December 8, 2005

In Which I Successfully Become Stephen Hawking

Well---that title may be optimistic AND premature. I WILL become him, anyway. Any second. Not actually HIM, you know. More like a POOR man's Stephen Hawking. Very poor. Like, a destitute, starving, oxygen deprived, nearly dead, boil covered, prehistoric, low-browed, grunting man's Stephen Hawking. But still.

It's because I realized I have to have an understanding of Chaos Theory in order to write this book because the main male character is a pure-math geek turned engineer. And in order to understand Chaos, turns out, you have to understand PHYSICS. Which, allow me to say, "Yikes."

This is, seriously, the BEST THING that has ever happened to Scott. He is SO HAPPY. Remember how there are things he sometimes REALLY wants to tell me, but I REALLY do not want to be told? Like, say, allallall about Hoover Dam?

Well, CHAOS THEORY is another topic I have with malice of forethought actively and perniciously avoided learning about. I figured I heard enough about it from Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park to last me the rest of my life. Plus, I got to look at Jeff Goldblum, which made it more palatable. Tall dark haired and geeky? Check! Why Dr. Livingston, I believe we have discovered MY TYPE. So I watched Jeff Goldblum explain the way a drop of water rolls and then not get eaten by dinosaurs, and really, that was about enough for me. My chaos pocket was full. I thought possibly forever.

But no. I had to pop a big fat mathematician in the middle of this novel, so he needs to sound like he has a vague idea what he is talking about. SO here I am, watching all the documentaries about Chaos and Quantum-ness that I SWEAR TO YOU my husband ALREADY HAD TAPED OFF THE DISCOVERY CHANNEL and kept SITTING IN THE BASEMENT betting against all odds that the frabjous day would come when I would look at him and say, "I really want to learn about CHAOS THEORY, and possibly also PHYSICS."

That day, ladies and gentlemen, was yesterday.

So he is trying to explain to me about how Schrodinger's cat goes in the box blah blah, and is it a dead cat or an alive cat or does it exist and somehow this is related to or he segued into the theory that the more you know about VELOCITY the less you can truly posit about LOCATION which seems counterintuitive but as he also told me, Physicists seem to think a point of light CAN be in two places at once, so they INVENTED counter intuitive, so okay, Velocity, smeared half dead or living cat in a box, yeah, blah blah, and I accidentally quit listening right then because I started thinking, "If I put MY cat in a box I could easily posit the alive-or-deadness or existence of him by the yowls of rage and the ripping foreclaws shredding the steel allowing pretty much the whole cat to come bursting out to treat me to multiple wounded one-eyed baleful looks, but at least this theory gives me an excuse to name the cat who appears in the novel "Schrodinger," which has HUGE appeal." I want to get a whole another really cat just so I can name him that.

In a bit of news COMPLETELY unrelated to physics (but related to pet names, so there's the only segue you are likely to get today. Enjoy!) my friend Lydia is getting a PUPPY for Christmas (or as soon as he is weaned) and they have already met him and named him. His name is -- brace yerself Bridge, really -- his name is:

Marzipan Go-Go.

Now, the PREVIOUS best pet name (which has been practically unchallenged until now) was a friend of a friend's African Hedgehog named, improbably, Pigling Bland. But the PUPPY name is giving P.B. a run for his sleepy, prickle-covered money. In fact, it is SUCH a great pet name I wish *I* was a pet just so I could be named Marzipan Go-Go, and also so I could be excused from trying to understand even the tiniest CORNER of Quantum Physics. Being a pet gets you out of a LOT, I would imagine: "Oh, sorry, I can't vacuum the house, or drive to Eckerd, apply Occam's Razor, or practice The Method in the local community theatre production of Our Town---did you not notice I am a Budgereega?"

Ah well, if you truly want to understand Schodinger's cat, you can go to someplace like MIT and spend nine years getting a slew of advanced degrees. BUT if you want to play an amusing interactive game that explains the cat in layman's terms AND gives you a SAVE THE CAT option should your dice roll the wrong way, then you can SKIP MIT and CLICK HERE.

Posted by joshilyn at December 8, 2005 1:25 PM

There are days, Joss, when I read your blog and I laugh and laugh and laugh until my sides hurt. And then there are days when I do that, but also, I find myself poking myself in the eye with a REALLY sharp stick trying to deal with the fact that ANYONE would willingly subject themselves to DOCUMENTARIES regarding Chaos Theory.

Okay, actually that last only just now happened, but still...

Excuse me while I take some Tylenol.
Good luck kids. Have fun stormin' the castle.

Posted by: Angela at December 8, 2005 1:51 PM

This is weird. I was not good at math - okay that isn't the weird part. The weird part is that (being a Streisand fan) I actually learned prime numbers from watching the Mirror Has Two Faces.

