University of Iowa Honors Theses

Thesis Title

Quanta

Major Department

English

College

College of Liberal Arts & Sciences

Degree

BA (Bachelor of Arts)

Session and Year of Graduation

Spring 2017

Honors Major Advisor

Marie Kruger

Thesis Mentor

Ryan Tucker

Abstract

This creative thesis titled Quanta is a series of non-fiction essays constructed to explore the human condition through the perspective of astronomy and physics. This thesis strives to balance the condition of personal human existence with the logic of physics and astronomy – a marriage between sound science and subjective emotion that attempts to find meaning in the existence of humanity and explore the varying types and degrees of love within the universe. This balance is an attempt to understand the universe, both the macro- and microscopic, and parse through the underlying theme of how the universe loves each and every person and thing differently, sometimes unrecognizably.

I drew my fundamental inspiration for this thesis from many different sources, but three are of the greatest significance. Amy Leach’s Things That Are is a series of nonfiction essays that move freely between a personal narrative and scientific spheres, conflating them to make a cohesive whole. Marilynne Robinson also had great influence on my thesis, particularly for her lyric prose style, particularly in her nonfiction Absence of Mind and Givenness of Things. In these, cosmological notions surface to imply there are things beyond the grasp of human understanding, and understanding our incapability to understand is an act greater than itself, manifested as faith or love. Lee Smolin’s Quantum Gravity also influenced these essays, mainly due to my personal obsession with physics and astronomy. Smolin’s concise yet lyric descriptions and explanations of physics and astronomical phenomena approach human understanding in ways my essays attempt to emulate, providing tightly knit illustrations that create a narrative of the cosmos. However, each of these sources try to explain the universe to humanity, but I strive to let the universe explain itself from within us.

In creating this thesis, I have intentionally broken rules of creative writing that I have been taught in favor of emulating an incomprehensible universe. First, this thesis is written in a fragmentary style depicting the limited scope of human knowledge compared to the vastness of the universe. Second, the inconsistent narrator acts as a fluid catalyst to emulate the ever-shifting and changing universe. Third, some explanations and language regarding astronomy are meant to be incomprehensible as a means of portraying the impossibility of wholly understanding a universe larger than our own existence, the impossibility of understanding how it loves us, and the notion that we don’t need to comprehend the universe’s love in order to accept and acknowledge it.

Keywords

personal narrative, astronomy, physics, relationships

Total Pages

81 pages

Copyright

Copyright © 2017 Miranda Pederson

COinS
 

URL

http://ir.uiowa.edu/honors_theses/78