Sunday, November 04, 2007

Einstein's Universe and Quantum Weirdness

Last semester I took that module and hated it deeply because I didn't understand a single thing despite going for lectures and tutorials diligently. I studied quite hard for my first test but got back a big fat D. Well, while doing the test I knew I was going to be screwed because I didn't know how to answer the questions at all, so the D wasn't a surprise. Then because I understood less for the second test, I thought I might as well not study and not waste my time. And indeed I could feel that I was doing worse while doing the test.

Other components of the total grade included daily work, which I didn't hand in one out of five, got less than full marks for another one or two. I didn't take part in the forum participation too. And it was non-examinable. I thought I was quite jialat le. Then there was the short story we needed to do as the last component of our total grade. *cross my fingers* that that could pull up my grade to at least a C so that I can get my S. I SUed that module so I just needed the bare minimum to pass. And luckily, as I thanked my lucky stars, I did manage to get that S I needed.

I've been quite curious to exactly what grade I got for the last test and my short story because I thought I'd have got a U for that module. Although I must say, I thought that the short story was quite well written.

Anyway, fast forward a couple of months, due to the change in the structure of the SU system, we now get to know our grades. I went to check my grades for this module and found out that I got a B- for it. A B- might not be that good a grade for most folks out there, but bear in might that I skipped the assignment, skipped a tutorial, got a big fat D for my first test, didn't study for my second test, and not participated in the forum, and worse of all, I understood nothing from the module. Getting a B- would most probably mean that I did well enough for the short story to pull up my total grade.

Thank goodness~

Here's my short story for all to share!

Harley Upp and Holden

This is a world slightly different from what we know. In this world, people have a great speed range; they are able to move in speeds so close to the speed of light with each passing action. However, even at such great speeds, nobody can yet surpass the speed of light.

This is a story of two very different men, Harley Upp and Holden, each with very different ideals and very different backgrounds.

Ever since he was four, Harley Upp has been a speed freak. His father was the thinnest, fastest man about town. How proud he felt to be the son of such a man! Alas, for all the admiration he felt for his father, it was a deep sadness for Harley that he could never get close to his father. It was a poignant childhood memory, standing by the doorway in the mornings, watching the impossibly thin silhouette of his father rush off into town.

His mother was a slim woman herself. Sitting by the breakfast table,
having his oatmeal delivered before him by his mother pottering around at high speed, he once sighed, "Will I ever be as fast and thin as Father?" His mother would shoot him a cheeky smile, "Well, child, you'll always be chubby if you marry a fast woman."

Perhaps it was because of his childhood memories, Harley Upp had built up this dream to be fast, faster than everyone else. To prove that he was the fastest person in the world he wanted to be the first person to break through the speed of light. That would be the evidence he needed to prove to the world, and also to prove to himself that he was really very fast.

Holden on the other hand grew up alone. Growing up alone gave him the freedom to indulge in everything he wanted to do and allowed him to expand his creativity without being hindered by anybody. As such, Holden was a curious man, always wondering about his world. He had an
active imagination, fascinated by strange ideas, and especially
curious about the possibility of worlds unlike his own. He likes to
play a secret game of changing the sizes of people by adjusting his
own speed, and chuckling at the results of what he saw. People usually left him alone.

Unlike everyone around him, Holden liked to live life at a very slow pace, well, at least it was considerable slower relative to everyone around him. He liked to spend his time thinking up new theories about life, trying to come up with alternative explanation to everything that was happening around him.

One day, Holden took a walk down the countryside away from the bustling activities of all the fast paced people in his world. He sat by a river, thinking to himself, when he saw a beer bottle float up to the riverbank. He sauntered over to pick it up. Of course the bottle would contain a note. Holden unrolled the piece of paper containing the crazy message:

Long remains long as long as it is compared to short
Short remains short as long as it is compared to long

Since Holden was generally considered to be a little strange himself,
he didn't think the note that came to him via such unexplained sources was doubtful. Instead, he sat by the riverside and thought about this message all day long. By the end of the day, he came up with his own version of the theory:
"Fast is fast beside slow.
Slow is slow beside fast.
When people are faster they look narrower,
But when I am faster, they also look narrower.
And side by side is thickest."

Night fell, and it became too dark to head home, so he slept by the
riverside that night, pondering over these new ideas.

The next morning, as he lay on the patch of grass thinking about his findings the night before, he spotted another bottle being washed up. Excitedly, he hurried over to the riverbanks and grabbed the beer bottle wondering what more new ideas he can be inspired by from this new finding.

He was not disappointed as the second bottle opened up to another note. This note said:

My love bade farewell to me from a moving vehicle
And my love moved away from me.
I bade farewell to my love from a moving vehicle
And my love moved away from me.

Why are things always moving away from me! Why! Why!
I see the river flow away from me, I let the bottle flow away from me.
But I drank the beer, so the beer will stay with me in me.
At least the beer would not move away from me.

Holden was stumped with this message. Even the craziest of all
scientists was bewildered with this message. Holden thought hard
about it, but still could not see the light behind the message, taking a cue from the beer, Holden went down the riverbank, scooped up a handful of water and drank it. As the water trickled down this
throat, a sense of revelation suddenly overwhelmed him. The water was with him in him just as the beer was in the person who wrote the
message.

