Winner of 'Waves And Particles' announced! Where do science and metaphor collide, physicist Simon Webster questions
9th October 2015
The nature of the fundamental nature of light: wave or particle, was argued over for hundreds of years before, at the start of the 20th century, we realised that nature was tricky, and the answer depended upon exactly how we asked the question. Scientists invent concepts such as waves and particles to try to describe the physical world, but then these concepts can leak out into wider culture and used as metaphor with varying degrees of scientific accuracy...
My first runner up (#1251) describes the imagined rarefaction of time in the moment of death, thoughts rushing through the subjects mind as a split-second passes. Although short, it features a lot of nice imagery and deft little comedic touches ('but thankfully, other thoughts take precedence'). Can I also make complaints or is that a bit negative? If so, I’d like to add that the shifting in voice between first and second person felt slightly confused. [Ed. Allowed this!] I thought the last line made simple but effective use of the words of the week's subject.
'One night in Bern' (#1248) unravels a mystery - what has Al written about? Without giving away the reveal, the author has taken a simple idea, a literal interpretation of the title, and executed it as an effective dialogue between the two protagonists.
My winner is #1253, the story of somebody rationalising their particular mental condition (never specified - Asperger's?) as being crucial to them surviving an initially unspecified attack. The story of the character's childhood is introduced very naturally, building out the character, before we are placed in the situation at the heart of the story. I enjoyed the way the character mentally uses physics concepts to understand the world, both metaphorical such as people filling the room like particles of a gas and the literal wave of compressed air striking them.
Well done to all the writers for their adaptation and use of concepts or language from physics.
Simon Webster is a scientist living in sunny Croydon and a specialist in atomic physics. He has spent time working in Oxford and in Munich, Germany, and is currently at the University of Sussex, working on building a quantum computer out of individual atoms.