Sunday, November 13, 2011

Possibly dead, possibly alive cats, or why I did well in Geometry

Have I mentioned how the ipad is cutting into my reading time? I'm still reading, but it takes me much longer to get through a book these days, and a certain slim piece of technology in a cute red leather cover is largely to blame. So maybe it was an attempt to make my ipad time less brain-melting that led me to one of my new favorite things: One-Minute Physics on youtube. I've always wanted to understand physics, and these little mini-lessons are short and simplified enough for my mostly unscientific mind to grasp.

So the other day I stumbled across this one:

Now, I had heard of Schrödinger's cat before, of course. I did attend a small liberal arts college, after all, and what else would they have been teaching us in such a place? But it either never made much of an impression on me, or I forgot about it, or something. The whole problem is interesting to me because it seems like a philosophy thing and not a physics thing, and I can't decide if I am right and physicists have their heads too far up their own asses, or if I am just not smart enough to understand that part of it. Possibly both of those options are true.

See what I just did there?

So at first, I was kind of stymied by this, and it seemed like one of those things where any religious person would be able to just shrug and say that of course [insert deity of choice] was the observer collapsing our reality to just one choice and shake their heads at those silly scientists. I mentioned it to Andria and she said "I know, it makes my stomach hurt to think about it." I could have looked up what other people have written about it, but I kind of liked having such a novel problem to mull over, so I tucked it away in the back of my mind and took it out to play with from time to time over the next few days. Here is what I decided:

This problem is based on the flawed idea that possibility=reality. Our observation of the cat has no real effect on the cat's status. Just as the cat seeing the powder keg explode or not seeing it explode really has no bearing on whether it did or didn't. Before we open the bunker and see the cat, it is already alive or dead. Just like before a baby is born, it is already a male or a female, whether or not the parents have chosen to find out the sex. It does not exist in a state of being either/or just because the parents haven't seen the goods yet. The whole thing actually reminds me of the kind of magical thinking that leads people to say that, for example, their prayers caused a suspicious lump to turn out not to be cancer. The lump is or is not cancer before it is ever detected or biopsied, and our observation of the test results, just like our thoughts and prayers while we wait for them, is incidental.


Thinking through this in such a logical, orderly way made me feel very happy with my little brain until, in an unrelated philosophical aside, I read about Saul Kripke. Oh well.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Between the A and the T (or where I'm at)

I don't really want to write about my progress with the whole 40 under 40 thing, I want to write about Schrödinger's cat, but I am going to save that for my next post because, let's face it, I don't seem to be overflowing with ideas here. Although that is not technically true--I have a lot of ideas for blog posts, but not so much time/motivation/wherewithal to actually write about them. So consider this a teaser: stay tuned for a fascinating discussion of Schrödinger's cat!

Meanwhile, on the subject of my large and aging tukas, it is of course still aging, but it is just a little less large. I have lost five pounds in the two weeks since I started my little 40 by 40 campaign, and I am quite pleased with myself about that. I'm even more pleased that five pounds apparently translates into three inches off my waist, which translates into my big girl pants being 85% less like a device that was designed by sadists to cut me in half at the waist. I am even a little sad about the fact that my size 14 black Ann Taylor Loft cords will soon be too big for me. But just a little. I'm also somewhat embarassed and mortified to realize just how much my size 14 pants in general have been way too tight in the waist even though they do fit fine everywhere else. It's the gut, you see. I am an apple, not a pear. But soon I shall be a legume! My fondest daydream right now invlolves being able to wear jeans with a regular straight, semi-fitted shirt without looking like I am smuggling tire tubes into the country. No belly-concealing pleat, no baby-doll swing tops, just a plain old tee. Think of it!

Here is a fun observation about telling people you've lost five pounds in two weeks: they first look like you are about to reveal the secret of the universe as they ask you how you are doing it, and then they look very disappointed when you say "counting calories." Like, they are really hoping to hear "I am eating a box of donuts every morning and then taking this magical pill that has the side effect of making your skin radiate from within." I say that to head off any possibility of that very disappointment striking you, right now, as I tell you that what I'm doing is eating less and exercising more. Who knew? I'm using the fatsecret app on my ipad to track every single thing that I eat, which is not that hard since I am pretty much a three squares a day kind of girl, and to log any exercise I get during the day, including, some days, "standing" and "sitting," and then it tells me that I have a beautiful calorie deficit for the day of 743 calories or whatever (that is about my average) and I gain tremendous satisfaction from seeing all those little down arrows stacked up on top of each other for the week. When I weigh in on Sundays, it plots my weight loss in a clever little downward sloping green line. My other high tech, super-secret strategy involves setting my fork down and taking a drink of water between bites of food at dinner, since 14 years of mothering have trained me to eat dinner like it might be the last chance I will ever have to ingest food.

The only exercise I'm doing so far is walking, and last week I didn't even do that. I'm tempetd to say it was because I'm just so busy with the four kids and the working and the masters classes because you sweet schmucks will totally buy that, but in fact I spend a good amount of time playing on my ipad and reading books because I am essentially a lazy sack. So yesterday I weighed and was just very slightly disappointed that I only lost 2.2 pounds and not 3, so I put on my bootylicious new yoga pants and strapped my Phone onto my arm with a Florence + The Machine station playing on Pandora and walked 3.5 miles. My goal was just to do 2, but I was enjoying the music and the gorgeous fall weather so much that I went off the grid and just kept walking. I discovered that I prefer not to have a route mapped out in advance, which of course makes perfect sense if you know me, and I tackled every hill I came to and generally had myself a little adventure. It was nice, kicking up leaves and singing embarrasingly loud as I trucked along, thinking about Schrödinger's cat.