Friday, February 22, 2013

Schrodinger's Cup of Coffee

I was driving from one meeting to another and stopped at a mini-mart for a protein bar and cup of coffee. At the second meeting I finished my coffee and refilled the cup with water then drove off to my third meeting. After my third meeting, now about 2:30 p.m., as I was walking to my car, I ducked into another mini-mart. I grabbed another protein bar. I was having my mid-afternoon slump and thought of getting more coffee but grabbed a V-8 instead. I got to my car, and saw the coffee cup from earlier in the center console cup holder. “I wonder if there is any left?” I asked myself as I got in. I held the cup and shook it gently. It was about 1/3 full! I drove off and ate my protein bar and finished what was in the coffee cup from that first mini-mart.

It wasn’t until I finished that last sip of what I thought was coffee that I realized I was drinking . . . water! I had completely forgotten I had refilled the cup with water and thought I was just drinking cold leftover coffee that had sat in a cold car for a couple hours. I laughed at myself, then my fatigue returned.

Did I really just drink a third of a cup of water thinking it was cold coffee?

Funny thing how the brain can trick itself. I was tired and thought of getting coffee and by the time I got to my car and saw the cup, I created what liquid was left as coffee in my mind. For a few moments I was mildly amused if not disoriented. I thought of studies regarding the trustworthiness of eyewitnesses, the placebo effect, our perceptions and prejudices of self and others, and those absolute “truths” we hang onto so dearly. If I could trick myself into drinking water as coffee, what else was I capable of? If I could turn water into coffee, what about (wait for it) . . . wine?

A friend of mine loaned me the book Biocentrism a few months ago and I’m listening to it again on Audiobooks. The author gets into quantum physics and other crazy science to describe a “new” theory about all that is. In a nutshell, it is our consciousness that creates the universe. Not the other way around. The author calls this Biocentrism.

It’s an intriguing book and I confess to not really understanding any of the quantum physics, which is okay, since no one really does. But to extend from quantum physics and the perplexing behaviors of energy and matter and how our consciousness both comprehends and, and the same time, affects matter at the particle level is too much for me.

But then again there is the coffee cup with water in it. Like Schrödinger’s Cat, both alive and dead, that cup held both coffee and water, or at least the probability of both, until I observed it. But I wanted it to be coffee and so it was coffee, to me, for at least a few minutes. Had someone taken that cup away before I finished, I would probably still think I had drank coffee. My observation was pre-biased towards coffee, thus it was.

I like to think I am a rationale, objective human. I like to think that before drawing a conclusion, I methodically collect information, assess it, then make an informed decision. The truth is something else, of course. I am not a purely rational, Spock-like creature assigning probabilities to outcomes then acting accordingly. Emotions and desires always get in the way. And though I like to think I am mindful of the fact that I can create whole realities in my brain it sure doesn’t stop me.

  • Lori is a couple minutes late and it turns into a car accident.
  • My son has a fever and it’s automatically bacterial meningitis.
  • This blog post is so insightful and clever that you all share it with everyone and it goes viral!

Good to the last drop!
Of course, each of those fantasies is possible. They each have a probability greater than zero. But they aren’t likely. Rather than consider the 99% probability that is reality, I’ll spend most of my time worrying or fantasizing over the 1%. There is nothing wrong with being ready for the low probability high impact event. But prudence tells us to focus on what's most likely. To be more rational. But a purely rational existence seems boring. And pure worry and fantasy would require a different medication. There is some healthy, happy balance in there somewhere.

Finding that happy balance takes time. Maybe a lifetime. As for consciousness, reality, relative truths, quantum physics? Bah! Who needs any of it? At least, for now, I can be satisfied with knowing how much I can save on coffee. For me, it comes free, right out of the tap!


  1. Enjoyed the post. It's those fantasies that make life enjoyable. For example, if I thought on every golf hole how hard it is to get that ball in that little hole that's 400 yards away, I would never par a hole. That may be reality, but it's no fun. Instead, I focus on the surroundings, being outside with friends, relaxing and having fun, all while channelling my inner Phil Mickelson. Reality plays no role in my golf game, for as little as I play, my scores should be much higher. It's funny how that works.

  2. BonnieB said... Once I wrote a letter to the Washington Post protesting a photo of a beautiful tiger skin used as a rug. the Letters Editor corrected me that the skin was that of a zebra. I would have taken an oath that it was a tiger. So much for eye witness reports or, in your case, first person experiences!


    March 8, 2015 at 5:06 PM

    Please prove you're not a robot

    1. Thanks, BonnieB, for the comment. Yes, eye witness testimony is not what its cracked up to be. Even trusting our own eyes can be misleading!