Thursday, February 08, 2007

Turning in circles

You're sitting in your room and decide to get up, walk across the room, do something (check the thermostat, get some more drink, etc.) and then return to where you started. Depending on tiny details of the arrangement of furniture, your own personal habits, etc. you might find that your return trip completely reverses every movement you made, but it might not. Instead, you might have gone through a rotation before your return.

To picture what I mean, imagine this. An empty room, a chair facing a wall. You stand up from the chair and walk to the wall, then turn to your left to turn around. You walk back to the chair, then turn to your right to sit in it. Your movements have completely reversed themselves.

Now do the same thing but at the very end, turn left, not right, before sitting down. You're in the same end position, but now, you've done a complete 360° turn to the left (counter-clockwise, as seen from above) in the process.

On a trip around the house to do a few things before returning to your seat, you might do several turns in both directions. Over the course of a day, do you end up exactly cancelling out your turns? Probably not. I bet most of us turn more one direction than the other, and so gradually over our lives, we end up gradually accumulating rotations in one direction (probably clockwise).

Imagine if every time you did a full rotation, you shifted yourself into an adjacent universe, different only by one tiny slice of probability. Maybe most people rotate back and forth in a small set of adjacent, almost identical universes. But some people favor one foot or the other, so they tend to rotate gradually away from their original probability, and as a result, end up in a universe that differs from their own by too little for them to become consciously aware of it, but by enough that the dissonance makes them seem out of place. Maybe they end up geniuses or madmen or both.

Maybe you could learn how to do this on purpose, rotating the right number of turns to select the alternate probability curve on which you didn't just drop your cellphone on the floor, or the one where the fourth number on the lottery was 18 instead of 19. Though the more you did this, the greater the risk you'd end up too far from your original dimension.

What do other people think about while they're heading back from the fridge with a fresh cup of soda?

2 comments:

Kathleen said...

Wow. That's some seriously deep thought for a trip to the fridge!

litlfrog said...

For some reason this reminds me of a college conversation about two-dimensional versus three-dimensional worlds, and how to a Flatland being a pineapple would look like God.

Yeah, we were really high.