Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Something in the Air, by Carolyn Ives Gilman


(SF Fantasy) Suppose there were a star system where quantum entanglement operated on a grand scale. Three researchers explore a planet that seems to keep changing based on what they want to find. (9,153 words; Time: 30m)

"Something in the Air," by (edited by Jonathan Strahan), appeared in (RSR review), published on by .

Mini-Review (click to view--possible spoilers)

Review: 2019.459 (A Word for Authors)

Pro: Quantum superposition occurs when a particle is in two states at once. This is resolved when the particle is “observed” and found to be in just one of the two states. At present, the largest known entangled system comprised just 20 atoms, but the story imagines an entire star system where entanglement is much more stable. The explorers arrive and the more they study the system, the more it looks the way the expect it to look.

Con: This story has serious “show don’t tell” problems, aka intrusive narration. E.g. the author tells us, “That was the problem with Giff; he wanted to please everyone” rather than letting us draw that conclusion through seeing his actions. A little of this is okay, but this story drowns in it. I found myself unable to believe in the authenticity of the characters.

There’s also a serious misunderstanding of what it means to “observe” an entangled system. Such a system is “observed” whenever particles from outside collide with it. There’s no requirement that the observer be intelligent or even alive.

Another disbelief-breaker is that Willem keeps finding ancient Earth life on this alien planet, but he’s not surprised by that. Does he believe that evolution would produce the exact same result on every planet?

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