Below is a guest post by Robert Kroese, author of Schrodinger’s Gat. Consider his comments a preview until tomorrow, when I will post my review of his physics-themed science thriller/mystery novel.
Guest post by author Robert Kroese
A few years ago I had an idea for a novel about someone who could alter the future by interfering with the results of coin tosses. The concept was that the heads/tails bifurcation would create two completely separate, predictable futures, and that by interfering with the toss, the protagonist could cause the future to “switch tracks” one way or another.
I had done some reading about quantum mechanics, and I was fascinated by the idea of events occurring at the atomic level that have no cause – events that are completely unpredictable and therefore truly random. Schrödinger’s Cat is, of course, the classic illustration of this: there’s no way to know whether the cat is alive or dead until you open the box, and in fact, until you open it, the cat is neither (and both!).
I thought: what if the protagonist in my novel had some kind of device that would amplify random quantum phenomena to the macro level, something that could, for example, make a coin toss truly random? In a sense, this “randomizer” device would be a real-world Schrödinger’s Cat: a way to transfer the indeterminacy occurring at the atomic level to a much larger scale. By using this device, the protagonist could inject randomness into an otherwise deterministic system, causing the future to take an alternate course. A coin comes up tails instead of heads, someone goes to Restaurant A for lunch instead of Restaurant B, and the ramifications ripple through time and space, creating a whole different reality.
After going through several iterations of the idea, I hit upon the idea of writing the story as modern day noir thriller. I immersed myself in noir fiction like The Postman Always Rings Twice and They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? and movies like The Big Sleep, Touch of Evil and Chinatown. I also read a ton of books on quantum mechanics, from Feynman’s Six Easy Pieces to Jeffrey Satinover’s The Quantum Brain. Once I felt I was in the right (wrong?) frame of mind, I sat down and started writing. When I was about halfway done with the first draft, I half-jokingly suggested on Facebook that a good title for a “quantum physics noir thriller” would be Schrödinger’s Gat. I knew from the reaction that it was a winner.
I took a few liberties with Schrödinger’s Gat, but I was very careful to get the basic physics right. I even had two physicists read over the manuscript: Fred Kuttner, the co-author of Quantum Enigma: Physics Encounters Consciousness; and Ransom Stephens, author of The God Patent (I highly recommend both books, by the way). Ransom, God bless him, even told me that my description of quantum indeterminacy was “as lucid and clear as any I’ve seen.” That’s pretty cool, considering I was a philosophy major with a C+ average.
I’m confident that Schrödinger’s Gat is the best quantum physics noir thriller you’ll read this year. But then, it’s impossible to say until you open the box.
Author Robert Kroese’s website