SwTxPCA: Science Fiction to Teach Science Fact

Karen Wendling, professor of chemistry
Chestnut Hill College

“Using Science Fiction to Teach Science Fact: Pop Culture as a Gateway to Enhanced Student Learning”

His Dark Materials Pullman

quantum physics
average reader/viewer may miss references to quantum ideas
focuses on key aspects of quantum physics and quantum interpretations
then pedagogical applications

physics and mathematics of quantum physics = quantum theory
theory = testable system of ideas, must ALWAYS make correct predictions
as far as all tests show, quantum theory works

Many Worlds theory (Hugh Everett III, 1957)
2 possible realities, one is reserved,
what we don’t see in our world is actually happening in a different world
separate world is created so that we only see one

His Dark Materials
The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, The Amber Spyglass
every human paired with a demon, takes an animal form
style of dress is similar to Victorian
Magistarium – RCC
witnesses a photogram of the northern lights
there in the sky was the unmistakable outline of a city
at the end of GC, parallel world, one of many
visible through rift other,

father’s explanation is same as many scientists use:
“Now that world and every universe came about as a result of possibility…. possibility has collapsed… when that happens, the two worlds split apart…” GC

SC: knife can cut doors through parallels
Pullman shows quantum physics and human consciousness
“manipulation of consciousness… Many Worlds… further… defense funding” SC
Pullman draws on additional cutting-edge physics… dust in SC world

3 protagonists
scientist (Walter), son (Peter), FBI (Olivia)
not real science, but fictionalized science
however, utilizes stranger aspects of
Walter worked with Bell
“There is More than One of Everything”
conversation about parallel world
Bell thought people could travel from here to there.
“Something was lost to me. If only I could cross over, I could take from there what I had lost here.”
Olivia is standing in parallel world that did not experience 9/11.

uses Many Worlds as major structure of the story
careful scientific research done, to understand and then extend
characters inhabit parallel universes “everybody was sort of aware of the idea of parallel universes”
“different choices lead to different consequences”
“get to see an alternate”

movies w quantum physics:
Sliding Doors
Another Earth
Run Lola Run

importance of quantum theory should not be limited as a spice to a classroom
interdisciplinary nature of quantum theory
implications cross numerous disciplines
part of an interconnected universe and our actions have consequences
our choice of experiment or choosing option creates reality

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