Tuesday, 29 November 2011

DECEMBER 14th [Science Comedy Advent Calendar]

December 14th: Quantum Entanglement

All this talk of Father Christmas travelling around the world in one night, visiting every child and delivering at least one gift for each of them (or something unpleasant for the ones who have not met his ill-defined but thoroughly checked criteria for being  'nice', but either way, mass is donated to each child), it's all well and good. But how could he do this? It's all very well saying that he's 'magic', but that's not really an explanation, that's hand waving and invoking the mythical Macguffin.

In this day of instant internet access and Children being better at computers than their parents, it's harder and harder to fob children off with blaze non-explanations. They'll just go and look it up if you don't provide a satisfactory answer, and then they'll realise the whole 'Father Christmas is real' thing is just an elaborate con told to kids for ill-defined reasons. Their ignorance will be shattered by finding out the harsh truth at too-young an age, they will lose all trust of their parents and become a cynical and ill-disciplined child, eventually becoming an authority-bucking teenager who will have no qualms in experimenting with drugs and casual sex, eventually dropping out of the education system and becoming a homeless derelict who survives thanks to petty theft and small-scale drug dealing. All because you couldn't think of a good explanation for the activities of Santa Clause. Is that what you want?

So, here's an idea. Is it possible that the Santa-system is one based on quantum entanglement? That mysterious system whereby previously connected particles/molecules/miscellaneous remain entangled by some unknown mechanism. Quantum mechanics has given us a lot of weird stuff to consider, and this is one of the good ones. You split two entangled particles and separate them by a great distance, then manipulate one, and the other will show direct signs of that manipulation, despite the fact that it's very far away. A direct connection that transcends space and time? That would come in handy, wouldn't it.

So maybe Santa is the master of quantum? If he was capable of large-scale quantum manipulation, it would explain a lot. Let's look at the arguments.

·         As previously pointed out, his naughty/nice list has to take into account the vast fluctuations in the Earth's child population, their associated behaviours and locations, and as a result this list has to be constantly updated and checked at least twice. This would require an extraordinary degree of computational power. Modern CPUs may not be up to the task, but a quantum computer? That should be easily capable. But the processes that would support quantum computing are notoriously fragile, and would probably require a very stable, low energy environment to function properly, so Santa would have to spend a lot of time in some very cold, isolated environment...

·         Actually, how can Santa possibly know if every child is being bad or good? The songs suggest he personally watches every child which, as well as being creepy, is a big task. But what if he had a direct quantum connection into the home of every child? For someone with his manipulation of quantum processes skills, it wouldn't take much, just a small sample of matter from something that is still in the child's home, per se. Let's say, I don't know, the ink from a pen or graphite from a pencil? But even then, the establishing of a quantum connection to every child would require every child to write something and send it directly to Santa. Which is ridiculous...

·         How does he get to every child's home in a single night? Well, one possible explanation for quantum entanglement is that entangled things stay connected via wormholes, that Science-fiction go-to favourite. Connecting two disparate points of space to allow instantaneous travel between them in a manner that is outside the usual temporal constraints, that would be handy wouldn't it? Using the initial connection established by the child's scribbling (see above), Saint Nick could establish more reliable connections with each visit, all he'd have to do is leave something in the child's possession that he created and that's entangled with something in his home base. So it would have to be something the child didn't have before, but that they'd be unlikely to panic about or dispose of. Like a toy, for example. Teenagers eventually stop writing to Santa and put their toys away, so he stops coming.

·         Actually, what would this wormhole travel look like, to someone who was lucky enough to witness it? It's bound to be a very high energy process, so it would look like a large fat man emerging from a bright, high-energy opening that appears to lead to a tight tunnel that he couldn't possibly fit into according to normal spatial laws. But people who see this wouldn't have the vocabulary to explain this, so they'd have to describe it using metaphors they can relate to.

·         But Santa isn't often spotted, is he? You'd think with millions of children trying to catch a glimpse, a few hundred would be successful, just based on the law of averages alone? But if Santa has control of quantum processes, he could well have the ability to manipulate his superposition. Santa may exist in a condition of unspecified possibilities. If someone does see him, it should be feasible for him to collapse the quantum wave function to a state where he isn't there at all. Or maybe he can transfer into some parallel world where he's in the room but the child isn't. It's quantum, why the hell not?

So there you go. If a child ever asks you how Santa does what he does, feel free to give them the full Quantum explanation.

'But Dean', you may say, 'how does he do all this? What gives him such mastery of quantum processes? And what's the deal with the Reindeer?'

I don't know. He's not actually real, so just chill out, no need to get carried away.

Twitter: @garwboy


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