Now that being said, I have not even begun to edge one single brain cell around chaos theory, well the chaos part is a close friend of mine, I have no understanding of why it needs its own theory, it works soooo well without one. But because your are involved (hmmm Joss / chaos - imagine that)I look forward to bending three braincells around this theory when this book hits the market.

oh and please, please, please include the whole math geek segue theory introduction in your book, because it's a hoot.

Posted by: Cele at December 8, 2005 2:48 PM

I'm sorry, you lost me at "I want to learn about physics." A sentence I will never say.

Pet names, though, all right! I especially like the "Go-Go" part of the puppy name. ;)

Posted by: Amy-GO at December 8, 2005 4:21 PM

SKIP MIT's a pretty good pet name, too.

Okay. A CARTOON GUIDE TO PHYSICS by Matt Gonick. He taught at Harvard, but quit -- presumably because he's funny. Trust me.

Posted by: rams at December 8, 2005 4:49 PM

Since I took debr's nerd/geek/dork test and scored 87% on the geek part, it probably isn't a surprise that I LOVE to learn about Chaos theory.... and quantum mechanics and string theory and fractals (which are math, not physics, I think, but they're so cool you have to include something about them in your book) and Shrodinger's cat and all that. In fact the character in my nano book has a strange intellectual grandmother who has an evil black cat named Shrodinger (who bizarrely enough, has the exact same personality as our black cat Fred). And even though I've read books about all this physics stuff once or twice a year for about five years now, I still feel like I know only thiiiiiiisssss much (see me holding my thumb and forefinger up with almost no light between them) about any of it. But gosh, it makes my heart go pitter pat. So now I'm even more excited to read this new story of yours. Too bad I can't research quantum mechanics for you and you can research old growth redwood forest and the lumber industry for me.

As for pet names, I'm very disappointed that my darling Rosita La Changa que Vuela did NOT make your top spot. (non spanish speakers - Little Rosie the Flying Monkey) Or how about my cat named Cow? Short, but strange.

Posted by: Laume at December 8, 2005 4:52 PM

Yep, I actually have a NOVA program on Chaos theory on tape in the basement. I'm prepped and ready to go.

Now to understand how chaos theory works you need to have a basic understanding of Quantum Physics. Of course, the principles of Quantum Physics are explained by Super String Theory, or if you are a particularly progressive physics student, M Theory. I wonder where I put my copy of Brian Green's "Elegant Universe"?

Now how can I hold her attention long enough to explain the 10 spacial dimensions that M Theory requires? Mustn't go too fast. Perhaps Abbott's "Flatland" is a good place to start.

I must start building a reading list for this project. I can't afford to waste this opportunity as I can assure you it will never present itself again.

Posted by: Mr. Husband at December 8, 2005 5:16 PM

I got lost at the term Chaos Theory, but then my wee little brain perked up at the wonderful puppy name. No wonder my poor little munchkin has a hard time at school, her mommie's mind wanders and then selectively picks the most fun too.....

Posted by: Robbie at December 8, 2005 5:48 PM

I think Quantum Physics and Chaos Theory and all that stuff is way cool. Like Laume, I barely understand the teeensiest smidgen of it, but what I get fascinates me. I'm someone who would watch a documentary on Quantum Physics on purpose. For fun. Scary, yes?

Just sign me GeekWannabe.

Posted by: DebR at December 8, 2005 5:56 PM

PS...I figure according to Quantum Physics there are Universes in which my checkbook balances every month so it doesn't really matter so much that it never ever EVER happens here.

Also sign me DitzR

Posted by: DebR at December 8, 2005 5:58 PM

Oh no. Enviro-spouse got his Master's at MIT and understands all this stuff. I still don't know what he really does for a living, except that it involves computers, lots of complex Math, and saving the world.

O Maripan, O Mazipan, how do you go-go, puppy?

Posted by: Edgy Mama at December 9, 2005 7:50 AM

I only understand human created chaos, and it doesn't seem to have any 'rules' to it ... only something suspiciously like "Murphy's Law". Anyway, I'm just chiming in to recommend Bill Bryson's, “A Short History of Nearly Everything”. He explains these geek things in non-geek language. Even better would be if you could TALK **swoon** to the esteemed Mr. Bryson. You’d have sooo much fun.

Posted by: Mit_Moi at December 9, 2005 12:11 PM

I absolutely cannot wait for this book to come out! My hubby has a phd in economics (he works for a bank in risk management crunching numbers that i can't even start to comprehend.) He's a bigtime geek... when we saw A Beautiful Mind, he was all "Yep, look at that... Nash Equilibrium. Interesting." I wanted to smack him.

Posted by: CMJennKirby at December 9, 2005 10:31 PM