Copyright © 2004 Matt McHugh. All rights reserved.
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** This story is @ 1,500 words or roughly 8 printed pages. Reading time, about 10 minutes. **
The Theory of Everything
"Dr. Vaspruti. You're on."
Aneel Vaspruti looked up from the stack of notes on his lap. He thanked the moderator, gathered his papers, and made his way to the front of the lecture hall. He walked past the laptop and LCD projector and plopped his transparencies onto the old overhead. With a quick movement, he turned away from the crowd and brushed his unruly beard with his fingers for any errant lunchtime crumbs.
"Good afternoon, my colleagues," he began. "I know it's been a long day of presentations so I'll get right to the point. We've heard a lot about quantum mechanics, unified field theories, string theory, dimensional harmonics, the elusive theory of everything, and so on. All these are interesting in their own way, but it turns out, fundamentally incorrect. I have found something that corrects their errors in a simple and practical way."
Dr. Vaspruti was not oblivious to the snorts of disapproval, but he continued untroubled. "For some time, faced with difficulties in empirical measurements, mathematics has been the chief tool of theoretical physics. As it turns out, we were bang on with this, but for the wrong reasons. Mathematics is not simply a means of creating conceptual models of physical phenomena, but is, in fact, the sole key to understanding and manipulating what we think of as reality. Working from this perspective, I've discovered a series of robust algorithms that can be used to define all possible manifestations of matter, time, space, energy, even consciousness."
Bewilderment and annoyance buzzed from the crowd.
"I understand this seems a little radical, but I think you'll agree it is quite simple and elegant. It is, in essence, the way God has built the world."
"And have you checked this with God?" asked someone in the audience, to the general mirth of all.
"Not yet," replied Vaspruti. "I wanted to run it by my colleagues first. For example," he futzed with his transparencies and started writing on one with a wax pencil. His scribblings were projected ten feet tall on the screen. "I wanted to see what Einstein thought, so I composed this equation balancing his manifestation in space-time with mine." He had no sooner stopped writing than there was a knock on the door. Albert Einstein, in bulky sweater and khakis, shuffled into the room.
"Hello, Aneel!" he waved. The crowd roared laughter and applauded, seemingly overjoyed at being in on the joke at last. Einstein seemed startled, but then smiled and bowed humorously. "How's it going?"
"Very well, Albert. Just getting started really."
"Good, good." he muttered. "Is Isaac here?"
"Of course," replied Vaspruti. "Just a moment." He scribbled some more.
"Good afternoon, gentlemen." All heads turned to see the tall, be-wigged figure who was, suddenly, in the back of the room. The laughter and applause now was spottier, almost nervous.
"Isaac!" Einstein called. "I've found a great Anna Nicole website!"
"Really?" chimed Newton. "I must see it!"
"Can you send us to the library again?" Einstein asked Vaspruti.
"Certainly." A few more jots, and Einstein and Newton were gone.
The silence was stunned, then indignant. "How did you do that? Who were those actors or magicians or whatever they were?" someone demanded.
"Actors?" Vaspruti echoed. "Oh my. I see your point. Let me try something else." He scrawled more numbers and brackets and symbols. A twelve-foot tall Allosaurus, all slavering fangs and claws, leapt from a corner of the room and crushed several audience members underfoot.
"You see, any object, any chronology, any set of properties that can be defined in the equations can be represented as a function of these differential expressions here, which I call the existence conditionals." Dr. Vaspruti's explanation was unheard amid the blood-spattered chaos as the Allosaur rent and mauled bodies with savage abandon.
"And, of course, these functions can always be recalculated with different conditional sets." He wet a finger and rubbed away a bracketed expression--the Allosaur vanished--then jotted a few fractions in its place. The room was restored, its occupants seated and unscathed, and the Allosaur sat quietly in a corner, reading a magazine.
"Sorry if I startled anyone," it said. "Just trying to help make a point." It nodded toward Vaspruti, who bowed slightly then crossed out four lines of calculations and, again, the Allosaur was gone.
"You see?" He said to the crowd with satisfaction. "Simple, elegant, and practical. It is the equations themselves that embody the fabric of the universe."
