The New York Times started putting their content behind a pay wall a year ago. They've now cut the number of free articles you can access each month (without a subscription) from 20 to 10 (boo!). This article by David Javerbaum is probably one of the best ways you can use your allotment of the Grey Lady this month.
A bit of context. Before Mitt Romney, those seeking the presidency operated under the laws of so-called classical politics, laws still followed by traditional campaigners like Newt Gingrich. Under these Newtonian principles, a candidate’s position on an issue tends to stay at rest until an outside force — the Tea Party, say, or a six-figure credit line at Tiffany — compels him to alter his stance, at a speed commensurate with the size of the force (usually large) and in inverse proportion to the depth of his beliefs (invariably negligible). This alteration, framed as a positive by the candidate, then provokes an equal but opposite reaction among his rivals.But don't miss one of the best bits hidden in the caption to one of the figures:
The famous “Schrödinger’s candidate” scenario. For as long as Mitt Romney remains in this box, he is both a moderate and a conservative.This is a pun on the famous "Schrödinger's Cat" thought experiment in which quantum mechanics says that a cat in a box containing some poison is both dead and alive at the same time. In Romney's case, he's both a moderate and a conservative, depending on the day, or the weather (and in Romney's case, the box with the cat would be on the roof of his car traveling 75mph). Remember when Romney flip-flopped on Super PACS? Or criticized Solyndra but then took money from its lobbyist? Or flip-flopped on the effects of carbon pollution, on gays, stem cells, and abortion, and even on whether he liked catfish?
Then again, back in 2000, Schrödinger's Bush was able to lose the election but still become President.
You don't need a degree in nuclear physics to understand the piece but if you do it is even funnier. Javerbaum hits every mark with perfect snark.
NOTE FROM JOHN: Oddly, I've not found a good explanation online of the Schrödinger's Cat riddle. The video I posted above tries to explain it, but still doesn't do it well in my opinion. Here's another video explaining it, and I don't think it passes muster. What the explanations fail to explain, and what I don't remember well enough from college physics to explain here, is why in quantum mechanics do both states exist simultaneous - meaning, in real life it's 50-50, either or. In quantum mechanics, both states co-exist simultaneous, in a sense, so the cat IS both dead AND alive at the same time - that's the point of whole thought experiment. I don't think the explanations get that point across well enough. Can someone explain this better in the comments?
This is probably my biggest beef about the Internet. There's a lot of information about everything, but often not the exact information I'm looking for, about something obvious, like this.
REPLY FROM MYRDDIN: Schrödinger's Cat is probably best thought of as a koan rather than a paradox. It is a useful way to think about and discuss philosophical interpretations of quantum equations. In particular is observation a necessary or merely a sufficient condition to collapse the wave function? The equations work just as well either way. If you consider the idea that the cat is both dead and alive to be unacceptable then you need to take the view that any particle interaction that could be used to make an observation will cause the collapse. But the opposite interpretation is equally consistent with the theory.
NOTE FROM GP: Gotta weigh in, perhaps ignorantly. Light is both a wave and a particle in quantum physics. Why? Because what it appears to be, is a function of how you examine it, not when examine it. Metaphorically, look at it from the left, it's a waveform (i.e., has no mass); look at it from the right, it's a particle (oops, has mass) — all at the same time. That doesn't explain the cat story, but it does explain the simultaneous aspect John raised above. (I don't have cats, but my plants are always dead, so I'm no help there.)