Monday, May 2, 2011

To Read or Not to Read, No Question!

Of course I read--I even dream of reading. Woke up this morning having dreamed that one of the books on my shelf was in backwards, its leading edges facing out, spine hidden. This is a dream joking with me. In my most recent visit to the library I succumbed to temptation and came home with yet another book about quantum physics. Over the years, I've tried hard to grasp the theory of a subatomic world, but it's like religion: I'm asked to have faith, to believe in things unseen. Things like photons (Well, I suppose they are not unseen, being particles of light.), electrons, muons, quarks, and translocation. Lovely, mysterious words, but without substance or image.

I recognize in the book my own lovely English language, understand the words, but not the sentences. Reading about physics is like trying to learn Urdu or Mandarin by sleeping with a bilingual dictionary under my pillow. It just does not sink in. Maybe I'm missing that higher math gene that leads to an understanding of the space-time continuum. Then again, I don't understand the transmission in my car, but I manage to get places. Why do I fall for the seductive idea that I can understand the universe? Given the huge flock of books that fly out of publishers' warehouses each year, I could easily find more readable candidates to stack on my coffee table. Reading about physics is like eating liver; it's supposed to be good for me, but I don't enjoy it. So, my apologies to Professor Anton Zeilinger, author of Dance of the Photons: From Einstein to Quantum Teleportation. I'm reasonably sure he's a nice man. If Farrar, Straus, Giroux trust him, so should I, but I don't understand his world. So, for now, I'm back to reading English mystery stories and drinking tea. The universe will have to take care of itself.

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