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Quantum Steampunk


Quantum steampunk.

Coined by Nicole Yunger Halpern, a theoretical physicist at the Joint Institute for Quantum and Computer Science in Maryland USA (homegirl!) quantum steampunk is, as she describes it, “the intersection of quantum physics, information theory, and thermodynamics.” 

You know I had to snatch up this book as soon as I heard about it. A deafening shoutout to the multitalented and awesome J. Dianne Dotson, spec fic author extraordinaire! Check her out!

Quantum Steampunk. Don’t you just love the way it rolls on your tongue and echoes in your brain? Oh. Just me? Umm…okay.

Theoretical physics is da bomb.

So, my interest in all this is I’m an armchair physicist. Tell me in English what it is and how it works, and I’ll understand. But do not show me the math under any circumstances. I’ve a math phobia that goes beyond the visible universe. I can tell you exactly when I became a math phobe but that’s another story from my dark past. Anyway, combine letters and numbers in an equation, and I’ll cry. Throw in Greek symbols — epsilon, sigma, delta, or whatever — and watch me go into hysterics.

Theoretical physics fills me with a sense of wonder that few other things in life do. Like a toddler witnessing rainfall for the first time. When I was six, I thought behind the world we see every day was brown paper because when we did class painting projects, our teacher would unroll a huge length of brown Kraft paper and let us go to town. Then, decades later, I read about a theory positing that what underlies everything we know, everything that could ever be, is quantum foam.

The world is ultimately made of brown paper.

Brown paper.

I don’t search out books on theoretical physics like I used to because time. During the intervening years since I began this journey, time is in shorter and shorter supply. I do have an idea why that is and that it will change in the future. The only question is when. And the answer to that?

Not today.

The book that started it all for me was Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time. I suspect his book started it for a lot of other people, too. And it goes on from there. Murray Gell-Mann. Brian Greene. Kip Thorn. So many more. The articles, subscriptions to magazines. And the paper. Paper, paper, paper, and every day, the paperboy brought more. Then the internet came along, the magazines went online, and the clutter is now much more manageable. Well…sort of. Aah, who am I kidding?

Paper makes the world go ’round.

There is one book, though, that I find seriously intriguing. Frank Tipler’s The Physics of Immortality. His claim is that he proves, using physics, the existence of God. I’ve read it several times. The book has two halves, the first written in English, and the second in math. I have never gone beyond the English version. In the end, I don’t buy his argument, but the important thing is, it isn’t nonsensical. We are immortal because ultimately, we live in a computer simulation.

Brown paper.

Of course, there’s a LOT more to it than that. Anyway, he used the term computer. When I first read that, I pictured the eighth-room sized computer in the lab at college. Then it was my desktop. That’s me, though. I don’t think these were the kinds of computers he was talking about. But what if it’s a sort of quantum computer? Not the type people are trying to perfect now, but something else? Could quantum foam be the “computer” we’re looking for?

Nope. I have no idea. But it’s fascinating to think about.

Maybe one day, someone will.  


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