Chapter 11: The Trojan Carousel
...... Next morning, Paul, an early riser, climbed down from his bunk, powered up his computer, and checked his e-mail. "Hey! Here's this week's DEX."
...... Kip leaned his head over the edge of his mattress. "Anything interesting?"
...... Paul slowly scrolled through the e-mail newspaper. "Nope...no...no...nothing...no....Oh, wait! Here's a story about a friendly competition between third form Amdexter and us. It's for two weeks from now. A baseball game on Saturday and a chess tournament on Sunday."
...... "What?" said Kip, "no synchronized puppy stomping competition?"
...... "I like the idea of a chess tournamnet," said Wolfgang. "I bet Dr. Ralph suggested it."
...... "Probably." Paul threw a glance at Wolfgang, still lounging in bed. "I suppose that like in addition to being a sword swisher, you're also a chess master."
...... "No." Wolfgang placed his hands behind his head and lay back on his bunk. "But I am a member of the United States. Chess Federation and have a rating of 1443."
...... "What does that mean?" said Kip.
...... "It means that, at least for my age, I'm pretty good--but not great. I guess you don't play chess, then."
...... "I do," said Kip. "I even went to chess camp in the third grade. My coach told my dad I could be good but I don't have the killer instinct."
...... Paul looked from his monitor to the others. "I'd really like to be the manager for our baseball team."
...... Kip, since it was Monday, extracted clean clothes from his locker. "Do you really think we have a chance against those Amdexter jocks?"
...... "Maybe." Paul scrunched his shoulders. "I'd have to see what talent we have--and I'll have to scout out the other team. But good team management can make a big difference."
...... Wolfgang rolled languidly out of his bunk. "And I'd be glad to captain the chess team."
...... Paul turned back to the screen. "It says there'll be more information about the competitions at our school assemblies."
...... There was more information at the Amdexter assembly. But Kip was too distracted to absorb much of it. He'd been teased all through breakfast by Todd and his gang. They'd pointed at him and scratched under their arms and made gorilla grunts. And then it got worsre; Todd announced. "E.S.A.P. That's wrong. It should be A.P.E.S.--APES." Todd and his friends then laughed themselves silly.
...... And when Kip and the other grey shorts walked into assembly, Todd had called out, "Here come the apes!" Kip had tried "Here comes Todd and his toddlers." But it didn't help. All it did was make Todd's crowd mad at him. Kip was glad when assembly ended and he could escape to his first period class--even if it was Latin and with Todd in his class.
...... Second period was far, far better though: Social Studies with Mr. Thomas, and no Todd.
...... "Mr. Bates told me this morning," Mr. Thomas began, "that in your Roman Culture course on Saturday, you were taught about the Roman gods and myths. True?" The boys allowed that it was true.
...... "Then for balance, I thought I'd shelve Alexander the Great's conquests for the day and introduce you to the Greek gods and myths." Mr. Thomas paced as he usually did at the start of a class and Kip glanced to his left to see if Alex was listening or drawing. He seemed to be listening--or at any rate, he wasn't drawing.
...... "And," Mr. Thomas went on, "we can learn about myths, gods, and history, by starting with the Trojan War." He stopped pacing, as he usually did when he was ready to deliver the meat of lecture.
...... He discribed the long standoff between the Greeks and the Trojans, and then described the victory of the Greeks, through the ruse of the Trojan Horse.
...... "...And so, in the middle of the night, the soldiers hidden in the big wooden horse, snuck out and opened the gates to the city. The Greeks rushed through and...and masacred just about everyone." Mr. Thomas paused. "We now talk about a Trojan Horse as something that looks like a gift but is really just a device for sneaking past a place's defenses." He looked from face to face. "Can anyone think of an example of what could be called a Trojan Horse?"
...... After a few moments of silence where many boys shifted their gazes downward for fear of being called on, a boy said, "How about our carousel?"
...... Mr. Thomas looked at the kid with clear puzzlement. "What do you mean?"
...... Kip recognized the kid as one of Todd's friends.
...... "Well," said the kid. "The carousel seemed to be gift, but it is sort of the way that APES Kids got into Amdexter."
...... "ESAP, please," said Mr. Thomas with a frown. Then he brightened, "I like to think of the carousel as more like a bridge--connecting ESAP and Amdexter."
...... "It's like a Trojan Horse in both direction," another kid piped up.
...... The first kid laughed. "Yeah. It's a Trojan Carousel."
...... Mr. Thomas regained control of his class and guided the discussion back to the myths and gods of the ancient Greeks.
...... At the conclusion of the class, Kip and Alex walked out together.
...... "Boy, the Greeks had a lot of gods," said Alex. "You know. Maybe all gods are really the same--just different appearances."
...... "Like the wave-particle duality?" said Kip.
...... Alex made a face. "Huh?"
...... "Physics stuff."
...... At Snack Bar that afternoon, Kip saw the chalked notice,
...... ...... ...... ...... Gedanken Today--Where is that electron?
...... He noted it and then attended to the ESAP
assembly, already in progress: Since no one seemed to care very much, Paul was
chosen the manager of the baseball team and Wolfgang, now no longer all that
enthusiastic, was made captain of the chess team. He said he couldn't take the
chess match very seriously since they'd be playing without chess clocks. Mostly
though, the talk was about the Amdexter kids calling ESAP kids apes.
