James Joyce and particle physics

Writer James Joyce and bookseller Sylvia Beach in 1930, inside the Shakespeare and Company premises.getty

It all started when the 19th century was coming to an end. On the frontier of the new century, a theory of the scientific field was going to open the way to the alternative universes of the literary avant-garde.

It was the German physicist Max Planck (1858 -1947) who proposed that electromagnetic radiation does not travel continuously, but rather is concentrated in discrete packets of energy called “quanta”. According to Planck, in the quantum underworld, when two electrons collide and repel each other, it is not because of the curvature of space, but because they exchange a bundle of energy. With such an approach, Max Planck founded what is known as quantum theory; an atomistic theory that would be developed throughout the first third of the 20th century by personalities such as Niels Bohr or his outstanding disciple Werner Heisenberg, who introduced what is known as Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle or indeterminacy relation, and who comes to discover that , in particle physics, apparently divergent possibilities coexist.

So much so that two conflicting results do not have to be invalidated. There is no longer subtraction, that is, there is no longer this either the other, but this Y the other. From the quantum theory, knowledge is given to chance and uncertainty to continue adding. Stated scientifically, Heisenberg’s statement states that we can never simultaneously know the speed and position of a subatomic particle. In this way, the Newtonian image of the universe as a clock would be replaced by the unpredictable movement of the particles of the universe not subject to any calculation, in any case subject to uncertainty and chance. Both the forecast and the prediction of Newtonian mathematics would be left behind. Both terms will be replaced by a scientific basis and purpose theory, but with a development that is still literary from the moment in which an electron can be in two places at the same time.

The works of Planck, Bohr or Heisenberg crossed scientific borders to settle in the imaginary of the writers of the first third of the 20th century

For this reason, the works of Planck, Bohr or Heisenberg had a long reach. Beyond science, his theories crossed scientific borders to settle in the imagination of the writers of the first third of the 20th century.

Perhaps Joyce’s case is the most appropriate when it comes to serving as an example to illustrate quantum theory. In its Ulysses, the Irish author presents us with a modern hero, stripped of all epic attributes and unable to explain events from a single point of view, from a single narrative voice. From this moment on, the changing points of view will give rise to multiple possible voices, exchanging amounts of action in a discontinuous reality that feeds on fiction, contrary to the mechanics that moved the nineteenth-century novel where it was fiction that was fed reality.

Joyce’s experimentalism in his Ulysses He anticipated Heisenberg’s relationship of indeterminacy for a few years, sensing it, brushing against uncertainty with his experiences until incorporating it into the protagonist’s odyssey -Leopold Bloom- through the fabric of space-time, a narrative framework where two apparently divergent events intersect. they can give at the same time.

Physicist James Hopwood Jeans stated that it is absurd to discuss how much space an electron occupies, just as absurd as discussing how much space a fear, anxiety or uncertainty occupies.

Physicist James Hopwood Jeans (1877-1946) explained it in a very literary way when he stated that it is absurd to discuss how much space an electron occupies, just as absurd as discussing how much space a fear, anxiety or uncertainty occupies. Because sensations have no measure in space.

They can only be expressed in a finite space. Hence, quantum physics is a metaphor for nature, a literary figure where science is identified with literature.

the stone ax is a section where Montero Glezwith the will of prose, exerts his particular siege on scientific reality to show that science and art are complementary forms of knowledge.

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James Joyce and particle physics


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