It is possible to describe an atom, an electron, or a photon as either a wave or a particle. In reality, they are both: a wave and a particle.
The first disappointment is when Erin McNeela tells everyone that she won't be tossing the bridal bouquet.
“We've decided to do away with an old tradition and start a new one,” she announces, smiling sanctimoniously: “We're going to break the flower arrangement down in the Mochrie Particle Accelerator, so that everybody at The Institute will have a chance at catching a tiny piece of it. Who knows, maybe one of you will discover a new particle!”
There is a polite round of applause. I'm standing on tip-toes, at the back of the crowd, absolutely seething. For once, I would have liked to have caught something, other than one of Annie Harman's colds.
Erin's keeping her maiden name. It's weird, the Co-administrators of The Institute being married, because there is so obviously a power struggle going on. It's almost like the wedding was a strategy on her part. Naturally, she is going to come out on top.
The wedding reception is a work-mandated activity. You have to attend! I walk in, passing Erin's husband, Derek Hemple, in conversation with Marion Andrews:
“...It's not enough to be carbon neutral when, for a few extra million, you can go carbon negative.”
An attendant hands me a pair of googles.
The invitation requested that all guests wear photon-cluster jewellery. You need special apparatus to see it. Things used to be so simple, but not any more.
Erin is wearing a chaplet of fifty-five electrons as a tiara. She bought it from Steffens' Jewellers, in Westcliff-on-Sea. The son of the owner studied applied physics at Oxford. He's modernised the business; moving away from silver, gold, and diamonds and focusing on the fundamental particles.
I made myself a natty photon broach. Only, I didn't have time to secure all the drifter points. It will break down to a waveform if there aren't enough people observing it.
There's Allan Nagle, standing on his own. I'll go over and talk to him.
“I'm mindful of Medora's new anti-harassment, three-second stare policy,” he deadpans, looking deliberately past my right shoulder. He's talking about Medora Lawrenson, the Head of Human Resources. “Actually I'm pondering the impact it will have on any double-slit type experiments. If we can only observe directly for three seconds, will we see less particles and more waves?”
“Do you like my broach,” I ask him.
“I'm sorry but, for professional reasons, I refuse to stare at your chest area.”
That's why no-one is looking. I should have made a tiara instead, like Erin.
Allan's got photons doing a calculation on his forehead. He glances at a corresponding set of figures on a mobile device.
“They're forecasting their own spatial position, thirty seconds from now. They seem to want me to go over there and stand in the corner,” he intones, before wandering off.
In need of attention, I move onto the empty dance floor, where I gyrate vigorously to YMCA. A few colleagues cast embarrassed, sidelong glances. The DJ flashes me the finger-guns.
Too late! My lovely light broach, that I slaved over for months during my lunch breaks, has regressed to a waveform, smeared across the eco-ceiling of the Niels Bohr Function Suite, like the aurora borealis.
And now Richard Fraher's coming over. He'll want to know if I've listened to his Tibetan jams playlist. I'm prattling away to him, but it's the champagne doing the talking. I'm just an observer:
“Like, in that interview, when you said that you apply the principles of quantum physics in your DJ sets, it sounds so natural. If any other person said that, I'd be like 'oh my god, that's so cringe...'
I'm being rude, and I know that I'm being rude, but I can't stop myself.
Anyway, it doesn't matter because everybody's looking at the ceiling, at my quantum wardrobe malfunction. All those scientific minds attempting to work out what it is. Maybe, if enough people observe the phenomenon, and give it plenty of likes on social media, my broach will collapse back into a singularity.
Something is happening. It's assuming a superposition. Suddenly, everyone in the room is wearing a variant of my broach. There are disembodied versions of it inhabiting the buffet, one on a platter of egg brioche sandwiches.
Okay, it's definitely returning to a singularity, only now it's on the lapel of Christine Glynn's gorgeous Chanel dress. Of course it would go there, all the attention she's been getting. It's like she's broken into my home and stolen a piece of my jewellery.
And now Erin's coming over to her:
“That's a lovely light broach you are wearing, Christine. You must tell me where you got it,” she says.
Christine is claiming that she made it herself. I've been the victim of a quantum heist. I bet she has an entire Arnison Box at home, filled to the brim with all the pilfered quantum jewellery that's settled on her over the years.
It's so unfair: I thought the popular girls were fated to struggle after they left school. It was nerds, like me, who were supposed to inherit the earth. I guess it's all relative. Wherever you go in life, there's a pecking order. Beauty and popularity will usually bring you out on top. It's the Christine Glynns of this world who get chosen by the BBC to fly to the Arctic, to present a documentary about gluons. People like me get shunted behind the camera to do the research.
Bill Benson, god bless his interminably-dull soul, says: “Actually I think that it was Rose's broach.”
Of course nobody is listening to him, on account of the fact he's Bill Benson.
Another wash-out. I'm going home early to watch Queens Crossing.
Nobody notices as I hand back my goggles.
I am an unsung particle, forever adrift in the corner of their eyes, becoming a wave, as I wave goodbye.