Psychometric Musings
Interlude: Tunneling

Summary: "God does not play dice with the universe." But even Einstein's wrong sometimes.
Rating: G
A/N: I'm not a physics major – all this is cobbled together from reading Einstein's Universe, A Brief History of Time, and The Universe in a Nutshell. As far as I know, it's sound – but what I don't know about theoretical physics would fill several libraries. (The Elegant Universe is my next project.) Anyway, this piece is more concerned with the philosophical implications. Not sure where it goes in the larger "Musings" storyline.

For Mehiel.

Secretly, Karasuma dreams of happily-ever-after.

It's not just an adverbial phrase any more (and they lived how? For how long?) but a place. Or rather, a non-place, the fold in time about which everything else revolved. A pocket of an alternate universe, a small enclave in which space-time is curved, not outward, but inward. In which every moment is still, crystalline, finite but unbounded. The distillation and essence of escape.

She knows her physics well, of course. Space-time is curved, but continuous – there are no bubbles, no stepping-stones from one universe to another. Even if such place existed, they would be inaccessible from our "normal" time – separated by singularities, impenatrable barriers, disruptions in the smooth fabric of spacetime. She thinks of those bubbles of lost time, inaccessible to mere mortals no matter how small the gap. An insurmountable barrier ...

Then again, there's that other side to physics. The quantum side. If she puts a cat in a box with a poison that has a 50 percent chance of killing it, and she doesn't look, is the cat alive or dead? Until she does look, it's neither, and both. The act of observation, of knowing, changes the universe irrevocably. If she keeps her eyes closed, the possibility is still there.

In this world, you won't live long with your eyes closed.

There's another side to quantum theory: the uncertainty principle. Nothing can ever be ruled out. There's a fundamental randomness to everything, a built-in loophole, and it has a name and a value. If you know where you are, you can't know where you're headed. And vice versa.

And those insurmountable barriers? There's a thing called tunneling, that happens sometimes. Say you have particles in a box, and it takes a certain energy to escape. There is a small, but finite, probability that a particle without the necessary energy will "tunnel" though the barrier and escape. If you have enough particles, you can observe this. You can see miracles happening.

Of course, this is all science, based on reason. And despite her own training, her relentless discipline, Karasuma's Craft is one of instinct. Intuition and reason are diametrically opposed.

But she still dreams of tunneling into one of those island universes, finite but unbounded. If she keeps her eyes closed ... there is a small, but measurable possibility that it may happen.

She isn't ready to give that up, yet.