Giving it away

The nature of Money itself

News of the issue of a new type of £10 note caused me to look, properly this time, at one of the (relatively) new fivers. The ones whose reverse sides are graced with the portrait of Winston Churchill.

Here he is:


Among other things, Sir Winston is noted for his dry, acerbic wit. In fact, lurking on a bookshelf in our lounge we have a whole book of his aphorisms: “The Wit of Sir Winston”. Its pages teem with astute observations, wry ripostes and pointed put-downs.

So why, I wonder, did the Bank of England in their wisdom choose, as an example of the great man’s one-liners, the quote etched beneath him here?

I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat

Does some unknown dark humourist stalk the corridors of the Bank of England?

Are they teasing us  – perhaps alluding to the nature of money itself – with a secret that the rest of us can only intuit?

‘The Matrix’ effect

Matrix background with the green symbols

Seen the film?

Or heard of it?

Well, of course.  Those iconic fight scenes, where Time itself slows down.

Many of us carry a memory of Time slowing down: of calm descending within, allowing us to judge the perfect moment, for the perfect move.

Here’s mine:

I am walking along a well-lit main road in a Navy city, late on a spring evening. My paces bounce; I’m on the way to see my boyfriend. I untie my long hair as I walk; I shake it loose. Someone stops me and asks the time: my watch says five past ten.

That someone then follows me into the darker street where my boyfriend lives. And he starts talking. I notice he doesn’t have short, Navy-style hair. He doesn’t have an identifiable accent. There’s no-one else about. Although I’ve begun to feel anxious, I keep him talking. Because while he’s talking he’s not doing anything stupid. And I’m nearly there anyway.

Then he knocks me off my feet and I begin to fall…

And now fear does something I’ve never known of before, to my time: it stretches it out for me, allowing me to collect my thoughts. As I fall, I think back through the day. Through each thing I have done, all the way back to the morning. Like re-reading a story, backwards. Effect, then cause. Why did this happen? How did I get there? How did I wake up? My boyfriend has a radio alarm. I woke up to the morning news bulletin. In the final item, a girl has been attacked, at some stables somewhere in the countryside, by a stranger, “but he was scared off by her screams.”

I hit the muddy tarmac with a shock. The phrase replays in my mind: ‘he was scared off by her screams’.

And now I realise I’m probably within earshot of my boyfriend’s house. I scream out his name; I give it all I’ve got. I hear it echo down the street.

Nobody comes.

But it doesn’t matter. By the time the scream dies away I am alone again. I pick up my bag and go on my way.

fMRI is a wonderful thing. It has, only recently, enabled us to discover how very real this effect is: not just enhanced memory, but a genuine increase in awareness – in in-the-moment-ness. Adrenaline’s effect is to speed up our bodies, causing a perceived slowing-down of everything else.

We are literally more present – outside the Matrix of our reconstructed Time.

Cover story

Cover of the novel The Price of Time

If folk say the first lines of a novel should, directly or otherwise, pose an inviting question for the reader, then perhaps the same could be said of the cover.

What is the price we pay for Time? Is it our work, that wears us out? Is it biology? Does Time, like the gears of the clock, hold within it some kind of trap? Is there a way out? Is it inevitable that we’re ensnared, or are we in some way complicit?

And who are the two shadowy figures at the edges of the picture..?

The music is reversible…

Two photons have danced together.

And forever afterwards, they no longer act independently of each other.

To use the term from Quantum Mechanics, they have become Entangled. Disturbing one of them will result, in what Einstein referred to as “spooky action-at-a-distance”, in a disturbance to the other. Certain experiments – known collectively as the Bell Tests – have demonstrated that this really happens.

But this can make it seem as if information is travelling between the two at speeds faster than light.

Which, as everyone knows, is impossible in real life.

So what’s going on?

Well, Huw Price and Ken Wharton came up with a possible answer. In 2012 they suggested, wait for it, ‘retrocausality‘: effect, then cause. The experimenter, on configuring the experiment, influences things that have happened in the past.

It’s as if Schrodinger’s Cat got into a Time Machine.

Now Matthew S. Leifer at Chapman University and Matthew F. Pusey at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics have lent this idea some mathematical weight.

Nothing in Quantum Mechanics, they point out, has an ‘arrow of time’: it’s not Thermodynamics; there’s no Entropy, the measure of disorder – or information – which must always increase as time goes by.

Everything in Quantum Mechanics is reversible in time, so why not cause and effect?

Everyone agrees on one thing, though: it’s impossible to send information back in time: only the shadowy influence

The music is reversible, but time isn’t.