Sunday, December 28, 2008

Fiction and the Theory of the Universal Wavefunction

I've just come from reading the comments on the latest Yehuda Moon comic. This posting started out at a comment there but, as I wrote, it became clear this was going to be a lot longer than a simple comment; I felt a blog posting would be more appropriate. Besides, this gives me an opportunity to promote Yehuda Moon and the Kickstand Cyclery a little. ;)

So, what is it that's got my inner tube in a pinch? A comment made by someone under the name of roderick. I, and several others, had made a few comments about Yehuda's riding position on his new Rapid Blue Line (a steel framed custom bike made by the shop in the comic). Roderick's reply:
people [sic] are giving a cartoon advice [sic]
This isn't the first time I've encountered people with his attitude, and not only on Yehuda Moon; my uncle has a similar attitude about all fiction. I've never understood such people. I mean, what's the point of fiction if one can't get into the fictional world? What's the point of reading a comic if, at least while you're reading it, you're not imagining the characters as flesh and blood people? Why do people like roderick even bother to read comics?

When one reads fiction, the natural tendency of the reader is to put themselves in the place of the characters. In my case, regarding the above comic, I was wondering why Yehuda chose a particular riding position which, if I was in his place, I would not have chosen. Most readers got what I was trying to ask; there were two particularly illuminating comments made by Paul and Chris Moore that explained it nicely.

I do not like roderick's tone. It's bad enough that he apparently thinks we're crazy for getting into a comic so deeply. OK, he has a right to his opinion, but does he have to be so sarcastic about it? People like roderick, the way I see it, are the Grinches of the fiction world; they know they can't get into the spirit of things the same way everyone else can so they try to make everyone else who can feel foolish for doing so.

Well, up yours with a studded tire, roderick. Be damned if I'm going to let your Grinchy attitude spoil my enjoyment of Yehuda Moon and the Kickstand Cyclery, or any other reader's enjoyment, for that matter.

So. For all the rodericks out there, let me offer you a thought that perhaps, one day, might help you join in the fun with the rest of us.

There is a theory in quantum physics called The Theory of the Universal Wavefunction. In layman's terms, subatomic particles exist as waves, essentially existing in all of their potential energy states simultaneously. From the perspective of our reality, this implies that for any event that has more than one possible outcome, all outcomes do, in fact, happen, each outcome creating an alternate "quantum reality."

Now we, making choices in our reality, only experience one outcome; the other outcomes are experienced by alternate versions of ourselves that are created at the branching point. That is to say, if I experience an event that has five possible outcomes, I experience one and four copies of me in alternate realities experience the other four. So, every event with more than one possible outcome, essentially, creates "branch" realities.

In theory, since every possible event happens at every branch point, it stands to reason that there must be a virtually infinite number of realities out there, some very similar to our own, some radically different depending on what events occurred at each branching point. Now, if this is true and, for every possibility there exists a universe where it happened, this has a very interesting implication when it comes to fiction.

Infinite possibility implies that virtually any combination of events one can imagine must have happened in some reality somewhere. In other words, if this theory is correct, it would be impossible to imagine a world that does not exist because, given infinite quantum variations, any combination that can be imagined must exist in an alternate reality somewhere.

In effect, any fictional world that you have ever read about, watched on TV, seen in a movie, watched in a play or even read in a comic must exist as a reality in some universe somewhere.

Now the barriers between quantum realities are fixed. We can't cross from one reality to another (at least in this reality ;)); if we could, it'd make life pretty confusing (see the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Parallels" for a good example of why it's better to keep quantum realities separated ;)). So, we can't go out and visit Yehuda Moon and his friends, but at least we can take comfort in the fact that they are out there. Somewhere.

So, to roderick and others like you, next time you read a comic, watch TV, go to the movie or read a good book, remember Kiri-kin-tha's First Law of Metaphysics: "Nothing unreal exists." There's no shame in giving advice to fictional characters because, like you and me, they are flesh and blood people.

Somewhere... out there. :)

On December 29, 2008 8:22:20 AM AST, the mostly reverend wrote:
is it just possible you've overreacted to his little comment? it's not the first time someone has observed--let's assume tongue-in-cheek--that it DOES seem a bit odd to be getting so wrapped up in a cartoon.
Actually, I'll admit I exaggerated my response a bit for dramatic effect. :) Still, I do believe in The Theory of the Universal Wavefunction and I do believe the theory I describe here regarding fictional universes. Further, I was also quite serious when I said I don't understand how people like that can even enjoy fiction; isn't the whole point of fiction to lose yourself in it (so long as you know when it's time to come out ;))?
one might even suggest that it's a bit odd that someone could get so wrapped around a tree trunk that they'd post something on their blog about it.

i'm certainly not suggesting that it's TRUE, i'm just sayin' . . .

Actually, truth be told, I've always wanted to do a posting on my ideas about the Theory of the Universal Wavefunction; roderick's comment simply provided an ample opportunity. :)


  1. quite possibly nothing real exists either if we approach it from the Buddhist perspective... So its doubly good to chat with Mr. Moon

  2. is it just possible you've overreacted to his little comment? it's not the first time someone has observed--let's assume tongue-in-cheek--that it DOES seem a bit odd to be getting so wrapped up in a cartoon.
    one might even suggest that it's a bit odd that someone could get so wrapped around a tree trunk that they'd post something on their blog about it.

    i'm certainly not suggesting that it's TRUE, i'm just sayin' . . .


  3. Anonymous3:25 PM

    Since bike fit is so personal I'd say it's wrong to comment on anyone else's riding position, period, unless they're complaining about being slow or uncomfortable (and Yehuda drinks the Lauterbrunnental kool-aid, and his bars are way too high).

  4. I admit I find it a little hard to get on board with that Universal Wavefunction theory. Fortunately, I don't it's necessary to simply defend the "reality" of fiction.

    Once upon a time I naively thought that non-fiction was more worthwhile to read than fiction because non-fiction was about facts while fiction was just made up. Not too many years later, however, I began to realize just how tenuous any given "fact" really was, and how fiction could be so much truer precisely because it allows you to discuss concepts without having to deal with the "truth" of any given set of facts. It transcends mere facts. The plot doesn't ultimately matter, it is just a means to an end. This is what makes literature valuable, whether it is a masterpiece novel or a comic strip.

    As to the original commenter that started John's rant, many people probably think it's silly to comment on a comic strip with the seriousness that you would a novel. (Or to spend 20 minutes of your valuable time writing a reply to a blog article prompted by a comment on a comment on a comic strip, as I have just done!) But regardless, it's not qualitatively different than analyzing a great novel, just a matter of priorities. (And probably foolish ones on my part. :-))

    Also, some people are just more fact-based and literal that others. People are different.

  5. The "worlds of if" trope is an old one in science fiction, and editor Julius Schwartz featured it prominently in comics for decades. See:

    "Flash Of Two Worlds" written by Gardner Fox, illustrated by Carmine Infantino and Joe Giella

    Somewhere in the Multiverse, there must be a Captain Dashboard with actual superpowers, right?


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