8
$\begingroup$

Here's a riddle about a misbehaving thing:

For thousands of years I have been well behaved

dancing and moving under their watchful gaze

but secretly I embark on daring escapades

tangling with friends, slipping through blockades

but when doubters look I am still in one place

Only recently have they seen through my clever charade

What am I?

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ This is one of the best pure riddles I've seen on the site! Welcome to Puzzling! $\endgroup$ – Deusovi Jan 31 '16 at 6:28
5
$\begingroup$

I believe you are

An electron

For thousands of years I have been well behaved
dancing and moving under their watchful gaze

For thousands of years electrical phenomena were not really thought about very deeply by humans, considered as a mere curiosity. Later humans started to exploit electricity but thought of it in terms of classical physics as a kind of relatively well-behaved fluid flowing from place to place inside of an electrical conductor. (There's probably something more specific this clue is referring to, but I'm not sure what it is at the moment.)

but secretly I embark on daring escapades
tangling with friends, slipping through blockades

An electron can exhibit quantum entanglement with other electrons, and through the mechanism of quantum tunneling can "slip through blockades" to reach behind an energy barrier into a place it could not get to under classical physical laws.

but when doubters look I am still in one place

The electron, properly understood in quantum mechanics as a wave function that simultaneously exists in many places, still has the property that whenever one looks for it by placing an experimental detection apparatus, it will only ever be observed in a specific place; mathematically speaking, its wave function "collapses" when it is observed.

Only recently have they seen through my clever charade

Our understanding of how electrons actually behave is fairly recent, dating to the discovery of Schrödinger's equation in 1925.

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ ... and I just realized after posting this that OP is a physicist, which reaffirms my belief that this solution is correct. :-) $\endgroup$ – user17947 Jan 31 '16 at 6:18
  • $\begingroup$ Wow, that was fast. I might have been too obvious. Which line gave it away? $\endgroup$ – Aurey Jan 31 '16 at 6:20
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ For anyone familiar with quantum mechanics, lines 4 and 5 make it seem pretty obvious. $\endgroup$ – user17947 Jan 31 '16 at 6:22

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.