Mobile Knowledge: A Quantum Physicist’s Perspective
Posted: 09.07.05 - By Lubna Dajani

Hi Lubna,

I enjoyed reading your column. How you were “soaking up the majestic beauty and power of Washington State’s rainforests” and realizing how mobile technologies could enhance your experience. “I would have loved to be able to learn about what I was experiencing as I experienced it.” Amazing, isn’t it? That mixture of feelings when walking through a rain forest in the 21st century?

Maybe I may react and give my point of view on mobile knowledge in the context of the example you were giving. I also walked the slopes of Mount Rainier. For me, a city boy from the streets of Amsterdam, the experience of a rain forest was simply overwhelming. Amazing, how we lose the perception of time when confronted by a forest that has been there for ages. Amazing to touch a tree that has stood for a thousand years, when the first pilgrim father set foot on Plymouth roc in 1620 and started to chase turkeys.

Noticing my mobile phone, I found myself on the other side of the pendulum that you offered me. “To learn of other people’s stories and to share mine, or maybe not!” In my case, the forest made me wish to switch off my phone, get away from the constant stimulus of the neo cortex, feel the world around me and experience its mystery, its diversity, the overwhelming impression that what is to be learned here cannot be digested even in a lifetime.

Yet, interestingly, also in my case there was something pulling me back to the information age. I was afraid to get lost! And also I was worried a bit about hidden dangers; things that I should be aware of. Strange, isn’t it, how forms of fear are trying to spoil our quality of life. In this respect, nothing has changed since the days of the Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard! Nothing is so hard to deal with as our imagination and the unknown.

Apparently, during this trip, the value of mobile knowledge was in curing my tacit fears. Modern technology nurturing the comforting feeling that if you get lost you can switch on your phone and ask for help. It made me wish to have a user-friendly positioning system (GPS if you like) integrated in the phone. Possibly also site-specific information to provide me with the local dos and don’ts.

I am a scientist making a living by exploring nature, investigating phenomena that are ultimately limiting the stability of the clocks that enable our telecommunication and navigation systems. I have asked myself many times what is all this good for? In applications like a GPS-phone we recognize all the pro’s and con’s. If we want to feel safe in the forest with mobile technology, the price we pay is that Uncle Sam can trace us wherever we go. And not only Uncle Sam. The whole marketing world will try to analyze our behavior in order to serve.

May I ask you, Lubna. My privacy, is it also an issue for the industry?
-Jook Walraven

Thank you Jook! Thank you for sharing your wisdom and for bringing to surface two of the most powerful drivers and influencers of all time: fear and freedom.

People are often afraid of change, more importantly, people fear for their freedom. I know you spoke of privacy, which I believe is an expression of freedom—a most fundamental expressions of freedom. You are correct, Jook. As mobility gains ubiquity, we must be cognizant of its implications on our privacy and how to maintain it from frantic marketers and, more importantly, big-brothers.

Again, thank you all for sharing these past few moments with me here at Mobile Knowledge, and please do continue to send me your feedback to me at [email protected]

If you are interested in learning more about quantum-mechanical behavior of ultra-cold atomic gas clouds, the best I can do is point you to Dr. Walraven at the University of Amsterdam or at


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