Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Schwarzschild Radius of New Orleans

After my quantum mechanics post last week, I had been ruminating on other physical phenomenon and their relation to the metaphysics of New Orleans. I had hoped to have time to post this before the Super Bowl and therefore to seem to be a wise prognosticator of all things related to the blessed event. But since I wasn't attempting any soothsaying anyway, I shall compose it and post it tonight with my wife out celebrating and the kids safely in bed.

One of the big things that came into my mind was the impenetrability of New Orleans which commenters to the QM post and on twitter and other bloggers have always alluded to. It is only possible for people to understand New Orleans once they have been New Orleanians for a time. It might not take a long time, but presumably it has to occur on a visit where you don't know when you are going to leave.

A certain similarity to the Schwarzschild Radius (sometimes more commonly known as the event horizon especially in terms of black holes) immediately presents itself. The Schwarchild radius only applies to non-rotating spherical masses, of course. Although it was often thought that nothing escapes a black hole, Hawking predicted that due to quantum vacuum fluctuations, a black hole actually emits radiation and can evaporate due to this, yet no information can escape a black hole - the famous "no hair" hypothesis.

In the same way, although a person can live in New Orleans and leave New Orleans and tell other people about it, people who have not passed within the Schwarzchild radius of New Orleans cannot understand New Orleans without experiencing it themselves, no matter how much explanation and examples are foisted upon them. Perhaps those of us who live inside the horizon appear differently to each other than we appear from the outside. No one really knows what the inside of a black hole is like. We know at a mechanical level what the theory tells us about time dilation and gravity and space-like and time-like intervals and geodesics, but we don't know in our hearts - humans have no intuition because, like quantum mechanics, no matter how true and accurate, these models are too strange for our minds. Of course, just as black holes aren't black, people outside New Orleans can see that something is going on, something which seems to lure them in, just as curious as cats to a paper bag.

So here's another commentary from inside the radius which will go out into the aether and no information will likely be extracted from it by those who have never been New Orleanians:

At the parades today, it was self-evident that the Super Bowl was not the only event with meaning today. In fact, we had an election and parades last night as well. Although election turnout was poor yesterday, I put that down to the parades more than the Super Bowl. Today, the parades were perhaps a warm up to SB XLIV, but like any true New Orleanian would tell you, the parade event, an act of celebrating together with friends and strangers, living in the moment and coming together and sharing a joke, a dance, an appreciation for satire, and the mocking of the carefully cultivated royalty-peasant relationship is a pure innocent pleasure. Begging for, fighting over or sharing trivial objects like beads and stuffed pink monkeys and laughing together is a wonderfully human endeavor.

Since I won't even suggest we're talking about spherical cows, suggestions as to the shape and size of the Schwarzchild radius (or perhaps, more accurately, the irregular boundary which almost certainly has a western upper bound as the Sabine River) are welcome in the comments.

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