“Adam Smasher … is that your real name?”
I controlled my desire to breath a long, exasperated sigh. “Yeah. In case you didn’t catch that, it’s spelled A-T-O-M like the particle.”
“Are you, like, a professional wrestler, or a cage fighter or something?”
“It’s more like the particles that make up mass… um …” I shrugged. “You bet. Now can I please get my service turned on?”
The truth is, I’m not a violent person. I’ve never been in a fight where I actually got a punch in before being beaten to a pulp or having my privates suddenly strangled by the morphing of my Hanes into a hammock by some punk at school … or wherever. My parents were inspired by the advances in physics and the fact that they could make some kind of sense of the latest happenings. Having such a perfect last name to assemble their homage, they named me after the common phrase for the particle accelerator that was to be called the Tevetron. It was being built to crash atomic particles into each other. This would test quantum theory, string theories, and the bounds of our abilities in the universe, the multiverse, and perhaps (once the Higgs boson particle is discovered in 2012) even an eleventh dimension.
At first I loved my name, taking it upon my little self to tell all my elementary friends that I was actually a superhero in the making. Then the actual superhero of comic book fame was created in the 80’s and I was an even bigger hit. As a teen and older, I hated it. Bigger and dumber kids were attracted to all the seemingly clever ways they could brag about mashing or bashing “the smasher.” Then I embraced the fact that I was actually smarter than my tormentors and dove into all that was physics. Einstein and those that followed became my superheroes, and I completed our family by fulfilling my role as geeky, intelligent, hermit, role-playing gamer.
My sister called me once and freaked me out. “Atom, I don’t get it and I had to call you and ask. Schrodinger’s Cat. So, I get that there’s a box, and a cat, a gun, some uranium, and a geiger counter. I get the part about the cat either being alive or dead if the gun fires or it doesn’t because the uranium particles deplete or not. But even if the gun doesn’t go off, doesn’t the radiation kill the cat anyway?”
You have to understand – my sister is a Sociology major. So physics, especially of this variety, is not typically her thing. Then I understood that it was her clever way of sisterly love, showing an interest in something I was into, and trying (unsuccessfully) to make a joke for me. So, I replied.
“Sis, the fact is, the cat would be more than just alive in one universe, and dead in another. It would actually be alive in two separate universes and dead in two entirely different ones. Furthermore, beyond those four universes, there would be tons more. A pregnant cat, a dead pregnant cat, a rabid cat, a three legged cat … all of these and more are probabilities that factor into the Everett interpretation of the boxed cat in the realm of quantum superposition.”
The line went silent until she finally snorted out a laugh. And regardless of our lack of amusement in our loving health-nut geek parents’ naming principles, we’re doing fine. My sister, Apple, and I are in this thing together.