The Long Night – The Observer Effect

Folding Moments

“What we observe is not the nature itself, but the nature exposed to our method of questioning.” – Werner Heisenberg

What I thought was there was changed by my method of seeing… Something glimpsed in a dark room is transformed from a eldritch shadow of foreboding to a brilliantly hued smoking jacket hanging on a shiny chrome coat tree by the flick of the light switch. Did the jacket change form and color? No, but in order to observe it more carefully, I wanted to see it in brighter light, and that changed what I saw….

The term, observer effect, may be defined as changes that the act of observation makes on a phenomenon being observed. The act of quantifying, measuring, categorizing, can all be agents of change on many observable phenomena. A particle physicist needs to detect an electron, so a photon is introduced into the mix, and this interaction allows the physicist to detect the electron, while at the same time it changes the electrons path…. Altering the electron to be able to observe it.

In a similar way, something as simple as categorization can alter the perception of something, even though the something itself has remained unchanged. Eggs (seemingly) started out as a good food. In the past, the cholesterol content in eggs had them categorized as a bad food. Now, we find that when cooked properly the cholesterol in eggs is actually good, and hence eggs are again a good food. In all those decades of changing from one categorization to another, the humble egg did not change, only our perception of it did due to advanced understanding of our measuring techniques.

But enough on the scientific methods and terms for now… There are ample volumes from which to glean more knowledge should one desire it.

The third track from The Long Night, The Observer Effect, shares a great deal of it’s existence from something very akin, if not an iteration, of the observer effect. Excerpt from wikipedia: “wired in series or parallel to the circuit, and so by their very presence affect the current or the voltage they are measuring by way of presenting an additional real or complex load to the circuit, thus changing the transfer function and behavior of the circuit itself. Even a more passive device such as a current clamp, which measures the wire current without coming into physical contact with the wire, affects the current through the circuit being measured because the inductance is mutual.” Anyone familiar with synthesis, especially modular synths, will likely appreciate the analogy. The track in question grew from my “journey into darkness,” my annual purge, my yearly pilgrimage that occurs as the long night draws near.

It began by examining, pondering, musing, as these things often do. A (virtual) wire was plugged to an output, to an input, to an output, or sometimes to an end, beginning, or middle… In short, were I actually using physical hardware, the poor sound creation device would have resembled a spaghetti monster attacking a box of lights…. Routing, re-routing, iteration, reiteration. An apt metaphor for life. Sometimes the purpose does not present itself until the intended purpose has grown obscured, all but invisible, draped in new hues, revealing itself to be something so much more (or sometimes less) than it was. Again, an apt metaphor of life.

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