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Physicists seek to put one thing in two places
World Science ^ | 25 Sept 2006

Posted on 09/26/2006 4:23:06 AM PDT by snarks_when_bored


Physicists seek to put one thing in two places

Sept. 25, 2006
Special to World Science  

Physi­cists say they have made an ob­ject move just by watch­ing it. This is in­spir­ing them to a still bold­er proj­ect: put­ting a small, or­di­nary thing in­to two places at once.

It may be a “fan­ta­sy,” ad­mits Keith Schwab of Cor­nell Uni­ver­si­ty in Ith­a­ca, N.Y., one of the re­search­ers. Then again, the first ef­fect seemed that way not long ago, and the sec­ond is re­lat­ed.


The gray sliv­er reach­ing from top to bot­tom, slanted in the im­age, is a na­no­me­chan­i­cal re­s­o­na­tor, a sub-mi­c­ro­s­co­pic de­vice that can vi­brate like a pia­no string. The im­age was tak­en with a scan­ning el­ec­tron mi­cro­scope and col­or­ized. (Cour­te­sy Cor­nell Uni­ver­si­ty)

The re­search comes from the edge of quan­tum me­chan­ics, the sub­mi­cro­sco­pic realm of fun­da­men­tal par­t­i­cles. There, things be­have with to­tal dis­re­gard for our com­mon sense.

They can show signs of be­ing in two places at once; of be­ing both waves and par­ti­cles; of tak­ing on some cha­r­ac­ter­is­t­ics on­ly at the mo­ment these are meas­ured; and of act­ing syn­chro­nous­ly while far apart, with no ap­par­ent way to com­mu­ni­cate.

Al­though these ti­ny build­ing blocks of our uni­verse do this, the re­l­a­tively huge things we see eve­ry day don’t. The un­can­ny be­hav­ior fades the big­ger a thing be­comes.

This is be­cause when quan­tum en­t­i­ties are com­bined to make or­di­na­ry ob­jects, the rules go­vern­ing each com­po­nen­t’s be­ha­v­ior add up to pro­duce new rules. These in­c­rea­s­ing­ly re­sem­ble the laws of our fa­mi­l­iar world as more ad­di­tions take place.

But just how big can some­thing be and still show signs of slip­ping back in­to its quan­tum-me­chan­i­cal na­ture?

Schwab and his col­leagues de­cid­ed to find out. In work de­s­cribed in the Sept. 14 is­sue of the re­search jour­nal Na­ture, they built a de­vice co­los­sal by quan­tum stan­dards: about nine thou­sandths of a mil­li­me­ter long, con­tain­ing some 10 tril­lion atoms.

The ob­ject was a sliv­er of alu­mi­num and a type of ce­ram­ic, fixed at both ends but free to vi­brate like a gui­tar string in be­tween. To meas­ure its move­ments, the sci­en­tists set near­by a ti­ny de­tec­tor called a su­per­con­duct­ing sin­gle elec­tron tran­sis­tor.

They found that ran­dom mo­tions of charge-carrying par­ti­cles, elec­trons, in the de­tec­tor em­a­nat­ed forc­es that af­fect­ed the me­tal­lic sliv­er. When the de­tec­tor was tuned for max­i­mum sen­si­tiv­i­ty, these forc­es slowed down the sliv­er’s shak­ing, cool­ing it as a re­sult. This ef­fect, Schwab said, is a ba­si­cal­ly quan­tum-me­chan­i­cal phe­nom­e­non called back-action, in which the act of ob­serv­ing some­thing ac­tu­al­ly gives it a nudge.

Back-action in quan­tum me­chan­ics al­so makes it im­pos­si­ble to know a par­ti­cle’s ex­act lo­ca­tion and speed si­mul­ta­ne­ous­ly. This lim­i­ta­tion is called the un­cer­tain­ty prin­ci­ple. A com­mon ex­am­ple: meas­ur­ing place and speed re­quires some de­tec­tor that can “see” the par­ti­cle. But this in­volves bounc­ing a light wave off it, which gives it a ran­dom push.