...... "We'll just have to live with it until it dies down," said one of the kids.
...... "If it ever does," said another.
...... "But it makes me really mad, the Amdorks calling us names," said a third.
...... A bunch of kids laughed at the comment. And then another made a motion that all ESAP kids call the Amdextor kids Amdorks. Despite some protestations that not all Amdextor kids were dorks, the motion was voted and passed. Then, Dr. Ralph walked in and Kip turned his thoughts to quantum mechanics.
...... Dr. Ralph carried a large posterboard with an illustration on it and two smaller, strip-like boards which he laid face down on a table. He tacked the large posterboard to the wall. It showed a representation of a box with two slits at one end and a photographic plate at the opposite end and a gun pointed at the box shooting electrons.
...... "Today," he said, his back still to the boys, "we'll see that an electron, a single electron, can go through both slits at the same time."
...... "Why are you using posterboard?" said one of the kids.
...... Dr. Ralph turned around.
...... "I mean," the kid went on, "you could have drawn it on a computer and let the blackboard display it."
...... "I considered it," said Dr. Ralph. "But it would have been too slick. And it takes a lot of effort to prepare--especially for just one class." He juggled the chalk. "All right, then. The two-slit experiment. Here we go."
(For Dr. Ralph's description of the 2-slit experiment, click here)
...... "And so,"--Dr. Ralph set down
his chalk--"Each electron seems to go through both slits. That's the only
way we could get an interference pattern."
...... One of the boys asked, "But how can just one single electron go through both slits?"
...... "That is the question." Dr. Ralph pocketed his pen. "I have no idea of the answer. Nobody does." He blew out a breath. "In fact, one theory says that everytime there are multiple outcomes to an experiment--for example, going through one slit or another--a seperate universe is created for each possible output. And interference is caused by the separate universes themselves interfering." He smiled, looking from face to face. "Yeah, I know. It's more like science fiction than science. But some physicists take that theory seriously." He paused. "It's fun, isn't it?"
...... The boys admitted that it was.
...... Dr. Ralph looked from face to face, finally stopping at Kip. "You don't look quite as mystified as the other boys," he said, lightly. "You do understand the problem. Yes?"
...... "Yes," said Kip, tentatively. But then he added. "No. I mean I can sort of visualize it, what's really happening to the electrons, I mean. I don't exactly see it in pictures really. It's hard to explain."
...... "Well...." Kip tried to put his visualization in words, but Dr. Ralph held up a hand.
...... "Wait," said Dr. Ralph. "Not now. It's just about time for the next class." He dismissed the boys. But as Kip started out of Snack Bar, Dr. Ralph held him back. "Wait a minute, Kip."
...... Kip stared at him expectantly.
...... When the rest of the boys had gone, Ralph said. "There's a saying: If you keep your head while everybody around you is in a state of panic, then perhaps you don't fully understand the situation."
...... Kip felt he was expected to laugh, so he did.
...... "So," Dr. Ralph continued. "As far as the two slit experiment, is it that you don't understand the problem? Or...." Dr. Ralph's voice became soft. "Or is it possible that you understand it far better than I do--far better than anyone does?"
...... "I probably don't understand it, sir, but... but maybe waves and particles are two different things, while being the same."
...... "Meaning what, exactly, please?"
...... Kip laughed nerviously. "I don't know about 'exactly'. But I mean maybe...maybe it's a problem with how you think about 'thing'."
...... Dr. Ralph stared at him through narrowed, contemplitive eyes. "You mean maybe the word 'thing' doesn't mean what it seems to mean?"
...... "Yeah," said Kip. "Maybe the wave part of the electron thing can be everywhere at once and the particle part can't."
...... Kip twitched as Dr. Ralph stared hard at him in silence.
...... After ten or fifteen seconds, Dr. Ralph asked, "And you can...can visualize those electron things?"
...... "Sort of," said Kip. "I'm not sure."
...... Dr. Ralph gave a good-natured chuckle. "Blessed are the uncertain, for maybe they shall see Heisenberg."
...... "The examiners were right about you," said Dr. Ralph, speaking to Kip, but sounding as if he wasn't. "You do have an exceptional physical intuition. Something to be carefully cultivated."
...... Dr. Ralph got a far away look. "This might validate ESAP." He shook his head. "Maybe it's just wishful thinking. But maybe.... God I'd kill to understand the two slit experiment."
...... "Better run off to your next class." Dr. Ralph gave a warm smile. "And see if you can find words to describe your visualization." He paused. "But don't hurry it."
...... Kip started away, but then stopped and said "I think I understand now what Korzybski meant when he said the map is not the territory."
...... In subdorm-8 that night after lights out,
Paul spoke from his bunk into the darkness. "I used to believe in mathematics.
I, like, thought it was perfect and logical." He paused. "But after
Gödel's Theorem, I don't think I believe in anything."
...... "I don't either," said Wolfgang. "At least not in any religious stuff. My dad always says that it comes with the territory when you're a theoretical physicist."
...... "And so." Paul paused. "I've sort of decided that instead of a mathematician, I'm going to be a physicist--a mathematical physicist."
...... "Hey, great!" said Wolfgang.
...... "Really?" said Kip. "Nice....I wish that Alex had decided to be one, too."
...... "Alex doesn't think like us," said Wolfgang. "He's a civilian."