Tuesday, October 2, 2012


In Brian Greene’s series, The Fabric of the Cosmos, on NOVA (available on PBS), a new and interesting graphic of the classic, vexing, Double Slit Experiment shows electron particles as coalescing waves round the slits like rocks in a river.  But something about how after Schrodinger's wave equation, further research showed that it does not in any way determine or predict where the electrons are landing, only the probability of where they could be.**  

The result, most physicists interviewed said, is we don't have the right to ask exactly where things will be, only what the probability of finding them in one very particular area, where we want to look at the very moment we want to look, would be.  Because something about how Neils Bohr said the act of measurement forces the finality of the matter, momentarily.**  

Many of the scientists in this series echo the same sentiment, often laughing (sometimes somewhat bitterly): That Quantum Mechanics, and String Theory (with it’s possibility to tie all things together across dimensions, time and space), that the very fact we only have the right to ask the probability, are frustrating, bizarre, maddening and mostly unthinkable, but their experiments keep working out. 

And the final word from each?  

“There seems to be no law in the universe that says a particle physicist has to be happy about any of it”. 
--Every single person interviewed, Brian Green’s Fabric of the Cosmos.

Now, considering that many physicists, depending on degree of, well, scientifically philosophical bent, consider such things as philosophy and psychology as suspect offshoots of Underwater Basketweaving 101, it seems they stray ever further into the realm of the darker psyche.  

For all the years I have struggled to gain a final hold on sanity, to force a permanent, overarching structure of normality and function in my life, it has proven resolutely slippery and ultimately elusive.  Perhaps it will never be anything more than what I can pin down, squiggling to free itself, in any given moment, and that’s all I get to call ‘normal.’ 

It’s a bit like having a permanent flu, with that hideously uncomfortable dis-ease lurking beneath your skin, sometimes making you twitch and try to rock yourself to comfort or sleep. Fifty-Fifty success rate on that. Every time my baby niece has a fussy day; when bouncing and rocking and nursing and swaddling-and-shooshing can’t overcome the existential discomfort, I want to take her in my arms and let her know she’s not alone; that Vincent Van Gogh and Brian Cox and Albert Einstein and Mozart all raged and despaired and deflated with the same melancholy. But as sharp as the kid is, she doesn’t believe me when I say that eventually it will subside and she will get to drive and go to parties and follow her dreams and vote Democratic. 

But there is no comfort for an 8-month-old in these histories and promises!  They are mere probabilities, the rantings of a mad auntie!  Could happen, might not, won’t know till we get there. She literally cannot see any but the momentary certainties.  Thus, ecstasy is chewing Sofie the Giraffe, right here, right now.  

Right now I have hold of a cowl I am knitting out of (now defunct) Sanguine Gryphon Codex yarn in a breathtaking ruby red which has been balled and ready for use for nearly a year.  It has been matched against many projects and summarily rejected all of them.  It is a knitted item in it’s quantum state--that is, in all states of possibility--and probably the one I needed to find two years ago when I flipped out and handed over my credit card while slathering like a rabid possum.  

I've heard tell of other luscious yarns, I won't believe you...

I bought the buttons, ostensibly for use as a bracelet, a year ago, and that idea just kept bonking off my brain as well.  


Until two weeks ago with the Knitting Cabal at my house, someone saw my crystal bowl of favorite buttons. I had just laid the Codex on the coffee table along with 4 other Projects-in-Potentia that were driving me crazy.  Buttons met yarn, yarn asked for cowl, cowl pattern was, miraculously, found.  

The French Braid Cowl by Breean Elyse Miller
This is how I’ve come to terms with the Particle Physicist’s plight: It’s usually a difficult process which begins in optimism and ends in despair, but occasional triumph and fits with fearful symmetry the history of physics research.  I buy pretty yarn. It might sit around, perhaps displayed, for who knows how long, while I feel intimidated by the huge, seemingly amorphous Knitting Universe. At some point, a pattern might be found and printed out, even stuffed into a project bag with the yarn and needles, but rarely started. Sometimes, on later consideration, it was a poorly chosen pattern--a terrible experiment, and is dismantled. So it sits some more, waiting and waiting, while in some dimension it is a beautiful finished thing, being used and worn and loved instead of suffering the ignominy of repeated rejection and limbo.  In the end, I only have a beautiful finished thing at the one exact moment I can pounce on the yarn and a magically workable pattern at the same time and just get the damn thing started. 

To me, it is a whole squirrelly, multi-dimensional mess of lovely string, improbable patterns, and I only know it’s possible because this experiment keeps working.


Join us here in Silicon Valley in late February (yes, 2013) for a mad, hoppin' fabulous weekend of Fiber, Shopping, Classes and Events! Visit XRX/ Knitting Universe for details and Class Registrations!

**PS: I know I don't have it all right, it's why I watch it over and over and try to read the books.  I'm hoping for enlightenment by 80, I've just hit half-life.

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