“We made meas­urements of po­si­tion that are so in­tense—so strongly cou­pled—that by look­ing at it we can make it move,” said Schwab. Nor­mal­ly, such mo­tion would­n’t cool an ob­ject. But the mo­tion can be such as to op­pose on­go­ing move­ments and slow them down. This re­duces an ob­ject’s heat, which is just the jig­gling of par­ti­cles in it.

If back-action ap­plies such a large item, Schwab rea­sons, may­be that can al­so be true of oth­er quan­tum-me­chan­i­cal rules. Particularly in­tri­guing, he said, is the superpo­si­tion prin­ci­ple, which holds that a par­ti­cle can be in two places at once.

A classic ex­am­ple is the shoot­ing of light par­ti­cles, called pho­tons, through two slits in a bar­rier. Past the slits, they will be­have as if they were waves. This alone is no sur­prise: it’s a well-known quan­tum me­chan­i­cal phe­nom­e­non that par­ti­cles can par­a­dox­i­cal­ly act like waves in some sit­u­a­tions. The pho­tons’ wav­i­ness then makes them “in­ter­fere” with each oth­er. In oth­er words, they make pat­terns like those seen when you toss two peb­bles in a pond, and the rip­ples they send out overlap.

When the waves passing the two slits mu­tu­al­ly in­ter­fere, the pat­tern be­comes vi­si­ble if you set up anoth­er wall where the par­ti­cles can land. There, al­ter­nat­ing bright and dark stripes ap­pear.

But bi­zarre­ly, this works even if you fire just one pho­ton at a time through the slits. You can see the ef­fect then by put­ting pho­to­graph­ic film on the land­ing wall, so each pho­ton leaves a last­ing mark. Keep fir­ing pho­tons, and the marks grad­u­al­ly add up to make the stripes again.

It’s as if each pho­ton is in­ter­fer­ing with it­self—that is, go­ing through both slits si­mul­ta­ne­ous­ly. This al­so works for big­ger par­ti­cles, up to a point. But what point? Schwab wants to know. “We’re try­ing to make a me­chan­i­cal de­vice be in two places at one time. What’s real­ly neat is it looks like we should be able to do it,” he said. “The hope, the dream, the fan­ta­sy is that we get that superpo­si­tion and start mak­ing big­ger de­vices and find the break­down.”

In a com­men­tary in the same is­sue of Na­ture, Mi­chael Roukes of the Cal­i­for­nia In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­o­gy in Pas­a­de­na, Calif., wrote that Schwab’s work with the cool­ing is part of an emerg­ing field, quan­tum electrome­chan­ics. This, he added, fo­cus­es on sub­mi­cro­scop­ic de­vices called nanome­chan­i­cal sys­tems, “poised mid­way be­tween two seem­ingly an­ti­thet­i­c do­mains” of size: fun­da­men­tal par­ti­cles at one end, the ob­jects of eve­ryday life at the oth­er.




TOPICS: Extended News; Miscellaneous; News/Current Events; Philosophy; Technical
KEYWORDS: entanglement; physics; quantummechanics; superposition; waveparticleduality; weirdstuff
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Let the puns begin...
1 posted on 09/26/2006 4:23:09 AM PDT by snarks_when_bored
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To: RadioAstronomer; longshadow; grey_whiskers; PatrickHenry; headsonpikes; Iris7; Junior; ...

Let the puns begin...


2 posted on 09/26/2006 4:23:45 AM PDT by snarks_when_bored
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To: snarks_when_bored

Trying hard to understand the explanation of how looking at something can actually nudge it. Where do the electrons come from when we look at something? Yes, I know I am a moron. Very interesting post.


3 posted on 09/26/2006 4:33:00 AM PDT by Wage Slave (Good fences make good neighbors. -- Robert Frost)
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To: snarks_when_bored

"Physi­cists say they have made an ob­ject move just by watch­ing it."



Physicists have a habit of describing what they have discovered in ways that interest the public, but are not really accurate--at least not accurate if you would ask the average guy.

If you've got a particle, you can't just "watch it." It's too small. You use a probe to see if it's there. Or you might shine a light on it, if it's big enough. You use high tech equipment to measure its charge, and that will give away its position.

Of course, when you do any of those things, the particle is nudged a little bit. When you touch it with a probe, shine light on it, or test its charge, it moves.

It would be more accurate to say that they are making it move by "touching it," but then that would not be such a big headline.


