SSM: “Hydrogen Event in a Bubble Chamber” by Aubrey Hirsch

10 May

I know I vouched this semi-recently, but I don’t care. I’m rehashing it for Short Story Month because I have a deep deep love for theoretical physics and subsequently this story. The sheer possibility of quantum mechanics and particle physics both excites me and terrifies me in ways I can’t explain. And perhaps what I’m even more terrified about is how the future of physics could possibly explain everything, could negate the entire concept of “possibility.”

Here, just read this.

“What is it?” I ask.

“It’s a picture of subatomic particles, through an electron microscope. The technical term is ‘hydrogen event in a bubble chamber.’ It’s what happens when two particles are smashed together at very high speeds. This one’s from the accelerator at FermiLab. The lines and spots are tracks made by the explosion.” He runs a bulky fingertip along one of the swirls. “See?”

I nod. “I really like it,” I say. And I do. It reminds me of an old map, or an astrological chart. The circles are so perfect they look compass-drawn. “I can’t believe this symmetry just happens. Doesn’t it amaze you?”

Marvin shrugs. “You know, they can pretty much predict all this stuff now. If you know the size of the particles, their spin and how fast they’re moving, you can calculate the force with which they’ll hit and plot out how the pieces will move, and where they’ll all end up.”

“It sounds complicated.” I say.

“It is. Theoretically, they could do it for anything, like an egg rolling off a table, or a car accident, but they don’t have computers that can run the equations efficiently enough’”not without over-heating. Some people think that if we did, we could even plot out people’s lives.”

I want to ask if he means free will doesn’t factor in at all, but I’m afraid of what he’ll say.

Now, read the full story at PANK.

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