Nobel prize winning physicist Erwin Schrödinger was one of the founding fathers of quantum physics, but his name is remembered outside subatomic circles mainly for his theoretical dead-and-alive cat. For quantum-challenged people like myself, suffice to know that the Austrian-born Schrodinger wanted to refute the so-called Copenhagen Interpretation, which held that in quantumland an object can exist in several simultaneous states, which are resolved only when it is observed externally.
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Schrodinger’s thought-experiment transferred the theory to the known world. He placed an imaginary cat in a box alongside radioactive material that had a 50/50 chance of decay during the experiment’s allotted hour. If there were decay, it would be detected by a Geiger counter, which would then smash a vial of poison, killing the cat. Given that the occurrence could not be foreseen, as long as the box was sealed from view, the cat was supposedly both dead and alive.
Schrodinger seemed to believe this would be a winning argument against the Copenhagen Interpretation because obviously the cat can’t be both dead and alive at the same time, but history was not convinced. The resistance to Copenhagen, which implied there was only one, admittedly ambiguous universe, continued for years, leading to quantum theories about multiple realities, parallel universes and other such wonders. 80 years later, there is still no definitive decision whether poor kitty is dead or alive or both. Schrodinger, like Albert Einstein, wasn’t sure humanity was ready for the answer.
In real life, however, things are much clearer. Not only are there parallel universes, alternate realities and weirdo worlds that exist side by side, but unlike Schrodinger’s cat, they are quite distinct and observable. Some of my best American friends are convinced that on November 8, 2016, there was a glitch in the matrix or something and they were transported to a parallel universe, a kind of Superman Bizarro World, in which a loutish red-haired charlatan is president of the United States. It blows their mind, as we baby boomers used to say, that they can’t wake up from the nightmare. It would crush them even more to learn that, according to some convoluted quantum theories, there might actually be countless concurrent universes in which Hillary Clinton is president and the world is still sane.
Even here, in the physical world we think we understand, universes are separating and realities are splitting apart, in front of our very eyes. Fragmenting information sources, the overpowering crush of social media and politicians willing to tell every lie in the book are dividing societies and consigning their parts into separate realities. Political polarization and malicious incitement against the other only accelerate the process. Without getting into another philosophical debate with quantum manifestations about the difference between reality and perceptions of reality, there’s no denying the increasing degrees of separation between the universes, real or perceived. After all, when people of my ilk meet staunch Trump supporters or rabid Jewish chauvinists, they’re like aliens from another planet. They certainly live in a different universe. And I’m sure they feel the same.
Either Obama was a kind and decent president who brought America back from the brink of economic collapse or he was the worst U.S. president in the history of mankind. Either Donald Trump is like a demented and raging bull far too close to the nuclear buttons or he’s finally staring down enemies and reasserting America’s prominence in the world. Either salvation is at hand and our eyes will soon see the glory of the coming of the Lord, or America and the world are on a death spiral to ruin and damnation or worse.
Trump, to his credit, openly proclaims his intention of creating a parallel universe. In Trump’s ideal world, there is no objective truth or established facts. Reality is what Trump says it is, at any given moment. No one on his side will believes a word of the “fake news” created by the rotten mainstream media, just as no one who opposes him will believe a word coming out of Fox News, the White House and the U.S. government as a whole. It’s a zero-sum game that will inevitably force people to transpond to one universe or another. They may continue to occupy the same physical space but they will be living in completely different universes. And in one of them, Trump will be a hero.
Benjamin Netanyahu is also creating a separate reality. In his reality, Netanyahu is an astonishingly successful Israeli prime minister who is getting hounded and maligned by powerful leftist elites that supposedly dominate the Israeli media, justice system and academia. This paranoid worldview has always been a feature of Netanyahu’s personality, but in recent years it has grown progressively worse. Now that he feels a legal noose tightening around his neck, Netanyahu is going for broke, discarding the rules, disrupting quantum realities, doing whatever he can to escape the kind of Israel that is threatening him, and to create another one in its stead. Unfortunately, he is taking many of his Likud and right-wing voters along for the ride.
As it has been in so many other arenas, Israel is a pioneer in splitting the universe. It has been busy splitting itself for years. There is proud and valiant Israel, risen from the ashes, surviving against all odds, fighting anti-Semites, making the desert bloom, building a democratic stronghold in a desert of despots and tyrants. But then there is also Israel the occupier that lords over millions of disenfranchised Palestinians, has perfected the art of occupation, is increasingly ethnocentric, theocratic, intolerant and anti-democratic and is sinking into a sea of existential despair that Netanyahu concocts while he projects himself as the only savior in town.
There is the Israel of beaches, sunshine, Tel Aviv nightlife, Start-Up Nation and selfless, enterprising citizens and there is an Israel of chauvinists, fanatics and racists in everything but name who are increasingly running the show. Some Israelis have even perfected a way to live in both worlds simultaneously, proving the Copenhagen Interpretation after all. They are happy with their day-to-day life and hysterical about the mad, mad, mad world that surrounds them. Trump and Netanyahu, however, are goners. They have immersed themselves so completely in the distorted, parallel universes they have created that they no longer realize that other worlds exist. It will take a divine presence to avert the disaster that awaits when their worlds collide with the others and with what is, after all, the one true reality.