4 posted on 09/26/2006 4:39:06 AM PDT by Brilliant
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To: Wage Slave

It's not the looking at something that moves it. See my earlier post. What moves it is that you can't see it unless you bounce something off it, like light or electrons, or something else. Your eye detects the light that comes from the object, but first the light has got to reflect off the object.


5 posted on 09/26/2006 4:42:14 AM PDT by Brilliant
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To: Wage Slave
Trying hard to understand the explanation of how looking at something can actually nudge it.

Wink wink, nudge nudge.

6 posted on 09/26/2006 4:43:03 AM PDT by SlowBoat407 (I've had it with these &%#@* jihadis on these &%#@* planes!)
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To: Wage Slave
Trying hard to understand the explanation of how looking at something can actually nudge it.

Sometimes I can look at a woman and actually move her 10 feet or more... away from me.

7 posted on 09/26/2006 4:43:47 AM PDT by SlowBoat407 (I've had it with these &%#@* jihadis on these &%#@* planes!)
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To: Wage Slave
Trying hard to understand the explanation of how looking at something can actually nudge it. Where do the electrons come from when we look at something?

Electrons interact with other electrons via the electromagnetic interaction, which is mediated by photons. If no photons are exchanged, no interaction take place (ignoring virtual photons and tunneling subtleties). So, essentially, if no photons are exchanged, nothing is seen, and if photons are exchanged, a disturbance in the motion of the seen (and the seer) takes place.

8 posted on 09/26/2006 4:44:16 AM PDT by snarks_when_bored
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To: snarks_when_bored

9 posted on 09/26/2006 4:46:12 AM PDT by Loyalist (Social justice isn't; social studies aren't; social work doesn't.)
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To: Brilliant

Okie dokie. Got it. Thanks!


10 posted on 09/26/2006 4:46:53 AM PDT by Wage Slave (Good fences make good neighbors. -- Robert Frost)
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To: SlowBoat407

LOL!


11 posted on 09/26/2006 4:47:21 AM PDT by Wage Slave (Good fences make good neighbors. -- Robert Frost)
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To: SlowBoat407

I have the same mystical power over men.


12 posted on 09/26/2006 4:49:24 AM PDT by Wage Slave (Good fences make good neighbors. -- Robert Frost)
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To: snarks_when_bored

looking for love in both the wrong places


13 posted on 09/26/2006 4:50:06 AM PDT by HiTech RedNeck
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To: Wage Slave

What time did you want me over again? : )


14 posted on 09/26/2006 4:51:25 AM PDT by Hand em their arse
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To: snarks_when_bored

Physi­cists say they have made an ob­ject move just by watch­ing it.

I can do that after several bourbons. I can even put the same object in 2 or 3 places at the same time. Nothing new here.


15 posted on 09/26/2006 4:52:57 AM PDT by saganite (Billions and billions and billions-------and that's just the NASA budget!)
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To: snarks_when_bored

hmmmmm.....are you an auto mechanic?? ;)


16 posted on 09/26/2006 4:53:32 AM PDT by Wage Slave (Good fences make good neighbors. -- Robert Frost)
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To: Hand em their arse

Can you cook?


17 posted on 09/26/2006 4:55:18 AM PDT by Wage Slave (Good fences make good neighbors. -- Robert Frost)
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To: snarks_when_bored
Bill CLinton seems to have done that all the time. He also could see all three sides of a two-sided issue. I think we should give him a Nobel Prize for Physics and let him mount it in the museum down in Hope, Ark.
18 posted on 09/26/2006 4:57:12 AM PDT by .cnI redruM (Robert Heinlein's 5 grades of coffee: Java, Cafe, Jamocha, Joe, Carbon Remover)
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To: Wage Slave
hmmmmm.....are you an auto mechanic?? ;)

No, a voyeur. (laugh)

19 posted on 09/26/2006 4:57:15 AM PDT by snarks_when_bored
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To: snarks_when_bored

works even without photons or any particle exchanged with a detector.

If you obeserve interference of a single photon with itself on a double slit it is strange enough - because it seems to contradict the fact that it is only ONE photon. But even more strange - if you detect which slit it DID NOT take - interference will brake down.

