Time travel & coincidences

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This is a week of catching up with colleagues and friends, worky-techy events, the aforementioned planning and scheming, and hopefully, snow! Which could interrupt any or all of the above. And my step-kids are going to be so excited if they get their first snow day already.

I’m well into Lost in a Good Book, the 2nd in the Thursday Next series, a completely different sort of time travel book from Blackout and All Clear. These books are much more light, full of clever word play; often silly. But they still have ways of making me think. Lost is all about coincidences:

“‘On the subject of coincidences, Uncle, any thoughts on what they are and how they come about?

‘Well,’ he said thoughtfully, ‘it is my considered opinion that most coincidences are simply quirks of chance—if you extrapolate the bell curve of probability you will find statistical abnormalities that seem unusual but are, in actual fact, quite likely, given the amount of people on the planet and the amount of different things we do in our lives.’

‘I see,’ I replied slowly. ‘That explains things on a minor coincidental level, but what about the bigger coincidences? How high would you rate seven people in a Skyrail shuttle all called Irma Cohen and the clues of a crossword reading out “Meddlesome Thursday goodbye” just before someone tried to kill me?’ … 

‘Thursday, think for a moment about the fact that the universe always moves from an ordered state to a disordered one; that a glass may fall to the ground and shatter yet you never see a broken glass reassemble itself and then jump back onto the table. … Every atom of the glass that shattered would contravene no laws of physics if it were to rejoin—on a subatomic level all particle interactions are reversible. Down there we can’t tell which event precedes which. It’s only out here that we can see things age and define a strict direction in which time travels. …  That these things don’t happen is because of the second law of thermodynamics, which states that disorder in the universe always increases; the amount of this disorder is a quantity known as entropy.’

‘So,’ I said slowly, ‘What you are saying is that really really weird coincidences are caused by a drop in entropy?’”

‘Exactly so. But it’s only a theory.’

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