The field of physics has always fascinated me, but I never possessed the mathematical skills necessary to extend that interest past the point of curiosity. This thesis was set up to explore how I and other writers, specifically Walt Whitman, use(d) the skills we do have to ask and attempt to answer the same cosmic questions normally reserved for scientists overseeing particle collider experiments. In Tao of Physics, Fritjof Capra attempted to blend the principles of Eastern philosophy with the movements associated with modern physics. In doing so, he offers up a few insights into the human desire to "divide the world into separate objects and events" (117), which I believe, when it comes to fiction, greatly influences the audience's interpretive framework. Capra suggests, "To believe that our abstract concepts of separate `things' and `vents' are realities of nature is an illusion" (117). Humans use this division to cope with our everyday environment, yet it is not a fundamental feature of reality but, rather, an abstraction devised by our discriminating and categorizing intellect. It is a coping mechanism, as Capra refers to it, that pins writers in a corner, encouraging them to forms and styles set by their predecessors to better satisfy the "discriminating and categorizing intellect" of their audience. Writers often struggle to achieve a balance between accurately presenting the human condition that, like Capra's description of subatomic particles as "intrinsically restless" (117), changes based on myriad variables and properly structuring their writing to fit a predetermined model. Whitman, a fan of popular science, drew from the scientific world, using his understanding of the interpretive framework, to better craft his poems' metaphors. In "Song of Myself," Whitman suggests that the celebration of one's own existence cannot be separated from the celebration of the universe, "For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you" (1-3). Whitman's writing reinforces the concept that the human desire to define existence begins at the subatomic level. In terms of my own writing, the focus turns to the origin of change. What is change? What brings it about? When I wrote "Of Higgs and Flame," the physics world was still riding the waves of CERN's Higgs boson particle discovery. Admittedly, the story contains a not-so-researched passage in which Darren contemplates the surge of change coursing from within, but this was done intentionally. Darren represents my approach to physics, which is mostly relegated to a spectator role, in that he is trying to define the occurring change based on his incomplete, loose understanding of Higgs boson and other scientific concepts. The analysis of my writing and that of Whitman reflects Stephen Hawking's explanation in A Briefer History of Time regarding the possibilities of a true, unifying theory of physics. He poses that there may exist an infinite sequence of theories that may get closer and closer to accurately describing the universe but are never exact (134). This is what I try to do with my work. I do not write under the pretense that I will be able to precisely replicate, in epiphany-like fashion, the human condition, accurately wrangling all of the variables that influence our reasons for changing or acting within a given scenario or conflict. Instead, I hope that my use of the same curiosity that fuels my passion to both read about physics and write fiction presents a more accurate understanding of the human condition, offering up characters whose changes within each story forces the audience to, at least momentarily, linger on that existential Why?.
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- Literature, Modern;Literature, American;Physics, General