Book Review: Kane and Abel

 

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I was surprised to find that I had not read a single Jeffrey Archer. Since I no longer save the best for   the last I decided to dive into his most well-known supposedly earth-shattering novel : Kane and Abel.

First things first, I am now a Jeffrey Archer fan. His story telling has a very classic characteristic to it; simple and yet gripping.

As he volleys between Kane and Abel (The two protagonists) my  bias towards each kept swinging. Both are very likable characters even if they could not have been from more different worlds. Kane comes from a world where he is born with the proverbial golden spoon while Abel is from a poverty stricken family. Yet they have a lot in common: Both have a drive to be outstanding, their own battles to fight and both always take them head on. Abel’s early life is marred by a lot of suffering, a lot more than Kane. But I found myself rooting for Kane (if I had to pick one). Perhaps the name change from Wladek to Abel was off putting too. What I liked is that we are told of their stories from their birth all the way till the end and it was interesting to see their dreams evolve and how they try to achieve them, never ceasing in effort. Neither of them rarely do anything repulsive yet they both commit mistakes, some peccadillos, others worse. Both of them could have ruined their life with what they were given-Kane with his richness and Abel with his suffering and yet they don’t. Neither has an easy life. I had to feel for Kane, nothing he does ever seems enough. Things are always expected of him and to his credit he does achieve them. For me he becomes a better man than his perhaps cold father. I loved the parallel between the two and I was waiting when their worlds clash. Things really heat up in the second half.

Now to the writing itself. The narration in ‘Kane and Abel’ is strong and the plot is always ticking. What I found is that Archer blatantly violates the golden ‘rule’ of writing i.e, ‘Show, don’t tell’. The novel is basically a telling, a narration, but it is a good telling. On the downside I expected there to be more face-offs between the two given the title but there weren’t. I expected the book to be better than what it was.  When you hear so much about a book and read the book’s description that says it sold millions of copies etc. etc. you really go in with great expectations. If I had just picked ‘Kane and Abel’ without knowing anything about it’s history it would without doubt have been a memorable novel and it still is but I don’t see what the fuss is about. However I am extremely glad I read it.

Overall Rating: 3.5/5

 

 

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Schrodinger’s Cat

               Meow. This cat has been haunting a lot of people since a while. Let’s let the cat out of the bag…um box. This is a classic conundrum which has been around since way back in 1935 and there is still no unanimous agreed upon answer. There is a lot of confusion to what this thought experiment is, leave alone the answer to it.

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               How did it arise? There exists a concept in physics called quantum mechanics (fascinating but bewildering area). One of the interpretations of quantum mechanics is the Copenhagen interpretation which states that microscopic particles like electrons  exist as a ‘superposition of states’ which means we can only know the probabilities of the state in which they exist. The act of measurement or observation causes the wave function to collapse and the electron then takes one of these states. In simpler terms say we are considering the position of an electron (we could also consider momentum etc) . The electron initially exists in a superposition of states which means we don’t know where it exists. The very act of measurement causes the electron to ‘collapse’ randomly  into one of the positions which means observation or measurement affects outcome. Schrodinger who was one of the founding fathers of Quantum Mechanics argued this principle in a letter to Einstein through a thought experiment which came to be called Schrodinger’s cat:

 Conceptually the idea of this experiment is this:

‘A cat exists in a closed box which contains a radioactive substance. The substance has a 50% chance of decaying. If it does the cat dies, if it does not the cat lives.‘

              We don’t know if the cat is dead or alive until we open the box. Now according to the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum theory until the box is opened and a result confirmed, the cat lies in a superposition of states which means it is ‘both dead and alive’.

              Schrodinger did not suggest that the cat was both dead and alive, he did this experiment to illustrate the absurdity of quantum theory since a cat cannot really be both dead and alive at the same time (like yeah, what does that even mean! Way to go Schrodinger!)

             Still trying to digest this but a curious thought hit me when I was doing a popular yoga practice called observation of breath. So in this practice one needs to simply focus on his breath. When I try doing this I actually feel my breathing change…become faster or slower (not saying this is a rule…but what generally happens). The act of observation affects outcome! Now we could say that this is really a part of my body and by me observing I am somehow changing a part of my body. But in a way we are all a part of a single entity…the universe. So  observation by us (a part of the universe) of a part of the universe affects the outcome (breath). We could extrapolate this to us observing the cat and thereby affecting the outcome! Hmm.

            Love to hear your thoughts.