Beautiful, complex, and honest, Lindsey Lane’s EVIDENCE OF THINGS NOT SEEN interweaves storylines full of intrigue, emotion, and murder with fundamental matters of the not seen (faith and science blended subtly and masterfully).
I’m here to talk about some of that science.
Remember that scene in Se7en when Brad Pitt had Kevin Spacey at gunpoint? If you haven’t seen the movie, there’s a spoiler below. If you have seen the movie, you think you probably know the answer.
If you’re like Tommy Smythe, the centerpiece in Lindesy Lane’s marvelous debut, EVIDENCE OF THINGS NOT SEEN, you know the answer is….
…All of the above. Unfortunately, Tommy disappeared at the pull-out, so he can’t tell you why the answer is All of the above.
Everyone has a theory… Tommy was adopted, so maybe he ran away to find his birth parents. He was an odd kid, often deeply involved in his own thoughts about particle physics, so maybe he just got distracted and wandered off. He was last seen at a pull-out off the highway, so maybe someone drove up and snatched him.
So, what happened to Tommy? Theoretically, that’s right, All of the above. So as long as Tommy’s whereabouts are undetermined, he could literally be anywhere. Anything you can imagine that could have happened to him, did happen to him. So says multiverse theory.
Let’s get fundamental and make some violin strings.
Back in 1935, Erwin Schrodinger came up with this thought experiment to kill his cat. It revolves around the idea of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle – that both the position and speed of electron cannot be known at the same time, thus its speed and position were better defined by a probabilistic wave function.
So, Schrodinger put’s his theoretical cat in this box with a radioactive source. The cat cannot be seen by anybody. If the source decays (dependent on that electron of uncertain location/speed), then a cyanide canister is triggered and the cat dies. Otherwise the cat lives. The Copenhagen Interpretation of physics says that since both potentials exist due to the wave function, both conditions occur (the cat is both dead and alive).
However, according to this theory, when you lift the box off the cat, when the cat is observed, the wavefunction collapses. When observed, the location and speed are known. The cat is either dead or alive.
By why would this wavefunction collapse? Why would the laws of physics change based on whether they’re observed or not? These were questions Hugh Everett had when he visited Copenhagen in 1959. He insisted the wave function didn’t collapse. Neils Bohr and others scorned him, but over the years, his theories went from hair-brained to mainstream*.
And that mainstream theory says that inside that box with that cat in it, our universe split in two. In one universe, you are happy to hug Fluffy, purring and licking you, unable to believe you actually subjected to him to this crazy experiment. In the other, you’re looking for a crematorium and/or helping musicians worldwide (note: according to the ever-reliable Wikipedia, cat guts were never actually used to make violin strings. Whatever).
That is to say, every time there’s a probabilistic event, the universe splits. And it keeps splitting. That’s right. There are near infinite versions of you out there. Just as there are near infinite versions of Tommy Smythe in EVIDENCE OF THINGS NOT SEEN (note: titled EVIDENCE OF THINGS UNSEEN in the universe beside ours).
So, what actually happened to Tommy in our universe? Read the book. See if you can figure it out.
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* For a more in depth (but not too sciency) discussion on Hugh Everett’s many-worlds interpretation (MWI), the multiverse (and its various levels), Schrodinger, etc., I recommend Max Tegmark’s: OUR MATHEMATICAL UNIVERSE: MY QUEST FOR THE ULTIMATE NATURE OF REALITY.