Copenhagen and the High Intensity Interval Life

Updated: Mar 30


I remember watching the play Copenhagen at the University of Oklahoma theater in September of 2010, and being unable to move my eyes from the stage. Some people left at intermission, unimpressed by the importance of what they were hearing, but I couldn’t leave. I didn’t even get up to stretch my legs, because I didn’t want to break the spell.

For six years, this play has stuck with me. Immediately after the play, I joined an Honors College reading group for it, aching to confirm that others felt the way that I did about this play. What I felt from them wasn’t the same as what I felt burning within myself, so, disappointed, I finished the reading group and never really talked to anyone about the play again. But I’ve kept it with me. The feeling of overwhelming truth, the juxtaposition of everyday and cosmic that permeated that play--

it has stuck with me.

According to this source,

“Peter Frayn's play Copenhagen, recently returned to the stage in America, speculates on what might have transpired during a meeting between Nobel laureates Niels Bohr and Werner Heisenberg in Copenhagen in September 1941, at the height of the German advance into Russia and just three months before America's entry into the war. The power of National Socialist Germany was at its pinnacle, and the Germans had just been made aware, through Swedish sources, of U.S. plans to build an atomic bomb.”

The play is about three hours of pure dialogue, which I’d assume is what knocked most people out at intermission. The characters switch positions in their chairs a couple times, and at one point someone’s wife comes to bring tea, if I remember correctly, but otherwise there is nothing but speculated conversation between two of the greatest minds of an era. Now, I’m not sure if this next part if real, or if it’s only real to me because this is the only part of nuclear and quantum physics that I understand, but… I think the entire play is based upon Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle.

If you are unfamiliar, get familiar, because quantum physics is some cool shit. Be sure to check out my other post on Schrodinger’s cat and perfectionism. According to Wikipedia,

“In quantum mechanics, the uncertainty principle, also known as Heisenberg's uncertainty principle, is any of a variety of mathematical inequalities[1] asserting a fundamental limit to the precision with which certain pairs of physical properties of a particle, known as complementary variables, such as position x and momentum p, can be known.”

Which my high school mind a long time ago simplified to:

“You can’t know how fast you’re going and also know where you are.”

You see, Heisenberg and Bohr were both working on nuclear weapons. As scientists, building death machines was not the direction they intended their careers to go, and they both held reservations about whether the breakneck advancement of technology to that end was a bastardization of the science. They knew they were on a roller coaster of science and morality, and, if I remember correctly, the audience is left with the feeling that they met to pause their momentum. To take a short hiatus from the roller coaster, and the check their position in space. Science is momentum, morality is position.

Wrapped up in their work, being pushed by the Nazis (Heisenberg) and the Americans (Bohr), they were unable to step back and regard their position. So they met in Copenhagen in September of 1941. They turned Copenhagen into a vacuum, a realm outside of the space-time continuum, and they regarded their momentum from a fixed position.

Of course, we know which way their decisions fell. The US’s Manhattan Project was completed, and in August of 1942, the world wept.

“Some people laughed. Some people cried. Most people were silent. I remembered the line from the Hindu scripture, the ‘Bhagavad Gita’, where Vishnu is trying to convince the prince to do his duty, and he takes on his multi-armed form and says, ‘Now I am become death, the destroyer of worlds.’ I suppose we all thought that, in one way or another.”

- J. Robert Oppenheimer, a member of the Manhattan Project

The idea that you can’t know how fast you’re going AND where you are has been ingrained in my psyche since September of 2010. It reminds me of the importance of making checks along your journey through life.

“Is this where I want to be? Is this who I want to be? Am I doing anything that violates my morals, hinders my goals, or disrupts my psyche?”

I mentioned in another post that one thing I enjoy doing is dabbling in hobbies, lifestyles, goals, jobs, anything. Now, when I dabble, I don’t half-ass. I throw myself into whatever it is, mind, body, and soul. Here’s a list of all my obsessions and what I did for them since early of 2015 (when I really started examining my position in life and deciding it needed some redirection):

  • March - December 2015 - Green Building

  • Took AutoCAD class at local community college

  • Applied for a new job at an energy efficiency consulting company

  • Took General contractor class at local community college

  • Applied to be a CAD assistant at several firms

  • Applied to be a general contractor assistant at several firms

  • Volunteered at Habitat for Humanity

  • Attended a green building conferences at the Center for Maximum Potential Building Systems in Austin, TX

  • November 2015 - March 2016 - MBTI

  • Listened to 100+ hours of Youtube videos (Craig Calvert), podcasts (personality hacker)

  • Read books

  • Wrote up personality profiles for a bunch of types

  • Navigated Christmas gifts based on personality types (AND PEOPLE WERE THRILLED. A+ HERE.)

  • Looked into getting MBTI Assessor certified

  • January - March 2016 - Fitness

  • Shelled out $1,000+ for personal training for the 12-Week Challenge at Gold’s Gym

  • Shelled out $600 for ACE Personal Trainer study materials and certification exam

  • Looked into Instituto de Empresas in Spain (because there was a fellowship for it) that would let me get my MBA so I could start a comprehensive health empire business

  • April 2016 - Marine Biology

  • Emailed Pacific Whale Foundation and studied requirements for internship

  • Researched all marine biology schools in Australia, their courses, their prerequisites, their costs

  • Looked into a fellowship that would pay for me to get a marine bio degree in Australia

  • Started application to 2 schools in Australia

  • May 2016 - present - Art, Writing, diving, PT...

  • Painted the original 9 watercolors (Focus series)

  • Bought and set up art website

  • Made business cards

  • Figured out how to make prints

  • Found glass, frames, other supplies

  • Wrote up budget

  • Went to multiple art walks, art shows

  • Won a prize in Frederick, OK!

  • Made money!

  • Registered as a business and paid sales tax

  • Studied hard to earn my Personal Trainer Certification

  • Started work at Gold’s Gym

  • Got certified as a PADI Open Water Diver, and have a goal to reach Divemaster within a year

  • Started this blog!

So, as you can see, it’s been an insane couple of years.

I’ve been many people at breakneck speeds, but every once in a while I like to sit and take stock of how I’m feeling and whether what I’m doing is what I really want to be doing.

For those of you who are familiar with the fitness concept of High Intensity Interval Training, this should sound familiar. For those of you who are not familiar, you're about to get familiar: High Intensity Interval Training (or HIIT, pronounced "hit", for short) is a method of cardio training where you will sprinkle short bursts of INTENSE cardio (like 90% of your max heart rate, so it should BURN) in regular intervals during your steady state cardio exercise (about 60-70% of your maximum heart rate). For example, I will jog at about 5 mph for 2 minutes, then sprint at 8 mph for 30 seconds (on a treadmill) and repeat until I've gone for 20-30 minutes. High intensities, at intervals. Arguably the best way to get a great cardio workout in in a short amount of time. Now you are familiar!

Granted, what I do is almost the reverse of cardio HIIT. I'll go all out on a thing for weeks or months at a time, and then burn out and use a few days to reevaluate. Anyway, the point is that there are intervals in both. (And that I wanted to tell you about HIIT!)

I create my own personal Copenhagen, and I schedule a nice chat between who I am and who I want to be, and we figure out where we are going to go next. I decide if I want to continue to throw myself into X, whether I really enjoy the type of work I’d be doing and type of person I’d be, and whether I’m happy. Do I want to continue down the path I'm on, or take a turn?

Without taking stock of where I am, I might live a life that I accept, instead of a life that I create.

#heisenberg #bohr #copenhagen #selfawareness #heisenberguncertaintyprinciple #quantummechanics #physics

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