Can quantum mechanics help a UK council plan when to collect bins?

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Josie Ford

The order of not issues

Cambridge – of Cambridgeshire, not Massachusetts, earlier than anybody jumps in – is famed as the tutorial house of Ludwig Wittgenstein, Bertrand Russell and G. E. Moore, three philosophers who did a lot to elucidate, to not say obfuscate, language, logic and which means. It could be very a lot of their spirit, we assume, that Cambridge City Council not too long ago marketed an additional garbage bin assortment following employees absences, stating “bins will be collected in the order in which they were previously not collected”.

“Is it quantum mechanics then that enables us to determine the order in which things don’t happen?” asks Alison Litherland, we think about hovering indecisively over her bins. Quite presumably. Our place to begin should be the next query: if a bin isn’t collected, however nobody sees it not collected, has it been not collected in any respect?

In purely sensible phrases, the one approach of discovering out is by trying within the bin, making this a very pure instantiation of Erwin Schrödinger’s cat paradox. Maybe Schrödinger’s trash didn’t have fairly the identical ring to it. As far as your drawback goes, Alison, we worry that repeated measurement of an identical bins might will let you construct up an image of when it wasn’t collected, however it will solely have statistical validity.

Poet didn’t realize it

Feedback is delighted to search out, whereas looking for one thing else, that the physicist James Clerk Maxwell (died 1879) is listed as an writer on the New Scientist web site (born circa 1996).

Further investigation reveals a collection of poems printed by Maxwell in these pages in 2011. We are considerably missing context, however his Valentine By a Telegraph Clerk (Male) to a Telegraph Clerk (Female) bears rereading, with its culminating verse: “Through many a volt the weber flew,/And clicked this answer back to me;/I am thy farad staunch and true,/Charged to a volt with love for thee.”

Sweet, if of its time. Following our musings on how previous the web thinks you may be (26 February), at 180, we might have discovered our oldest contributor.

Standard elephants

Metrologists on the International Bureau of Weights and Measures in Paris should be basking within the substitute, in 2019, of the worldwide prototype kilogram – a platinum-iridium hulk that might really feel precisely like 1 kilogram if dropped in your foot – by a fancy-schmantzy definition by way of numerous bodily constants. But as common Feedback readers know, they’re lacking the… within the room. The elephant is well-established because the precise worldwide normal unit of mass.

Proof constructive, a report from The Hamilton Spectator in Ontario, Canada, despatched in by Doug Thomson. A clean-up after storms there in January required the removing of “145,000 tonnes of snow – about 20,000 giant, frozen elephants price”. We can solely think about the difficulties of coping with these homesick and discomfited beasts. The icing on the elephants clearly provides one thing to their weight, as we conventionally take an grownup male African bush elephant to weigh about 6 tonnes.

Even as we hear calls for the standard prototype elephant stored below glass someplace rising louder, information reaches us of a breakaway motion in New South Wales, Australia. Many of you spotlight information of the seizure of 9.7 hectares’ price of illicitly grown tobacco at Koraleigh “weighing the equal of 13 bulldozers”.

How many bulldozers of tobacco match into Sydney Harbour, we marvel. Meanwhile, Brian Horton consults the pleasant web site “What Things Weigh” to search out bulldozers vary from a child 8 (good previous non-metric) tons to a completely grown 180 tons. Suffice to say, the quantity of tobacco seized at Koraleigh was some 42 normal elephants.

His mummy’s voice

The interwebs have delighted themselves not too long ago at a narrative first reported by New Scientist in 2020, that researchers have recreated the voice of an Egyptian mummy held at Leeds City Museum, UK.

The expertise is barely exhausting to breed on the printed web page, however oddly, in a number of the clips now circulating, the mother is clearly saying “UUUUGRHH”, whereas two years in the past it was a much more refined “EEEEERGH”. Mummies might presumably have made a couple of sound, says a colleague – not unreasonably, with the qualification “when alive”. “This is the replication crisis writ large,” says one other, damningly.

Vive la résistance!

Much as we attempt to cease buttered toast falling on our pages, proper facet up or no, nonetheless it rains down. But we’re in a philosophical state of mind, so we’re grateful to J. Feralco for the reminder of a corollary to Murphy’s Law, first established by humorist Paul Jennings within the Forties: “The chance of the bread falling with the buttered side down is directly proportional to the cost of the carpet.”

This got here as a part of his Report on Resistentialism, a faculty of philosophy encapsulated by the phrase “Les choses sont contre nous” – “things are against us” – established on Paris’s Left Bank by “bespectacled, betrousered, two-eyed” thinker Pierre-Marie Ventre. Resistentialism holds that there are limits to the sway people can maintain in a world of largely hostile, uncooperative issues. It is price rummaging round for the entire essay on-line as a parable for These Uncertain Times.

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