Thursday, June 05, 2014

Schrödinger's Cat


My sleep has been disturbed by fussy, worried dreams lately. This is no surprise to me, because I’ve been fussy and worried lately, and it all has to do with the release of my new book, Hell With the Lid Blown Off, which is scheduled for release tomorrow, June 6. D-Day, appropriately.

The book has been getting very good pre-release reviews, I’m glad to say, so I’m not particularly worried about what kind of reception it will get. All my fuss and bother has to do with—you guessed it—what kind of self-promotion I should be trying to do. I’ve arranged several guest blogs, a bunch of local and state-wide author appearances, been social-media-ing as much as I can stand. But I’m not doing as much of anything as I could do if I’d just apply myself. So I’m guilt-ridden. But not guilt-ridden enough.

I tell everyone that I don’t want to suffer. But the truth is I have developed some sort of psychological problem with making plans more than a couple of weeks in advance. This is not so good, because program-arrangers at bookstores and libraries need plenty of advance time, say two or three months, to get everything scheduled and advertised.

I know from whence my neurosis springs. Several years ago I arranged a packed multi-week and multi-state book tour and had to cancel the whole thing out at the very last minute, leaving a lot of people in the lurch with very little time to make alternative plans. I couldn’t help it. I had the best excuse in the world, but no matter how good your excuse is, folks don’t like it when you do that do them. I lost a lot of conference registration money for canceling too late for a refund and part of my airline ticket fare, as well. So now I’m shell-shocked, and I no longer have any particular reason to be.

Anyone who has studied physics or watched the Big Bang Theory is familiar with the thought experiment called Schrödinger's Cat. Very briefly, a cat, a flask of poison, and a radioactive source are placed in a sealed box. If an internal monitor detects any radioactivity, the flask will shatter, which will release the poison and kill the cat. However, until you unseal the box and look inside, you cannot know if the cat is alive or dead. So as far as you, the observer, is concerned, until you look, that cat is simultaneously alive and dead.

Somewhere in the depths of my psyche, I feel as though if I don’t make concrete plans, everything is still possible. Once I contact an institution and commit myself to an event or program, I’ve set myself up to be a disappointment. So I don’t want to open up the box. I don't want to find out that the cat is dead.

6 comments:

Charlotte Hinger said...

Brilliant. I'm forwarding this link immediately to my oldest granddaughter who is a physicist has never been able to make me understand the idea behind Schrodinger's Cat. Bet she argues with you.

Apart from physics, I have a similar sense of dread about book tours and events. What if someone in the family dies? And I have to miss their funeral. Or I die and my kids don't know it's important to cancel events. Or someone gets married and they think I don't care enough to come. I hate, really hate double binds when I should be both places at once.

My next double bind is with writing conferences. Once again I've arranged to be in two places at once. I'm going to the first part of Western History and second half of Women Writing the West.

Leah Flink said...

Hi Grandma... She's actually just about right, there's only a subtle difference. In quantum not only do we not know if the cat is alive or dead but the cat also doesn't know if it is alive or dead. (sort of) It exists in both alive and dead states and only by looking at it (measuring it) do we force it to decide if it's alive or dead. It's a subtle difference but it is also the source of quantum weirdness. I like the use of a famous quantum explanation!

Donis Casey said...

I didn't know I was smart! (I'm kidding. I actually do know.) Kidding aside, I need to overcome this dread. Until you take action, it's certain that you'll do nothing. How's that for a syllogism?

Charlotte Hinger said...

Leah and Donis, forget about that cat--somewhere in the middle of a book tour I don't know whether I'm dead or alive. But I can tell by the comments after I give a talk.

Leah, if I sort of die for real please check my website and cancel events so booksellers won't be mad at me.

Diane Vallere said...

I love this concept applied to your feeling of possibilities and not wanting to look in the box. It's a feeling we all share.

(And PS: I once wrote a MG story with a scientist dad who had a cat named Schrodinger! I gave my own scientist dad naming rights and he didn't bat an eye when asked.)

Donis Casey said...

Leah's explanation of Shoedinger's theory is true and much more complete, of course. I just twisted the idea to fit my thesis, which is that an idea exists in all its possibilities until we take action and manifest it in the material world, at which time all other possibilities cease. Or something like that. Whatever.