How a key concept in quantum mechanics came back to haunt its authors.
‘To understand a Janome Hypothesis one must first understand the rudimentary principles of Schroedinger’s Cat.’
When Yves Sunier wrote the introduction to the paper co-authored with Diana May Ronson he understood the need to nail down an earlier thought experiment that divided the world of quantum physics.
Ronson was less cautious when she spoke to Time magazine in 2007. “Every aspect of life is in a state of flux, permanent change. We knew you couldn’t speak of ‘rudimentary principles’ in quantum mechanics, but we had to start somewhere.”
The rudimentary principles Sunier and Ronson wanted to establish were:
- The cat in Schroedinger’s experiment exists in two opposing forms simultaneously.
- The two forms do not co-exist when directly observed.
- The separation of the two forms results in their new co-existence occurring in two separate universes.
So far, so good. From those three fundamentals Sunier and Ronson built the foundation of their own theory.
- Human beings exist in two co-existing forms: matter and anti-matter
- The two forms cannot be observed together at the same time.
- The relationship can be broken at any time resulting in the two forms existing independently of each other.
At a superficial level the hypothesis seemed to be incontrovertible. Everything has an equivalent anti-matter form, people are made from matter, therefore people have an anti-matter twin.
The publishing of their ideas projected Sunier and Ronson into an ethical debate about rights and consciousness. (If anti-matter people were self-aware, did they have rights?)
“We were happy to be a part of that discussion,” said Ronson. “The scientific community has always acknowledged an ethical dimension to our work. What we do has implications, we have a responsibility.”
The debate they didn’t see coming was the one provoked by Alexei Berkoff who suggested the anti-matter remnants of a human being could be something far more sinister.
The University of Kiev lay under a metre of snow when Berkoff organised an international symposium to bring scientists, philosophers and writers together to discuss the possible existence of observable Janomes.
Berkoff wrote in the introduction to the symposium, ‘When Sunier and Ronson published their paper it was as if they had switched on all the lights. I won’t claim to have been the first to reach the conclusion, but to me it seemed obvious. The Janome Hypothesis explained a lot of supernatural phenomena found in folklore.’
Berkoff obtained his first degree in European History, writing a thesis on the origins of folklore and the relationship between human settlements and what he called elemental creatures.
“There was a reason why anthropomorphic belief gave way to creating figures with human and semi-human form. All the conclusions seemed to be lacking in origin, as if there was a supernatural ‘missing link’ from worshipping trees to appeasing creatures that lived in forests.”
Berkoff used the symposium to suggest Janomes could be real, observable and so confusing to primitive communities they were mistaken for other creatures.
Sunier and Ronson, however, were having none of it. Sunier raged in Le Monde, “People were placing us alongside von Daneken, alien pyramid exponents and Bible code writers. What we wanted to explore was the nature of matter in terms of organic forms, notably human beings. The ethical dimension was challenging, the philosophical dimension less so.”
Again, Ronson differed slightly in her response. “An important element of philosophy is ethics, so it made sense to join Berkoff’s symposium, not just to take part in the ethical discussions, but to clarify the issue regarding folklore. Quantum mechanics was not the answer to questions regarding belief and superstition.”
But it was too late to put the genie back in the bottle and people were eager to discuss Janomes in terms of history, art and belief.
Berkoff offered some sympathy to Sunier and Ronson, suggesting the separation of disciplines should be maintained, and offered the duo a platform of their own from which they could discuss empirical science. At 2pm on January 9th Yves Sunier took the first question from the audience.
“Can you explain how Janomes prove the existence of ghosts?”
Ronson persuaded Sunier to stay and answered the question herself by referring to the symposium programme and the opportunities it offered to satisfy the questioner’s curiosity. But the next question referred to the Brothers Grimm, followed by a question on poltergeist.
“It all came out,” said Ronson later. “Ghosts, vampires, alien abductions, demonic possession, bogeymen, fairies, the Loch Ness Monster!”
