Space Odyssey

By Brian Robinson.

“Look, I need to know what’s going on. My husband’s been missing for three weeks. He was last seen going into his laboratory at your university. I don’t know if he’s dead or alive. All I’ve been told is that he’s missing. Look, this is your university so you’re responsible.”

“It’s complicated Mrs Adams. The truth is we are not entirely sure what’s happened.”

“Let me put this to you differently. He went into his laboratory and he didn’t come out. Now in my world, that means he must still be in there. So tell please tell me, is he hurt, was there an accident, did something happen? I need to find out.”

“How much do you know about your husband’s work?”

“He’s a mathematician, a theoretical physicist, but he’s not a rocket scientist. He shouldn’t be involved with dangerous experiments.”

“Well…yes…that’s true, but he was conducting an experiment. We know for sure that he was in a Faraday Cage.”

“What’s a Faraday Cage when it’s at home?”

“A Faraday Cage is a piece of equipment that is used to protect people or instruments which are subject to high voltages or strong electromagnetic forces.”

“And was that the case with John? Was he being subjected to high voltages?”

“Sort of.”

“Don’t fuck with me. Did he die in the cage or not? Are you telling me he was vaporised?”

“No no Mrs Adams, certainly not. You cannot possibly come to any harm while in a Faraday Cage. They’re perfectly safe.”

“Then what for christ’s sake?”

A Tesla coil in a Faraday Cage

“Look. This is very difficult to explain. You don’t really understand what we’re trying to do here. After all, you’re not a scientist.”

“Don’t patronise me. That bullshit won’t wash. Explain things to me in layman’s terms. You can do that can’t you?”

“Right. Well I’ll try. We know for sure that man will never venture far out into the universe. At the moment, we can barely get a machine beyond our own solar system. It’s not that we don’t have the power or the technology. But two things will always stand in our way.

Firstly, our bodies are not designed for extended travel through outer space. Once free from gravity, we immediately begin to deteriorate. We can tolerate being free from it for a reasonable amount of time, and we will get better at that, but it will never be good enough.

And secondly, we live under the constraint of time. Getting beyond even our own galaxy would take so long that any space traveller would be dead long before that ever happened.

Your husband’s brief, was to come up with mathematical solutions which might solve these two problems.”

“Now you’re losing me, you can’t figure your way through space. You can’t sit on the back of a giant calculator and whisk yourself off to another galaxy.”

“Well, that’s what our intuition tells us. But our intuitions are not always the best guides. Suppose this is a mathematical universe? Suppose it is constructed of nothing other than maths? And suppose everything we see in it are simply mathematical constructs? That would throw the universe into an entirely different light would it not?”

“Is that possible?”

“I think you’ll find that a growing number of scientists are beginning to think that it is entirely possible. Moreover, it’s a conclusion we are being forced towards. We are now beginning to realise that the old belief, that we live in a purely physical dimension, has been giving us an entirely false picture of reality.”

“Okay, well I sort of get that, but what has this got to do with John?”

“Here’s the thing. If you want to travel through the universe in a novel way you need several things to be in place. Firstly, you have to know some essential things about the nature of the cosmos and John has put forward some astounding theories about that. Have you ever heard of a Mobius Strip or a Klein Bottle?”

Klein Bottle

“In a word, no.”

“Well, you probably know that John was a Many Worlds Theorist. He believed there are many different universes enclosed in a single Multiverse. If that’s the case, then you have to find a way to enclose these universes otherwise they will intermingle and could compromise one another. Each universe has to be contained somehow. As it happens, a Klein Bottle can do that.

Imagine you are in an enclosed plastic bottle and you want to break free. You cut a hole in the side of the bottle and attempt your escape. However, if you do that in a Klein Bottle, you will find you are still inside the bottle. There is no escape from this geometric shape. John theorised that all universes are shaped like that and have the same properties as Klein Bottles. Now that represents an original and groundbreaking understanding of our cosmos.”

“I don’t understand, but go on.”

“Google it and you’ll see what I mean. The concept is difficult to explain using simple language. Now, where were we? Oh yes, once you know about the shape of the universe, and let’s not forget a Klein bottle is a geometric/mathematical shape, you can then work out how to move about within that shape. You can do that using mathematics.

However, to move around you need coordinates. For example, if you want to navigate somewhere in our world you would put the correct coordinates into your satellite navigation system. Pilots do the same, this is how ships navigate and so on. John believed he has discovered the exact coordinates which will allow us to move freely around the universe. But that’s not all, he believes he has found the coordinates which will allow us to break free from the Klein Bottle: to break free from this universe.

Now the third thing you need is to harness some natural energy source that will propel you to your coordinates. For example, a satellite navigation system is useless unless you have a car and unless there is petrol in it. John chose electromagnetism.”

“Now you’re worrying me. Is that what he was experimenting with in the lab?”

“Sort of.”

“Jesus!”

“But remember this is all theory. None of this is proven.”

“So that’s why he was in the Faraday cage. He was trying to move out into the universe?”

“No no no. I don’t believe so. You would be mad to try something like that. No, the first thing you would do would be to try and move an inanimate object and certainly not flesh and blood. You would be crazy to try that. Besides, John was only authorised to attempt to transport objects. I believe what happened is his experiment went tragically wrong. Somehow, he must have transported himself.”

“So, you’re telling me that my husband is lost somewhere out in the universe and you don’t know where he is or how to get him back?”

“No, that’s not what I’m saying. I’m telling you that John could be lost in a completely different universe.”

“Oh my God! I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. I can’t believe what I’m hearing.”

“There’s some more bad news and it’s only fair I should tell you. Since he’s been missing we’ve been trying to recreate the exact experiment he did. The idea was to try and make contact somehow. We placed a note in the Faraday Cage and produced the same force field under the exact same circumstances. Now to our amazement the note then disappeared.”

“What did the note say?”

“We just asked him where he was and to tell us how we might be able to get him back.”

“Well? Did you get a response?”

“Yes, here’s the note he sent back.”

“Wish you were here!”

5 thoughts on “Space Odyssey

  1. And the exact kind that I like to see in science fiction, even if it is only a conversation !

    Overwhelming to note that one of my FF has also turned alike – a conversation, upcoming in Nov ’19 post.

    Liked by 2 people

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