The initiative pairs science fiction and fantasy authors with leading scientists and scholars of the renowned Ivy League university, so that we can learn about their work and write original fiction shaped by their research, to be published in an anthology by Lightspeed later this year.
It was an incredible line-up of some of my favorite contemporary authors, as well as scholars doing trailblazing work in many different disciplines. Underwater swarming robots! Imagination in primates! The melting of the Greenland ice shelf! The Late Antiquity religious roots of our contemporary concept of debt! The boundary between quantum and classical mechanics!
That last one was mine – theoretical physicist Miles P. Blencowe. His work focuses on how the macroscopic world we inhabit, governed by classical Newtonian mechanics, exists alongside the counterintuitive, downright-spooky microscopic world of quantum mechanics. Both systems are completely consistent, and completely incompatible!
I struggled with math and science in school, and that experience has caused me to run screaming from the subjects ever since – to the detriment, I think, of some of my work. So it was wonderful to go “back to school,” and have the chance to see firsthand how actually-fascinating these subjects can be. And Miles’ work is so exciting, and his skill breaking down the nuance of quantum physics made a huge difference.
Also I got a tour of an experimental physics lab, which was super mind-blowing. Some photos below – nine-foot-long amplifier arrays for making the quantum world visible to human senses, machinery for isolating quantum systems so electrons can be seen through a scanning tunneling microscope, and using ions to etch circuitry that subatomic particles can pass through, and recycling expensive helium for hypercooling…. and… and….
Yeah. It was a lot. All excellent. I’m super excited for the story I’ve got percolating, and even more excited for the new horizons this opens up for my work in general.