COLUMN: You don’t exist, so do I, and vice versa


Trent Jonas

Trent Jonas is a graduate student studying English and can be reached at 217-581-2812.

Trent Jonas, Columnist

Well folks, Schrödinger’s cat remains a zombie (dead and alive at the same time), and there’s probably an alternate universe on the other end of that black hole.

It turns out that Padgett wasn’t too far off when he claimed that DEN isn’t real. Or anything else for that matter (subatomically speaking, mostly)—until it’s locally observed. Even then, it’s only real for the observer.

While I am always in some state of existential crisis or another, that’s not the cause of today’s proclamations here, in the erstwhile pages of a nonexistent student newspaper. (I’m an online student; I’ve never seen it!)

No, dear readers, a group of esteemed (I assume old and bearded) committee members in Oslo have launched me into this quantum reverie.

You see, the 2022 Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded to three very messed up gentlemen—John Clauser, Alain Aspect, and Anton Zeilinger—who proved, through experiments with quantum entanglement, that the universe is not “locally real.”

Put simply, these scientists demonstrated that objects lack definite properties, such as speed, size or color, until they’re measured/observed, AND they’re not necessarily influenced by their surroundings.

You remember that scene in The Matrix when Joey Pants is eating the nonexistent (to other observers) steak and enjoying every minute if it? It’s kinda like that.

So, if you’re eating a juicy orange in your house, while I’m standing outside on your lawn, your orange doesn’t exist as far as I’m concerned. Nor is it necessarily orange or juicy for anyone but you.

It wouldn’t exist for me until I burst through the door, see the peels on the floor at your feet, the fleshy wedges in your hands, and the juice running down your chin. Or it may not.

You see, until I burst through the door, and either see the orange or don’t see the orange (whatever color it may be), it actually both exists and doesn’t exist for me—like Erwin’s famous feline.

I guess Missourians are onto something when they say “Show Me!” As existentially troubling as it is to think that anything that I can’t see right now may or may not (or, rather, may and may not) still exist, it’s also somewhat liberating.

That parking ticket sitting under the physics book on my desk? Nonexistent. As is the boot on my car, the court summons in my mail, and the deputy knocking on my door. If I don’t open the door, I won’t see her, and if I don’t see her, she doesn’t exist.

Realizing this, I pick up what may look, to you, like a tennis ball (or nothing or both), sink my teeth into and smile. I assure you it’s quite delicious.

Trent Jonas is an English graduate student. He can be reached at [email protected] or 217-581-2812.