Quantum of SolaceWeeks ago I was thinking that “Quantum of Solace” is not a gramatically correct sentence. Now I stand corrected. My argument was because “quantum” is an adjective and you can not put a preposition after it. It would feel like writing “nice of dress” instead of just “nice dress.” In this sense, “quantum” means something that is packet-like (derived from the latin word quantus meaning “how much”). The term “Quantum Physics,” “Quantum Mechanics,” or “Quantum leap” are correct in this sense and they all mean “physics of quantum-like objects (i.e. electrons),” “mechanics of quantum-like objects,” and “leaps of quantum-like objects,” i.e. the change or energy in an electron that would make them change their orbit instantenously. “Quantum solace,” however, is gramatically correct, and it means “a minuscule, very little, consolation.” The term “quantum” is, of course, popularized by atomic physicists who found out that electrons can only have a certain discrete quantity of energy and thus can only occupy a certain orbital position around the nucleus. Because these energies are discrete and noncontinous hence they come in packets of energy called quanta. Since this view applies only on the atomic scale which is very small, thus the word “quantum” used to describe something that is incredibly small. Speaking of “quanta,” this will bring us to another meaning of quantum

…In which “quantum” can also be a noun, the singular form of “quanta,” which is the plural form. Remember “datum” and “data”? Those are the same form. “Datum” is singular while “data” is plural, a collection of “datum.” Thus “quantum of solace” means “a single, minuscule, consolation.” This would make sense to the plot of the movie, in which a heartbroken and hell-bent on revenge Bond finally get a bit of solace at the end of the movie by not killing Vesper’s ex boyfriend (who is a poser with the task to woo female agents) and give him to MI6 for questioning, as well as finally forgive Vesper’s treachery on him.

On a side note, “Quantum of Solace” is originally a short story written by Ian Fleming as part of his James Bond short story collections titled “For Your Eyes Only.” This short story is not an espionage story and James Bond appears only in the background. Here “quantum of solace” might refers to the interesting story that the Governor of The Bahamas told Bond after a dinner party Bond found boring. But then again that little solace might refer to the fact that Bond’s adventures are pale compared to real life drama, and that we are actually more lucky than James Bond because we had real-life drama in our life. This is just a speculation since I haven’t read the short story.

Written by Tri L. Astraatmadja

After living for 10 years in Europe as a Master's student, PhD researcher, and a postdoc, in 2016 Tri L. Astraatmadja moved on to the United States for a second postdoctoral appointment at the Department of Terrestrial Magnetism, Carnegie Institution for Science, Washington DC. He is now in his third postdoc at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, MD.

3 comments

  1. it does not always follow that prepositions should not be placed after adjectives because there are adjectives that require a preposition at the end. Example:

    afraid – afraid OF spiders
    concerned – concerned ABOUT my health
    happy – happy WITH the outcome
    sorry – sorry FOR the trouble
    good – I’m good AT this.
    dependent – dependent ON parents
    by – impressed BY cheap thrills
    similar – similar to your essay

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