Category Archives: Life\’s mysteries

Embrace the chaos

Who makes all the little aluminum foil people/statues and places them so wonderfully around campus? [3595A]

[written in answer space:  "Most likely the person who wrote the above question.  Cute self-promotion, sweetie."  In other hand, with arrow to above comment:  "unnecessarily bitchy.  Get some self-confidence yourself."  In other hand, both instances of "self" above circled:  "Redundant?"]

The answer is, I don’t know and I don’t want to know.  For what it’s worth, for me the fun is in finding the very small versions in unexpected places around campus.  Where’s the mystery in seeing that aluminum homunculus sitting at the Circulation Desk?  It creeps me out!  But the creator has received some press, for instance at Duke Today.

Understanding quantum entanglement

Do we fully understand why and how quantum entanglement happens?  Better yet, will we ever understand it?  Can it be reduced to a mechanics or is it like the rest of quantum mechanics, which is, by scientific definition, indeterminate?  As a layman to physics, I don’t quite understand entanglement and it seems like some form of magic (minus the rabbits-in-hats part).

Physics Phriend, even physicists don’t fully understand quantum mechanics or entanglement; they just use and accept the theory.  It’s a probabilistic theory, so therefore indeterminate.  Quantum entanglement appears magical, but it’s happening on extremely small scales.  So then, apparently, magical things can happen if they are within the uncertainty limits.  It’s not magic to us, because we do not directly experience it (unless you wish to call everything magic and a miracle, which it essentially is).

What is the meaning of life without love?

What is the meaning of life without love? [3586B]

[written in answer space:  There's so much to life beyond love.  Look harder to find meaning.  Love is a complement and not a necessary criterion to giving life meaning.]

What life means has been considered and debated by countless philosophers, theologians, artists, and assorted weirdos.  If “love is a complement and not a necessary criterion to giving life meaning,” as the Secret Scribbler asserts, the lemon next to the pie, so to speak, let me live in a grove of lemon trees.

If you liked school, you'll love work

Dear Answer Person,

I’ve decided to quit the Duke library system – but not the AP site – cold turkey. I have a little money saved, and I’m going to just take a few years off from “working” and instead learn an instrument. Why not retire when I’m young, and work when I’m old? My entire life has been one waste after another so far, sitting in classrooms and learning next to nothing because someone else hopes that I’ll use that sitting to get a job that involves MORE sitting, which will validate their life. Forget it! I’m done! I’m not asking anyone else to support me and if someone doesn’t like it, they can go explore the depths of the PQ4315s. [AP's comment: the call number belongs to Dante's Inferno.]

My question to you is, although the above makes perfect sense – a lot MORE sense than killing yourself at a miserable non-job in hopes of retiring in time to take handfuls of NSAIDs and sit around (not that I’m saying that’s the only other choice, but it’s what’s pushed on me) – why will no one else admit that it makes sense?

Your loyal questioner since the 1990s,
JN

First of all, JN, you can’t “quit the Duke Library system cold turkey,” because we’ve got the good stuff! 

Second, you have to know you’re not the only person who’s frustrated and dissatisfied with their work life (hilarious title related to your comments and a pretty decent collection of short stories: Irving Welsh’s If you liked school, you’ll love work.”)  If you can get by without working, more power to you.  If you have to keep working like most of us, try to brighten your work environment by doing something extra nice for your boss.  Just the other day, I went into The Perk and bought for my boss a shortbread cookie with light blue frosting that said “Eat Me!”  It sure made me feel good to do something nice for my boss.  Give it a try.

Equipped for the long journey

Dear Answer Person,

Some of my classes at Duke were bad, and some were good. Some were good, but I wasn’t in any condition to appreciate them or learn from them. I assume that many people could say this about their college experience.

My question is: why does it seem now like a few key things I’ve read since then would have been a perfect foundation to have to be more equipped to deal with those good classes I wasn’t ready for?

Good question. I too remember not being ready for a lot of things I read as an undergraduate (Robbe-Grillet, Calvino, Garcia Marquez), and only really “getting it” after more experience (both in life and in the classroom).  I’m going to guess that the answer has something to do with faculty forgetting where they were – intellectually and emotionally – at that age to construct an appropriate syllabus.

What kind of person are you?

At the end of an old Woody Allen movie, the narrator (Woody himself) says “there’s two kinds of people; the horrible and the miserable. You’re lucky if you’re miserable”. Do you agree, and which are you?

I don’t believe there are only two kinds of people: the horrible and the miserable.  And while I generally think Woody Allen is funny, his weltanschaunng – or at least the one that emanates from his movies – is too pessimistic for me to consider for longer than the length of one of his films.

And, anyway, I know someone who’s both horrible and miserable!

What time is it at the North Pole?

What time is it at the North/South Pole? [3583A]

Such a question has been known to blow a few minds during certain smoke-filled social settings on weekend (or weekday!) evenings (or mornings!). Seriously, though, it’s whatever time you want it to be (that is to say, select from among the 24 standard time zones). Since longitudinal rays come together at the poles, no one time zone exists there. Polar explorers tend to use the time zone of the country from which they’ve departed. Good luck on your expedition; let us know when you return.