The dumbfounded audience sat slack-jawed, but one by one, hysteria erupted. Some wept, some screamed, some prayed, some ranted that it must be a hoax and he's controlling our minds and must be destroyed before he tries to create a new religion.
"Oh, I assure you there's no conflict between this calculus and any existing religion. Look." More scribbling.
A bearded, sunbaked, coarse-haired man in a tattered linen robe appeared.
"Jesus," said Vapruti, "Can you please tell my esteemed colleagues that my work in no way undermines your teachings?"
Jesus turned to the crowd. "It is as this man says. His inventions can bring no peril to the pure in heart. Do you not know all things in Heaven and Earth exist only by the will of the Lord God?"
"Thank you. Of course, I'll have to check my notes to be sure, but I'm pretty confident Jesus is correct on this. And the others as well." Scribble, scribble. Mohammed, Budda, Zoraster, L. Ron Hubbard, and the guy from the Heaven's Gate cult all appeared and, in turn, agreed with Jesus' assessment. When they had gone, the crowd was more agitated than ever.
"He's the messiah!"
"He's the devil!"
"Worship him! Beg his forgiveness!"
"Kill him now while we have the chance!"
"He's going to destroy reality!"
"Please. Please, listen," Vaspruti pleaded. "You've got it all wrong. Up until now, everyone had the wrong idea entirely--like medieval astrologers charting the orbit of the sun. We all know how common observations can seem to support a paradigm of the world that is fundamentally incorrect. Same thing here. Reality, as we've thought of it, has no structure unto itself, but is formless like air or water. It's only the ordering of the mathematics that establishes the quantifiable attributes we think of as real. We can no more destroy reality than a child building a sand castle can destroy the beach! When you conceptualize something as a numerical potentiality, that's what makes it exists."
He picked up a battered notebook and randomly flipped to pages.
"The top of Everest," he said, pointing to page. The assembled group stood chest deep in snow, blinded by 70 mile-per-hour winds.
"The Super Bowl." The stadium crowd roared deafeningly as a receiver dove into the end zone, wiping out half-a-dozen out-of-shape physicists.
"Disneyland." The Parade of Lights jostled them along Main Street, USA.
"A film set with erotic actress Jenna Jameson." An oversized, round bed was in the center of a room decorated with cheap, imitation Arabian silk hangings. Upon it, amid a tangle of glistening, muscular bodies, was a buxom blonde woman. Surprise and delight lit up in her face.
"Hi Dr. V!" she called out joyously, waving.
"Hello again, Jenna." Vaspruti replied graciously.
"So who are your buds?"
"Oh, these are my colleagues from the theoretical physics summit. Gentlemen, this is Jenna."
"Hiya, fellas!" Jenna bubbled. "You guys should listen to him," she admonished with a wagging finger toward Vaspruti. She then tapped her temple with a perfect, scarlet fingernail and gave a knowing nod. "Know what I mean?"
"Well, we need to go, and I'm sure you need to get back to work. Good-by then."
"See you later, Dr. V! Bye-bye, guys. Thanks for coming!"
Back in the lecture hall, Vaspruti could not repress a smile. His audience, however, was mostly catatonic. A few were curled in the fetal position, several rocked themselves like children. One simply bashed his head, over and over, on a table top with sickening thuds.
The pleasure slowly left Dr. Vaspruti. He had expected some resistance to his discoveries, of course--after all, no one likes to find out their life's work is meaningless--but he was unprepared for this reaction. He thought for a minute or two, struggling for some metaphor, some parable that would give them all something to hold on to while he explained the mathematics involved. But, he was not a poetic man and found himself at a loss.
"You know what," he said at last. "Never mind."
He wiped his transparencies clean with the corner of his tie, then crumpled and dropped them into a wastebasket. The group before him now sat, politely bored and expectant once more.
"Please go ahead, Dr. Vaspruti," the moderator said with just a trace of annoyance.
"I'm sorry, but I don't have any results I can present today." He gathered his papers and notebooks and left the room. That didn't go over well, he thought. Maybe I should just go ahead and review my findings with God, and see what He thinks.
"But first," he muttered to himself, "I think I'll go over them a few more times with Jenna."