Either you know, where a particle is a distinct time OR you know what impulse it has (speed, mass and direction) that's a LAW not a desricption of the unfitness of scientist or technicians to measure more precise.

Seeing the interference defines wich impulse the photon had so you can't have that AND know where it was at a certain time - even if you have found that out by looking where it NOT has been leaving it only one possibility.

A more abstract explanation might be given by string theory.


20 posted on 09/26/2006 5:00:33 AM PDT by Rummenigge (there's people willing to blow out the light because it casts a shadow)
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To: SlowBoat407

but can they put things on top of other things?


21 posted on 09/26/2006 5:17:20 AM PDT by tm61
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To: tm61

That would confuse the cat (Schroedinger's Cat, of course). There, I've run rings around you logically!


22 posted on 09/26/2006 5:18:47 AM PDT by SlowBoat407 (I've had it with these &%#@* jihadis on these &%#@* planes!)
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To: Brilliant
It would be more accurate to say that they are making it move by "touching it,"

Very good point!
23 posted on 09/26/2006 5:19:03 AM PDT by true_blue_texican
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To: snarks_when_bored
Physi­cists say they have made an ob­ject move just by watch­ing it.

(Laz looks at his crotch)

24 posted on 09/26/2006 5:24:34 AM PDT by Lazamataz (Islam is a pathological disorder masquerading as a religion.)
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To: snarks_when_bored
"Physi­cists say they have made an ob­ject move just by watch­ing it."

Hell, my mother could do that!............."Take out the garbage"....."Mow the lawn"......etc......

25 posted on 09/26/2006 5:30:49 AM PDT by Red Badger (Is Castro DEAD YET?........)
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To: Wage Slave
I have the same mystical power over men.

[droning monotone] ...she has the same mystical power over men...

26 posted on 09/26/2006 5:42:53 AM PDT by Oberon (What does it take to make government shrink?)
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To: SlowBoat407
Sometimes I can look at a woman and actually move her 10 feet or more... away from me.

Ahh, yes, I possess this same power as well. Perhaps we are strong in the force?
27 posted on 09/26/2006 6:01:25 AM PDT by JamesP81 (The answer always lies with more freedom; not less)
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To: snarks_when_bored

All I want to know is - does the Cat live?


28 posted on 09/26/2006 6:08:56 AM PDT by headsonpikes (Genocide is the highest sacrament of socialism.)
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To: JamesP81
Perhaps we are strong in the force?

My brother, we are strong in something.

29 posted on 09/26/2006 6:11:23 AM PDT by SlowBoat407 (I've had it with these &%#@* jihadis on these &%#@* planes!)
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To: headsonpikes
All I want to know is - does the Cat live?

Yes and No.

30 posted on 09/26/2006 6:20:43 AM PDT by snarks_when_bored
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To: snarks_when_bored; headsonpikes
All I want to know is - does the Cat live?

Did Schroedinger ever have to change his kitty litter?

31 posted on 09/26/2006 6:26:54 AM PDT by grey_whiskers
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To: snarks_when_bored

A new variation of the old boson-fermian trick?


32 posted on 09/26/2006 6:28:11 AM PDT by onedoug
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To: snarks_when_bored
Physicists seek to put one thing in two places

Big deal. So do porn stars.

33 posted on 09/26/2006 6:29:03 AM PDT by Larry Lucido
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To: snarks_when_bored

Sounds almost, well, Newtonian.


34 posted on 09/26/2006 6:29:32 AM PDT by jwalsh07
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To: snarks_when_bored
Yes and No.

And here I thought it was Yes and/or No. This new sort of physics is obviously less inclusive.

35 posted on 09/26/2006 6:30:34 AM PDT by headsonpikes (Genocide is the highest sacrament of socialism.)
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To: snarks_when_bored
"This ef­fect, Schwab said, is a ba­si­cal­ly quan­tum-me­chan­i­cal phe­nom­e­non called back-action, in which the act of ob­serv­ing some­thing ac­tu­al­ly gives it a nudge."

Ahah! Eureka! Forsooth! Verily! Is there a possibility that a tree falling in the forest makes no sound unless someone is listening?

36 posted on 09/26/2006 6:32:06 AM PDT by Eastbound
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To: grey_whiskers
All I want to know is - does the Cat live?

