My Irish Up: Quantum physics & government shutdowns

Mike Corrigan

Mike Corrigan

By Mike Corrigan

BN Columnist

Nature claims scientists are seeking a new and improved word picture to describe the quantum micro- and macro-worlds. Ahem. I don’t know why they didn’t just ask me directly.

To solve the basic questions of quantum physics — why scientists can't measure both the spin and a charge of certain particles, why photons seem to choose which slit to transit in certain experiments, and so on — I propose the invention of a new mathematics. After all, Newton invented the calculus to figure out non-quantum gravity, and he wasn’t that much smarter than I am. (Ask yourself, which one of us is dead? Okay, then.) My mathematics would be based on functions of the unknowable. The indeterminancy of the fractions 1/∞ and ∞/∞ will be the mathematical basis for my argument, which you’re probably not smart enough to understand. I know I’m not. Let’s work on that later. I’ll call you if I get stuck.

Meanwhile, back on planet Earth, or somewhere in that vicinity, the geniuses in the U.S. Congress propose shutting down the government, since everyone knows “we” don’t need it, anyway. Though derelict tripod machines pitched awkwardly against devastated buildings while the human survivors pick their way through the rubble, that War of the Worlds scenario is not valid. What mainly ensues after a government shutdown is a vast silence. There’ll be (1.) very few loud protests, because, since (2.) they won’t be shutting down the Internet or turning off cable, people will get along just fine, anyhow. (The economy will grind to a halt, but at least it won't be going backwards. Pass the remote, dear.) Also, (3.) you don’t much notice what government does when you’re actually stuck in Washington not making laws about anything. It’s difficult from that vantage point to determine the effects of your inaction or your actions, at least partly because of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle. (See, quantum physics is everywhere.)

Let’s take a look at a few Actual Quotes related to this latest manufactured crisis.

• Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK): Asked on MSNBC on Monday if a shutdown was “going to hurt the Republicans,” Cole said, “I do, but more importantly I think it’s going to hurt the American people.”

• Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA): “I’m prepared to vote for a clean resolution tomorrow… It’s time to govern. I don’t intend to support a fool’s errand at this point.”

• Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ): “Obamacare is definitely not ready for prime time. But I do not want the government to shut down. I think after voting against it some 40 times, we have represented our constituents and made our point.”

• Rep. Peter King (R-NY): “We should not be closing down the government under any circumstances… That doesn’t work, it’s wrong, and, you know, Obamacare passed. We have to try to defund it, we have to try to find ways to repeal it. But the fact is, we shouldn’t be using it as a threat to shut down the government.”

• Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI): “We have to stay on the right side of public opinion… Shutting down the government puts us on the wrong side. The fight is on the debt limit.”

And then, what happened? For every political statement, I guess, there must be an equal and opposite political misstatement. All of these deep thinkers went and voted to shut down the government, anyway! Because it’s the principle of the thing! Because no one can hear you saying, “No, don’t, you stupid fools!” if you don’t actually say, “No, don’t, you stupid fools!”

I remember when we used to live in a representative democracy, that’s how old I am. It didn’t work at all well, but at least it worked. Nowadays, people think budgets and debts and health insurance laws are rocket science, so they leave those subjects to the experts. But I’ve read the economists (just before I read Nature) and most of them are wrong. Wrong! Now, 1/∞, that’s rocket science. If anyone needs me, I’ll be in the lab.

If anybody needs Mike, he’ll be in the bathroom.

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