"When people move away from me, they are narrower. I move away from people, but I do not move away from myself. To me, it is still them who are moving. So when either of us moves, the other appears narrower." Holden thought.

With this new revelation, Holden decided to head back home for a good rest and hopefully after being properly rested he would be able to understand more things better.

Another thing about this world of Harley Upp and Holden is that in this world, people greet each other on the streets with, "How old
are you?" because one could never be sure. Everyone ages at a
different pace, depending on one's lifestyle and one's own biological
clock. As people moved as faster speeds, time expands for them and they age slower while people like Holden who tries hard to move at a slower speed would find themselves aging as a faster rate.

Holden and Harley Upp were born on the same day. They had played
together as children, went to school together, and shared a similar
interest in science.

However, on this day that they met, the first signs of grey had
appeared in Holden's hair, and his forehead was streaked with
wrinkles. Yet Harley Upp was still a vigorous young man.

"Hey, Holden, looks like you've been moving slowly."

"I prefer to take things easy. I've been pondering over some puzzling
questions about the way our world works. What have you been up to?"

"I've been inventing speed machines and riding around in them trying
to find a way to go as fast as possible, hopefully surpass the speed
of light. Brother, looks like you need some help. Hop in!"

"Well, it isn't my usual practice, but I need the time expansion."

Holden gingerly steps into the speed machine. "It doesn't feel like
we're moving at all," he said. This was the first time he had seen a
vehicle, since the people in his world usually had no need for such
machines as they could travel at great speeds naturally. It was only
Harley Upp, constantly obsessed about pushing the speed limits, who would think of inventing speed enhancing devices.

Harley Upp left the machine on autopilot and invited Holden to the pantry for a drink. Holden looked around appreciatively.

Grinning, Harley Upp asked, "Like it? We're moving at 98 percent C, without having to lift a toe!"

Holden was pensive. "This is a huge machine. I wonder how we look from the outside."

"Probably much smaller. Half the actual size?" Harley Upp shrugged.

Holden walked towards the window and peered out. The people sitting on the benches in the park looked much narrower than before.

Harley Upp suggested, "If we had a similar machine moving at the same
speed in the opposite direction, what do you think we would see?"

Enthusiastically, Harley Upp continued to propose, "Look, Holden! What if I move as fast as possible in the same direction as this machine, in the machine? I'll build my speed on top of the machine speed!"

Holden said, "Mathematically, 2 times 98 percent C… Physically, do you think it is possible?"

Harley Upp asked, "Why don't I try it out for you to see?" He then moves at 98 percent C within the confines of the moving vehicle. "So, what do you see, Holden?"

Holden scrutinises Harley, and said pensively, thinking back about the second note he found at the riverbank, "From my frame of reference, Harley brother, you're not moving any faster, it's still 98 percent C to me."

"What's wrong?" Harley wondered.

"I will have to observe you from the outside."

Holden parted from Harley Upp after their short discussion over the possibility of breaking the limits of the speed of light. Even though they parted, Holden still continued to think about Harley Upp’s problem hoping to be able to help his childhood friend while exploring his interest in this field of science.

Before he realised, Holden ended up yet again at the countryside, just by the river where he have been picking up beer bottles with queer messages in them. Remembering that he has not picked up any beer bottle that day, Holden scurried around the river looking for one.

Not being disappointed, he finally found a bottle lying under a turf of reed under a stump of a tree. The note that day was more zen-like than previous ones. It read:

There was a runner who never reached the finish line. Every step he
took, he halved the distance between him and the finishing line. In a
100m race, the first step he took covered 50m. The second, 25m; the
third, 12.5m, followed by 6.25m, 3.125m and so on, but he was never
able to take a step that could cross the finishing line.

Holden, more familiar with people running at faster speeds, thought, "On the contrary, what if there was a runner who doubled the distance of each subsequent stride? Sooner or later, he would be able to cross an infinite distance with a single stride."

"How about for the speed of light? If I move for an infinite distance
at a constant accelerating speed, wouldn't I be able to eventually
cross the limits of the speed of light?"

Later at night, Holden decided to keep the notes he found by the
riverbank in his notebook. Lying on the table was a pair of scissors.
Picking up the pair of scissors, Holden absent-mindedly made some cutting motions, still pondering on the possibility of breaking through the speed of light.

"If I had an infinitely large pair of scissors, and the rate at which
the blades meet is constantly accelerating, would there be a point at
which the speed of cutting is faster than the speed of light?"

Unlike how Holden usually travels, this time he moved at his fastest speed to Harley Upp’s house to share with him his latest discoveries with his friend. Hopefully, one day, the both of them can together discover a way to break the barrier of the speed of light.

2 comments:

Jean Paul said...

Hi jal4eva :) Hope you're doing fine! Just wanted to let you know, I've tagged you on my blog, so whenever you feel like it, drop by and read about it :)

cya & have a great week! :)

xxoos said...

yup, i'm fine~
i'll try and get the tag done after i completed my work, haha~