May 18, 2007

Collapsed Eggfunction

More art! This time, a New Yorker cover features a blackboard with a bunch of quantum physics equations and paper strewn everywhere. Presumably, to go along with the LHC article. The equations are real, but not realistic. They are scribblings of first/second year quantum mechanics. I can't imagine a situation where you would ever write a bunch of calculation-type stuff and then circle the Schrödinger equation in the center of the board. Or write out explicitly that neutrons decay into p + e + v-bar. Unless you were crazy and just trying to convince everyone that you were a physicist...

Is the New Yorker expecting us to be that clever? I doubt it. The whole success of that publication is in getting people to feel guilty for not understanding jokes about Sartre, but wanting others to think that they do -- and therefore buying the magazine to leave visibly lying around the house. But these are usually the same kind of people who will proudly blurt out that they don't know what a square root is at their swanky dinner parties, so you can't count on them to feel insecure about not knowing much science.

The point of the drawing is actually I suppose, "look at this guy with his increadibly complicated work, and yet who is still boiling an egg in a totally normal way. How ironic!" But it doesn't really strike me as witty or profound. How, exactly, should he be boiling an egg differently? By putting it on some automated flash-fryer triggered by a nuclear decay, and then observing it so that he doesn't have to eat the superposition of a boiled and unboiled egg?

Nice drawing though.