Quantum particle juggling

The kids were watching Air Bud – Golden Receiver when I walked into the room. A coach was uttering a line “Go ahead and take a lap of the field.” I had missed my evening run and by the clock the time was too late for sakau, so I decided to hit the field for a lap.

Outside a waxing gibbous moon was shining through a thin veil of cirrostratus ice haze, generating a full moon bow around the moon. Just below the moon, inside the ethereal ring was the planet Mars. Lunacy and war seemed propitious for night joggling under the moon.

The track was all but empty. Two lone walkers were finishing their laps of the moonlit track. A couple young boys were sitting and chatting on the back stretch,  a couple young girls were sitting in front of the grand stand.

The young girls were looking up at the moon and engaged in some discussion of the “star.” I pointed out that the ring around the moon was redder on the inside edge – the ring was actually a form of rainbow in the sky. And then I told them that the star in the ring was Mars.

“Mars? The planet? You mean we can see Mars? We can see a planet? I cannot believe I am seeing a planet!” exclaimed one of the two girls. “How do you know this mister?”

“I teach at the college and know astronomy.”

I then headed out to attempt to joggle under the Martian lunacy. At first I was dropping my balls within three throws. I gradually found that I could joggle much of the track, except where I was headed directly at a distant streetlight or towards a car’s headlights along the road side of the track.

One of the hardest parts of the track was the southwest corner where a single streetlight lamp is kept on through the night. The light is a gas discharge lamp, blinking on and off 60 times a second. The result is that my balls strobe through the air, becoming blurry streaks. Probabilistic particles for which I cannot tell either their exact position nor their momentum.

The balls were not always where I thought they were, only when my hand tried to grasp the ball did the probability wave collapse. Then I either had a ball or I did not. I cannot remember having that much statistical fun in a long time.

The track surface is over ten years old and the rubber is buckled up in places. If one does not lift one’s feet as one would while trail running, then one will certainly execute a face plant into the track surface.

Twelve laps later I still had three tennis balls and my face was intact. I had sparred with  quantum mechanics and survived.


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