The Heisenberg Infidelity Principle


I always enjoy hearing about the contrasting mores in different societies. Over lunch today we discussed what is the Japanese concept of cheating in a relationship. (One of my colleagues had been to Tokyo recently, and corroborated what she’d been told by asking three different Japanese people: who am I to argue with such significant sample sizes?)

Was there a physical line you couldn’t overstep? Was it something psychological? Something mental? Perhaps these questions revealed more about the people asking…

Apparently, it only counts as cheating if you get caught. If your wife/husband/boy/girlfriend doesn’t know, then it doesn’t count.

On one reading this is some kind of advanced utilitarian approach to utility: if a bear gets up to no good in the woods and nobody finds out, does it matter? Or is that if a tree falls on the Pope and nobody hears it, he isn’t Catholic? I’ve always struggled with idioms.

But perhaps it’s more like the observer paradox in quantum physics: it’s never the fault of the person cheating, because they’re not observing themselves cheating. Cheating is entirely the fault of the person who is being cheated on, because if they hadn’t caught them, the cheating wouldn’t have occurred.

(As a corollary, a good student of physics will tell you how important it is that any clandestine assignations occur in rooms without any mirrors, in case you see yourself being unfaithful and thus catch yourself cheating.)

But still, could this be the most masterful example of "it’s not me, it’s you" to ever be wheeled out as an excuse? Lipstick on your collar? Just mutter something about the Planck length and Niels Bohr is your uncle.

I wonder what’s next. Maybe the good people at CERN can produce a reason why the Higgs boson means you’re allowed to lie on your tax return.


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