The Spherical Chicken

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Why did the chicken cross the universe?
There are those who think this to be a less important question than that of how the chicken crossed the universe, but they are incorrect. The how is known, or at least theorized and supported by preliminary experiments. Unfortunately, additional data won't be available until either Planck's Constant is found to be lowered sufficiently to allow quantum chickens to be directly observed or additional funding comes through, whichever unlikely event happens first. In the interim, theoretical physicists must fly in the face of common wisdom by putting all of their chickens in Hilbert space.
The quantum chicken is itself a relatively recent phenomenon, hypothesized in rubber form by Vaudeville physicists in the early twentieth century, but not the focus of any serious attention until a chemistry graduate student decided to engage the students in her section by telling the following joke:

A man walks out of a veterinarian's office with a chicken under his arm and a despondent expression. His friend, who's waiting in the car asks how it went.
“The vet has no idea why my chicken isn't laying eggs.”
“Well, I may not be a veterinarian,” says the friend, “but I have a PhD in physics. I might be able to help.”
The man agrees and gives the chicken to his physicist friend. A few days later, the physicist calls him.
“I have some good news and some bad news. The good news is that I've worked out how to get the chicken to lay eggs. The bad news is that it has to be in a vacuum and the chicken must be perfectly spherical.”

At least eleven students laughed and three mentioned the incident in their course evaluations, and thus observed and recorded, it is thought that the quantum chicken came into being then, and there, and more than likely also at a number of other points in the universe as well. Being perfectly spherical, and therefore without features like a beak, wings, breasts, or drumsticks to distinguish it, it was not immediately recognized as a chicken. But after bombarding the new quantum object with protons, a team at the Large Hadron Collider hypothesized that it was at least partially composed of (s)quarks whose flavors were akin to chicken, though the presence of feather bosons also suggested that it was of little matter.
The discovery of an entirely new quantum phenomenon, particularly one as rare as hen’s teeth, was of such interest that a number of researchers have started a campaign calling for a chicken in every particle accelerator. However, the behavior of quantum chickens is sufficiently different from that of classical chickens, and thus methodological issues soon arose. Because spherical chickens have no heads, they cannot be made to run around by means of decapitation. This also renders moot the question of whether the chicken came before or after the egg, since a quantum chicken exists as a superposition of states over the chicken’s entire existence. Fortunately, theoretical physicists soon understood the value of chickens beyond their classically comical nature, use in folksy aphorisms, and causality dilemmas. Aristotle himself unwittingly hypothesized the existence of the quantum chicken when he asserted that birds and eggs have always existed, so neither one can be said to have come before the other. Indeed, a quantum chicken's ability to delocalize supports the assertion that the chicken did not actually cross the universe; it merely exists in both places at once.
But returning to the question of why a spherical chicken with no brain to speak of and no feet to carry it would attempt to cross a road, much less the universe, we must consider the quantum chicken without the influence of light, heat, or the presence of other matter; the chicken in its least natural and most fundamental state. As envisioned by the physicist in the spherical chicken joke, a quantum chicken under these conditions could, with sufficient expenditure of energy, produce an egg/anti-egg pair. But while an egg, and to a lesser extent, an anti-egg, might be of interest to those who created a system specifically to force them into being, they would be of significantly less interest to the byproducts that were once the spherical chicken.
Crossing the universe, through light, through heat, through voids potentially filled with anti-chickens that could lead to annihilation, is not a journey that quantum chickens undertake lightly. But the promise of tunneling out of a coop, becoming entangled with another chicken galaxies away, or perhaps becoming aware of its own mixed state; such things have motivated classical humans for centuries. We will eventually grasp the rules that underlie the behavior of quantum chickens, though it is unlikely that we will ever be able to control sufficient variables to stop them from crossing the universe. But for now, knowing that the chicken crossed the universe to get to the other side is enough.

About the Author: 
Libby Weber is a writer and musician based in San Diego, CA. Her favorite color is green.