’t do it justice. You need to see it to understand why reading about them inspired me:

A Tulou in Fujian

A Tulou in Fujian, by Fon Zhou (CC-BY-NC)

Another Tulou

A Tulou in Fujian, by ryanocerosk (CC-BY-NC-SA)

 

One more picture of a tulou

A Tulou in Fujian, by ksquare77 (CC-BY-NC-ND)

You begin to see why I found the idea of the tulou inspiring?  Click on the photos to go to a  “Fotopedia” page with a slideshow of more images of tulous.  There’s something oddly romantic about these archaic dwellings that housed entire clans, centered as they often were around altars to the ancestors.  There’s definitely something inspiring if you enjoy fantasy or historical fiction and period romance.  The place just screams with story.

Tidbits of Inspiration: Real Life Superheroes

This.

Is.

Awesome.

How many times, as a kid, did I fantasize about doing just what these guys are doing?  I cannot even count.  I even drew images of the costume I would wear.

I lack the martial arts training, though.  Also, my parents didn’t die tragically when I was younger.

Tidbits of Inspiration: Vive la Resistance!

I’ve held back my thoughts.  This is a writing blog.  It’s not the right place, I reasoned, to say something about this.

But today, I must say, I am inspired.  What the Egyptian people have done, using massive, peaceful protests, is nothing short of inspiring.  They’ve changed the course of history.

Sometimes, the sorts of stories we tell in epic fantasies – stories of young heroes fighting against all odds to topple villainous autocratic dark lords – are thought of as escapist fare.  It’s unrealistic.  But what we’ve been seeing unfold in Egypt, and the results they’ve achieved, are a reminder that young heroes really can topple autocratic dark lords.  It’s not a fantasy after all.

And that inspires me.  It inspires me to keep telling these tales.  Because there is something important revealed about the human character and the human condition in these epic stories.  And the Egyptians have reaffirmed vital truth.

So here’s hoping this story has the same happy ending it would have if I were writing it: with the birth of a new, free, democratic nation.  Good luck!