I’ve been watching a series on quantum mechanics recently (it’s a form of avoidance). My writing has been going a bit slow lately, interrupted by a serious cold that left me flattened for about five days. In watching the series, one of the more interesting things I discovered, among the many bizarre things about the quantum world of sub-atomic particles, is that smell is partly related to vibrations.

Most biologists have explained smell as molecules of scent getting into one’s nose and finding a receptor that fit their size and shape and then locking into it. The receptor then triggers an electrical impulse to the brain which we apprehend as a certain smell. The explanation has apparently worked for decades.

But it has a problem. Almonds and cyanide smell the same to us, yet they have quite differently shaped molecules. That fact doesn’t fit with the “lock and key” theory of smell. Quantum mechanics seems to have solved the mystery.

All molecules, it seems, vibrate at various frequencies. And apparently the almond and cyanide molecules vibrate at the same frequency. So, even if they fit into different receptors, they trigger the same sense of smell because of the identical “note” they make. A brand new field called quantum biology has been started from this and other discoveries of how quantum mechanics can solve problems in molecular biology.

What struck me in this series of logic-defying moments, was the idea of vibration (music, if you will) being a part of the solution. At the quantum level things are neither quite particles or waves. They seem to exist in both states. And all things vibrate. Actually, our whole universe vibrates, even planets (something which has been recorded). Those bodies vibrate way, way below our hearing range. It can all seem a bit mystical and smacks of new-age, hippy thinking, but there’s truth in it. We vibrate. We must, since all our molecules vibrate.

I’m not even close to being a scientist, or thinking like one, but these ideas fascinate me. They point to a strangeness at the ultimate core of reality. But do these things point to larger truths about existence and reality, especially our place in it?

That gets my attention as a writer. I like thinking about these ideas, trying to absorb them. I know somewhere they’ll come out in a story, through a character or a plot structure. I just have to get them inside me and let them mix with everything else going on in my crazy mind.

And you thought this blog was not about writing.

Now if you read something about the vibrating cosmos or a character “tuning” themselves better to the world around them in some future novel of mine, you’ll know where that idea came from.

My apologies to any real scientists out there if I’ve mangled the ideas somewhat. Can I claim artistic license?

You can find the series on Amazon’s collection of video offerings if you’re interested.

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