Words and Quanta

Well, this is like coming into a room in my house I had forgotten I had. I have taken blog holidays before, but in the past I have been itching to get back and write. This time, however, has been different. I have had no inclination to return whatsoever. And I’m still not sure I am very enthusastic, even now. It feels a bit like being a kid forced to visit relatives on a sunny Saturday afternoon.

I have been on Holiday to Devon and I have been very busy with Solihull Presby Church. The details I will not bore you with. However, the church is coming to its first anniversary on October 1st. (If you want to come and thank God with us, then come! – Cranmore Infant School, Northland Road, B90 4SA, 10:30 am, picnic lunch afterwards). We have some committed people and have just opened up a membership roll. Having said that, it still feels fragile which always reminds us look to Christ to build his church in Solihull.

Reading? Yes, still doing that. I was reading the introduction to Wallace’s Greek Grammar this morning. He makes the point that individual words do not carry basic units of meaning. Rather the meaning is governed by the context, both literary and historical. This thought brought to mind the concept of the semantic range of a word (i.e. the range of possible meanings a word could have) and then, strangely, quantum mechanics and Schroedinger’s Cat.

Some of you will know about Schroedinger’s cat – poor thing. The point of the thought experiment was to show the paradox that quantum mechanics throws up, that one does not know the state of a system until it is measured. The very act of measuring causes the (possibly infinite) range of possible virtual states to collapse into one actual measured state.

The reason I thought about this was that there was an analogy with words. Words have a semantic range (a wavefunction defining possibilities) and context. Putting a word into a context has the effect of collapsing the semantic range into particular meaning. Context ‘measures’ a word.

Well, I thought it was a neat idea.

Words and Quanta

5 thoughts on “Words and Quanta

  1. Johnhttp://john.pettigrew.org.uk/blog/ says:

    Welcome back!

    Yeah, that’s a nice thought about quantum words. Although, perhaps the meaning only collapses when the words are read – the context is the environment that controls in which ways the meaning can collapse…

    Oh, and are there no other churches in Solihull? Your phrase “to build his church in Solihull” sounds like there’s no one else there.

    Anyhow glad to hear that it’s heading in the right direction, and hope that you get a good community going.

    pax et bonum

  2. Stephen says:

    Howdy, John. Yes I accept a third dimension to context is the historical context of the reader which colours the meaning derived from a passage. But of course not recognising this dimension would obscure the intended meaning of the author and opens the way to eisegesis.

    There are other churches in Solihull. Of course I was referring to ‘his church’ not ‘solihull presbyterian church’. However, for a town of 100k people it is surprisingly poorly served with churches. Most of those that are there are liberal and dying (CofE/URC/Methodist/RC). The handful of others are charismatic and big.

    The presence of SPC simply adds to the work in a place that needs it.

  3. Dan B. says:

    Stephen–nice to hear from you. I pray that your ministry at solihull continues to be blessed and that the members grow in grace and Truth.

  4. David says:

    Good to see you back. I often claim that blogging is a good aid to thinking and hold up Doggies Breakfast as an example. I was a bit worried that having graduated, you’d stopped thinking! Glad to see that is not the case.

    Belter of a subject to come back with. English language and quantum mechanics. Woah! (A bit of a mixture of Mr & Mrs Doggies Breakfast’s interests?) I suppose that this is one of the reasons that Bible study can be tricky. Is one of the jobs of a preacher to help collapse the wavefunction?

  5. Stephen says:

    I seem to have missed you comment. Sorry for the late response! Thanks for your prayers.

    I have to admit I had a bit of ‘down time’. Over the summer, immediately after my exams my reading, and probably my thinking, dropped off quite a bit. It got kick started again in Devon.

    The trouble with blogging is that I often feel that I should be reading decent books rather than blogs. Turning that around, I often think that people who are spending time reading this blog would get much more benefit from reading a decent book! But of course, what that thinking misses is the educational value of processing in writing what I have been reading. I have missed that.

    And finally, yes I think part of the job of a preacher is to ‘collapse the wavefunction’, indeed a number of wavefunctions!!

    This is getting weird.

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