Back in Vienna, Sunier disowned the subject and established a research programme studying anti-matter’s role in gravity and the possibility of a gravity particle having mass. Ronson temporarily returned to America to oversee expansion plans to the University of Los Angeles’s proposed advanced physics faculty.
But the Janomes followed them both, appearing from the most unlikely and unpredictable source.
“I got a call from Diana who was being bombarded by the media asking for interviews and comments. She had no idea why the Janome Hypothesis had suddenly come back to life.” It wasn’t long, twenty-four hours, before Sunier’s phone started to ring too.
Mehmet Takar, the culture editor for al Jazeera in Germany was one of the first to dial Sunier’s number. “We noticed the issue trending on Twitter, and then it hit the other social media outlets: Janomes. What made the phenomenon all the more strange was that you could trace it back to some guy in England called Terence Pearl who was trying to smoke out Toten Herzen of all people. I knew Sunier and Ronson had virtually disowned the Janome Hypothesis, so it was a priority to get their reaction. Yves Sunier was one very angry guy.”
“There were so many emotions. It was like having the corpse of a loved one dug up and displayed at a busy road junction. Who were these people?”
These people were allegedly vampires. They were, according to Terence Pearl’s deranged blog post, Janomes. Ronson assumed at first it was all a publicity hoax. “It’s what they did and did it better than anyone. Part of me wanted to congratulate them on the audacity of it all.”
Like everyone else looking on between 2012 and 2013 Ronson soon learned Toten Herzen’s management were implicated when Pearl was spotted at the Ahoy concert in Rotterdam (the band’s much-awaited comeback performance after thirty-five years) and later staying at the same hotel.
“What happened outside the hotel was not a hoax and in a way I felt partly responsible.” Ronson’s culpability was dismissed by Sunier.
“Idiot. All of them idiots. We didn’t develop the hypothesis to be used as a weapon, so why should we feel guilt if some guy uses it as a way in to a group of people who do this sort of thing?”
Thanks to Terence Pearl, Toten Herzen, vampires and Janomes regularly appear in the same sentence, and following the Munich Fire and the First Helsinki Event we can add witchcraft and demons to the list of associations.
Mehmet Takar doesn’t see the link going away soon. “In some ways the association has given life to the Toten Herzen publicity machine, an element of credibility to a very complicated publicity stunt. As long as Toten Herzen are around people will link the Janome Hypothesis to the supernatural.”
For now Sunier and Ronsons’ academic tenures in Vienna and Los Angeles are secure. The distortion of their hypothesis doesn’t seem to have had an adverse effect on their employers.
“They were right to distance themselves from the whole disgusting charade.” Dr. Gert Hoenenbacker from the University of Wurzburg’s Faculty of Science, was one of the last people to persuade Yves Sunier to discuss Janomes in public. “Sunier was obviously weary of the whole episode and one has to admire the man’s determination to bury the past. But again, it all reared its ugly head at Wurzburg when he came to talk about it. Question after question about this ghoulish thing and that bit of the uncanny. If it were down to me I would have expelled every student in the theatre that night. They were a disgrace to academic rigour.”
And what of the Janomes themselves? The members of Toten Herzen. “I argue with myself all the time,” said vocalist Dee Vincent to Metal Hammer’s Gerry van der Guylen. “My Janome talks more than I do.”
“It explains a lot, but not everything.” Susan Bekker has a more measured view on the subject. “I don’t understand the science, but this hypothesis doesn’t seem to explain how the human becomes the Janome, or whatever is supposed to happen. Am I the Janome, or am I the original human being? If I can’t tell how can anyone else?”
And that’s the point where Alexei Berkoff’s derailment of the Janome Hypothesis comes back to haunt us. The confusion over what is real and what is unreal, the two co-existing side by side. Sunier and Ronson, or Berkoff for that matter, never indicated how the wrong element, the anti-matter human, could end up living alongside real humans, but if Terence Pearl and Toten Herzen are telling the truth, we may have an answer for the question that has bothered human beings for thousands of years: what awaits us after death?