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  • Print publication year: 2012
  • Online publication date: August 2014

7 - Quantum Billiards


One day Mr Tompkins was going home, feeling very tired after the long day's work in the bank, which was doing a land office business. He was passing a pub and decided to drop in for a glass of ale. One glass followed the other, and soon Mr Tompkins began to feel rather dizzy. In the back of the pub was a billiard room filled with men in shirt sleeves playing billiards on the central table. He vaguely remembered being here before, when one of his fellow clerks took him along to teach him billiards. He approached the table and started to watch the game. Something very queer about it! A player put a ball on the table and hit it with the cue. Watching the rolling ball, Mr Tompkins noticed to his great surprise that the ball began to ‘spread out’. This was the only expression he could find for the strange behaviour of the ball which, moving across the green field, seemed to become more and more washed out, losing its sharp contours. It looked as if not one ball was rolling across the table but a great number of balls, all partially penetrating into each other. Mr Tompkins had often observed analogous phenomena before, but today he had not taken a single drop of whisky and he could not understand why it was happening now. ‘Well,’ he thought, ‘let us see how this gruel of a ball is going to hit another one.’