Quantum Politics

In the “ideas I wish I’d thought of first” file, the Canberra Times has an op-ed comparing politicians to quantum objects, because they seem to hold contradictory positions at the same time, and are impossible to pin down. It garbles the physics a little, and is very specific to Australia, though, so let’s see if we can do a little better at identifying quantum properties of US politicians.

Duality: Quantum physics tells us that all objects in the universe have both particle-like and wave-like properties, and which you observer will depend on the design of your experiment. Similarly, quantum politics tells us that all politicians have both pro-government and anti-government properties. They are strongly in favor of individual freedom, except when it comes to behaviors they don’t like. They are opposed to big government, but strongly in favor of Social Security and Medicare. They rail against the Washington way of business as usual, but strongly want to keep their jobs. Which of these complementary properties are observed in any public appearance depends on the audience.

Indeterminacy: Quantum physics tells us that prior to a measurement with two possible outcomes, a quantum object is in a superposition of both possible states at the same time. Immediately after the measurement it will be found in only one state, with some probability for each. Similarly, quantum politics tells us that prior to a vote, every politician exists in a superposition of both “yes” and “no” votes, until the instant of voting, at which point they will take one of the two positions, with some probability for each. Even after voting, however, the exact position of the politician will remain indeterminate, depending on the exact audience he’s addressing.

Some quantum political scientists favor an interpretation in which the universe splits at the instant of voting, creating two separate universes, one in which the politician voted “yes,” the other in which he voted “no.” Others feel, based on listening to political speeches, that this is far too limiting, and the actual number of universes created is much greater, possibly infinite.

Non-locality: Some quantum systems exist in entangled states, where measuring the state of one particle instantaneously and absolutely determines the state of the other, no matter how far apart they are. Similarly, quantum politicians can exist in entangled states, where knowing the state of one politician instantly and absolutely determines the state of another with absolute certainty. For example, if you measure the state of Barack Obama on any issue, you know with certainty that John Boehner’s state is instantaneously projected into the opposite position.

Zero-Point Energy: A quantum particle is never absolutely at rest, but always has some tiny residual energy keeping it in motion. A quantum politician is never truly at rest either, but is always jittering around, changing positions and grubbing for campaign contributions.

I’m sure I’m missing some good ones, so feel free to propose your own quantum political properties in the comments.

Comments

  1. #1 Christopher Tassava
    August 3, 2011

    Brilliant.

  2. #2 podunkmo
    August 3, 2011

    They’re like string theory, they can explain almost everything, but nothing they say can be tested.

  3. #3 peter
    August 4, 2011

    Heisenberg uncertainty principle – in quantum mechanics means that it is impossible simultaneously to measure the present position while “determining” the future momentum of a particle. In politics you can not simultaneously determine the current opinion and the future voting of an politician.

  4. #4 Joseph Hertzlinger
    August 5, 2011

    According to Lewis Carroll, politics can be analyzed using geometry. “Let it be granted that a speaker may digress from any one point to any other point.” or “That a controversy may be raised about any question, and at any distance from that question.”

  5. #5 James
    August 5, 2011

    “band gap”: the amount of money you have to pay to excite a politician into a mobile state

    “quantum tunneling”: going past insurmountable voter opposition to pass a bill

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