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THE OBSERVER EFFECT,
or,
WATCH THE WATCH

Dreamed 1997/1/21 by Chris Wayan

THAT DAY Einstein with his tongue out.

I watch a PBS show on Einstein's private life. His love letters reveal a slow descent: from trying to love another scientist as an equal partner, to settling for a safe easygoing supportive wife, who later became basically just a live-in maid, while he fucked younger groupies. It's a creepy, cold, lonely picture.

Michio Kaku insists the last 30 years of Einstein's life were not wasted: he laid the groundwork for present unification theories. That may be true, but I see a slow slide from his earlier thought-experiments, full of intuitive jumps, images self-evident as soon as explained, to steadily more esoteric mathematical formulae. And this parallels his personal life, also turning formulaic, treating people as things, giving up on emotion, ignoring the "merely" personal. The central problems he and Heisenberg raised are all about incorporating persons, consciousness, into their model of the universe. The flavor of his early insights feels much like Hawking to me--visual and kinesthetic, not mathematical. But he withdrew more than Hawking has, and with less reason. Lesson, warning? Or inevitable price of his gift? Or was it simply that his world, physics, rejected him?

Whatever it is, I don't want to go that route. I'll never be a raving extravert but the problems of spacetime I wrestle with in shamanic work are far more intimate, linked to consciousness--in fact, alive. Einstein worked with forces, I work with creatures; yet they're the same entities really, just seen differently. So differently.

He must have been so lonely.

Or must he? What a projection! It can be so different from two vantage points.

Relativity.

THAT NIGHT

I dream I'm a boy in high school, but not in our space-time continuum. A thought-experiment if you will. Thought-Experiment High.

I decide to wash my hair in the high school bathroom--rinse off all the day's brainwashing. You know how high school is.

I look through the drawers by the sink. Pull out a strange full-color relief scene carved in soap, of a naked man and woman talking--Adam and Eve in Eden, I think. Do they mean Innocence?

One of her breasts came loose and slid over a bit, like rogue silicon (or do you not call loose breast implants that, in your high school?), probably from a wet thumb. Otherwise the bar looks virgin.

I break off a toe or so, and lather up my hair.

After a first rinse, I suddenly worry I'm late. So I pull my watch out of a drawer to check the time; I'm about to put it back--normally no one steals things from the drawers, since nothing of value's ever in there--pretty safe. But I notice a girl is staring at me (this is no segregated bathroom, as in the society you, dear reader, likely endure--in THIS high school such purdah would be seen as barbaric, breeding gender jealousies and craziness--as of course it does).

Her hawk-stare is on my watch--so I put it back on to be cautious. Ironic! Usually, I don't wear it at all. I don't like to be bound to linear time like that.

But now, simply by her act of observing, time is bound to me. Am I a sex object... or a TIME object?

I'd like to object.

So I watch her watch my watch... while I wash with my watch on.

AWAKE

I wake thinking "What a thought-experiment! Einstein focused on a lone observer (himself) or a spare other, a mere eye... But how's time affected by the TRUE INTERACTION of two observers? Answer: the coordinates of time (the watch) ARE affected by the second observer--even without trust, a binding happens."

And I think it matters that it wasn't from "the male gaze" (a common feminist phrase when I dreamed this) but the viewpoint of a girl like those Einstein fucked and otherwise ignored. Let women into science and "times will change?" Or is it more than that?

If Einstein had really seen others as subjects not objects, not his bland, characterless observers, but true others looking back at HIM, with their own goals... I don't know. His model might be different--spacetime shaped not just by gravity, but by observers, whether in consensus or conflict...

But Einstein slowly forgot the Platinum Rule: "How you relate to others is how the world will relate to you."



LISTS AND LINKS: another dream of Einstein: Balolokong - cosmology - dream humor - visual and verbal puns - time and clocks - other worlds - the culture of science - gender issues - physics and natural law - observer effects, uncollapsed probabilities, etc. -

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