, , , ,

It comes to something when you find yourself asking: do I really want to be the guy who turns up in most badly-scripted costume/fantasy dramas – the one who, after uttering the immortal line “I like a girl with spirit” will inevitably end up being kicked in the, er, spirit, or given a lengthy and painful ego-ectomy throughout the rest of the plot?

I don’t think anybody actually wants to be That Guy. That Guy never gets the girl. That Guy, in common with all villains (whether they be of the super or petty variety) wears white boxer shorts emblazoned with bright red cartoon hearts which will be exposed to the world for his ritual humiliation at some point in the story (potentially, for maximum comic effect, in front of the vicar/his peers/his mum/the hero and heroine. I have a whole other Villainous Underwear Theory that I’ll have to go into another time.)

The thing is, you see, that despite the fact you wouldn’t want to be him, you kind of have to appreciate where That Guy is coming from. He’s actually saying that he likes a challenge. He doesn’t just want any girl. He wants the one who’ll cause him pain, put up a fight, be a thorn in his side and ultimately be the worst possible romantic match since Albert Einstein drew a member of the cast of America’s Next Top Model on match.com. (No offense, Albie: but girls, he’s totally out of your league. With a tongue like that, attached to a brain like that? Urrgh, I just disgusted myself)

In my usual rambling way I’m telling you that this week I started reading a popular quantum physics book. It’s the sort of book that likely makes proper physicists cringe, but then (now, don’t be shocked) I’m not a scientist. I’m actually about as far from being a scientist as it’s possible to get without becoming Mystic Meg. In fact, if you look up “scentists” in the dictionary, it’ll say “noun, plural: those people who were making microprocessors and taking photos on Mars while ETG was still beggaring about with flints trying to discover fire. (see also: point and laugh (slang)”

"Your brain's so small, ETG," said Rush, "it makes Planck's Constant look like Big Ben."

Physics: Making ETG its bitch since 1992

But enough of my inadequacies. Put simply, quantum physics (and indeed its antecedents classical physics and modern physics) and my brain just don’t get along. There’s some kind of incompatibility there at a basic cellular level, a bit like trying to gene-splice a bat and a piece of potato. I’m a thing of the arts (that’s arts, children, pronounce it carefully), an odd, ungrounded sort of creature who lives on the intangible and the unreal and the potential of words and images. Physics is a thing of mathematics: it seeks to define reality using numbers.

(though actually, quantum physics is a bit of an odd bird: mathematics to define the intangible, mathematics to encapsulate the uncertain and unpredictable. How ‘ bout that?)

So for a few days now, quantum physics and I have been doing this little dance, with myself playing the role of That Guy while Physics, resplendant in a lovely corset and bustle, kicks me in the metaphorical balls.

And like That Guy, I keep coming back. Because I like my learning with spirit. I know my limitations. I know I don’t have a physics brain, and with all the effort and pop science books in the world, I never, ever will. I have to read six pages of this undoubtedly simplistic quantum physics book sixteen times to grasp a concept that most first-year science majors eat for breakfast. But the challenge that I both love and hate is the challenge of the unknown and the unattainable. The pull on the heart and mind that is the pull of the alien, the unfamiliar, even the things that are a little frightening.

Opposites attract, after all.

Addendum: I think I’d like to pull the challenge into my comfort zone. My comfort zone is where I write, and where I draw. Would you like to challenge me to something? A quick read or view will show you what my areas of specialism are. Find something else and offer it up to me on a plate, just like physics. It can be something within my existing interests and/or fandoms, just a different angle or theme: or something quite new.