Did Schroedinger ever have to change his kitty litter?

See post #30.

37 posted on 09/26/2006 6:33:11 AM PDT by snarks_when_bored
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To: lonevoice

ping


38 posted on 09/26/2006 6:33:17 AM PDT by Pride in the USA
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To: headsonpikes

(laugh)


39 posted on 09/26/2006 6:34:36 AM PDT by snarks_when_bored
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To: snarks_when_bored
Physicists seek to put one thing in two places

Which is why Schrödinger used cats for his famous thought experiment. A cat could be meowing in front of her food bowl, knocking things off of her favorite shelf and getting under your feet simultaneously. Cats are also good at quantum tunneling where you can block all paths from point A to point B but the cat still moves between them.

40 posted on 09/26/2006 6:53:46 AM PDT by KarlInOhio (Dems - Your conduct is an invitation to the enemy, yet few of you have heart enough to join them.)
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To: snarks_when_bored

Okay. I have noticed that my dog, Dixie, is IN TWO PLACES AT THE SAME TIME! I have hesitated to mention it to anyone, but this discovery explains it and makes it sort of okay to reveal it. - Well, anyway, during the day when I'm at the back door and look out - there stands Dixie waiting for me to pass her a treat out the back door. Then in a minute or so, when I move to the side door and look out, THERE STANDS DIXIE, tongue hanging out waiting for me to hand her out another slice of baloney or dog biscuit or something. There is NO WAY Dixie could run fast enough to be at both doors so soon. It is weird. In fact, her dry kibbles bin empties out so fast one would have to think there really are TWO Dixies living here.

And that's the way it is . . just another day here at Black Rock River Ranch, and such a comfort that science is finally explaining the strange happenings here at the ranch.


41 posted on 09/26/2006 6:57:07 AM PDT by Twinkie (Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.)
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To: snarks_when_bored
"... made an ob­ject move just by watch­ing it."

Not really. Simply an admission that for very tiny objects, the light that illuminates them can also give a tiny push.

I don't suppose they are willing to claim they can make an object move by watching it in the dark.

42 posted on 09/26/2006 7:12:08 AM PDT by NicknamedBob (If the "enemy of your enemy" is Ghengis Khan, Ghengis Khan is not your friend.)
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To: snarks_when_bored

I once knew a guy named Vinnie who ended up in several places at once. In small, green, trash bags...


43 posted on 09/26/2006 7:18:58 AM PDT by Junior (I kn)
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To: snarks_when_bored
The gray sliv­er reach­ing from top to bot­tom, slanted in the im­age, is a na­no­me­chan­i­cal re­s­o­na­tor, a sub-mi­c­ro­s­co­pic de­vice that can vi­brate like a pia­no string. The im­age was tak­en with a scan­ning el­ec­tron mi­cro­scope and col­or­ized.

BZZZZT. PARITY EXCEPTION IE00007E00013A. GUTEN ABEND.

44 posted on 09/26/2006 7:29:32 AM PDT by Erasmus (I invited Benoit Mandelbrot to the Shoreline Grill, but he never got there.)
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To: snarks_when_bored

bump


45 posted on 09/26/2006 7:32:14 AM PDT by dangerdoc (dangerdoc (not actually dangerous any more))
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To: SlowBoat407

Who do you think he is, a bloody Doctor Bronowski?????!


46 posted on 09/26/2006 7:40:42 AM PDT by Erasmus (I invited Benoit Mandelbrot to the Shoreline Grill, but he never got there.)
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To: snarks_when_bored

Nothing is fundamental. There is always something smaller.


47 posted on 09/26/2006 7:41:33 AM PDT by Boiler Plate (Mom always said why be difficult, when with just a little more effort you can be impossible.)
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To: Boiler Plate
Nothing is fundamental. There is always something smaller.

Maybe it's turtles all the way down?

48 posted on 09/26/2006 7:44:25 AM PDT by snarks_when_bored
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To: snarks_when_bored
is it not a fundamental law of physics that no object can be in two places at the same time?
49 posted on 09/26/2006 7:51:26 AM PDT by jpsb
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To: snarks_when_bored

I can make guys on the golf channel miss a putt, just by thinking.


50 posted on 09/26/2006 8:07:20 AM PDT by MonroeDNA
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