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  • Christopher G. Moore

The Uncertainty Principle of Physics: Writing Books and Investing in Shares

Hiesenberg discovered the uncertainty principle rest on the wave-particle duality of nature. In effect the uncertainty principle states the relationship between position and momentum of a subatomic particle. Until measurement is made of either the position or the momentum, both position and momentum are indeterminate. And you can’t measure both position and momentum. You choose the position of the subatomic particle or its speed, but you can’t measure both. By choosing one measurement what was indeterminate becomes fixed.

Writers can learn a great deal from Hiesenberg’s insight in the fundamental laws of nature. The same uncertainty principle applies to writing. An idea inside your brain remains indeterminate. An idea is like a wave. It has speed and velocity. They drift in and out of consciousness. But until you find a way to express that idea in narrative form, it will remain indeterminate. A book is the particle part of the physics of writing. You need to fix the position of your ideas in words, on a page, and only then can you say that your idea is determinate. A lot of people go through life, processing wave after wave of thought. None of these waves ever have any position. They are always in motion. If you wish to write, then you need to find a way to convert the waves of thought into the particle of written language. That only happens if you take the step to take a position.

How many writers have heard friends, relatives, colleagues say they have a great idea for a book. Sometimes they will approach you and suggest that you collaborate on the book. They promise to give you the idea, and all that you have to do is write it down. In the reality of book writing, ideas are often the easy part. The mental sky of any age is filled with thick, moving clouds of ideas. Everyone has an idea for a book. Or so it seems. But it is the execution of the ideas, positioning them into an effective, compelling narrative, which is what makes writing so difficult and competitive.

It is all not that different for investors in various markets. You buy 1,000 shares of Microsoft. Each day you check the stock price and assume that is the value of your investment. Unless you have sold at that price on that day, the price may be fixed, but the value of your shares remain indeterminate. The only way to change a wave into a particle, in the context of the stock market, is to sell the shares. Then you can measure your position i.e., your wealth. To hear someone say what they are “worth on paper” suggests certainty when indeed paper wealth is an indeterminate number.

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