Liminality Seminar Scholar Nick Childers chose an intriguing semester project, one that combined his love for physics with the concepts of liminality. What can we find in the world of physics that sheds light on the phenomenon of liminality? In his paper, An Examination of Liminality in Quantum Mechanics, Specifically in the Area of Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle (November 6, 2019) Nick related the Quantum concept of Uncertainty to the nature of the liminal domain. Does this relationship exist in a physical sense or only as an analogy?

“Liminality is defined by its chaotic nature. It is an inevitable chaos, seeping into the lives of every person who has ever lived. In the classical interpretation of liminality, there is a specific, ritual schematic on what steps a person will go through. In this schematic, a person passes from a pre-liminal state, through a threshold, into a chaotic liminality, through a reaggregation into regular society, and into their post-liminal state … Order, to chaos, and back to order… What I would like to explore is how liminality might be quite literally ingrained into the fabric of the universe … ”

“The common interpretation [of Heisenberg’s conclusions] is that a person cannot know both the position and [momentum] of a particle with 100% accuracy. There is an uncertainty factor of h/2 … as we become more certain about one value, the other one becomes more uncertain.”

“I relate the Uncertainty Principle to how we imagine liminality.”

During his classroom presentation Nick identified the liminal domain as more wave-like in its behavior between thresholds. It is only when the wave is disturbed by a barrier of some sort that we might take a reading on where we are at the moment. But when that happens, when we glimpse where we are in liminal space we lose track of its momentum and trajectory. Hence, the ambiguity, uncertainty, and disorientation of liminality. We really don’t know where we are and how fast or the direction of our movement at the same time. Liminality is not linear. As in the strange world of quantum mechanics, particles act strangely, unpredictably. They do not perform according to the rules known to us the previous stages of structure and certainty.

There is a phrase common among physicists to describe this erratic, uncertain, wholly unpredictable behavior: “Spooky action at a distance.”

“Physicists actually use this rather non-scientific sounding language to describe a phenomenon that is full of anomaly and unpredictable outcomes,” Nick said with a big smile.

Like Quantum Mechanics, Liminal reality is also characterized by “spooky action” that defies rationality. And yet, somewhere deep in the mysterious code of it all, the chaotic seeds of what comes next are present and operating.