Sunday, October 6, 2013

Sunday in the park with Erwin (Schrödinger) - Part Zero

So, I occasionally attend the meetings of a group called “Philosophy in L.A.”, a discussion group that meets in a public “community room” in Santa Monica. I don’t remember how I first got on the mailing list of this group, but it turns out they are a Meetup group as much as anything else. At the first meeting I attended (topic: Gun Control), I made friends with a guy I’ll call Moses, and he mentioned that there was, in the same room but on different Sundays, a similar Meetup group that got together to talk about Quantum Mechanics, in case, you know, I was interested. Wow. Out of my league. But at the second Philosophy meeting I attended (topic: Loyalty), it became clear that another guy was there by accident, having gotten confused about the date for QM. No, that’s next week, said Moses, but stay and see how you like this one. The guy stayed.

Moses insisted I didn’t really need to know that much physics to come to the discussion. Many people don’t talk at all, he said. Ok. Did he sense my utter desperation for intellectual challenge? Don’t get me wrong; I love getting paid to teach dancing. It’s an awesome thing when your hobby can be your living – they actually pay me to do something I’d do anyway, something I love to do. But… let’s be honest. If my creative/artistic side wasn’t completely fulfilled in my first career in software, my intellectual side is surely unfulfilled in my second.

And that’s how I came to spend a bright and beautiful Sunday afternoon in September at the Quantum Mechanics Meetup (topic: Schrödinger's Cat and dual-something-something).

First big question: is Schrödinger correctly pronounced with a hard or soft /g/ sound? (Echoes of the big .gif or .jif debate, anyone?) I’ve always said it like the g in ringer, but the first guy to jump in with questions, let’s call him Wayne and more on him later, pronounced it like the g in ginger. Which is it, internet friends?

The meeting lasted about two hours, and I spent it in a state of almost constant amazement. First, I was here remembering and learning and understanding topics in advanced physics!!! Second, this kind of thing even exists! Random not-necessarily-scientists from all kinds of who-knows-where will gather together one Sunday a month to discuss PHYSICS! I spent quite a bit of time in this meta-space, thinking about the people in the room, and the room around the people, and how these things came together.

Serious idea: I should write a book about the whole Meetup phenomenon. I should go to tons of different Meetups, the social ones and the academic ones and the animal-related and the vegetable-related and the one for Girls Who Embrace Their Naturally Crazy Curly Hair (This exists. Locally.) I’ll notice the patterns, talk to the people, find the similarities and differences and the humor and the pain and just do an enjoyable and enlightening study of this intentional community thing that’s going on.

Serious problem with above serious idea: I’ve already used the word thing about eight times in this essay. Does anyone honestly think I could write a book?

More later, because Life. And attention spans.