Ad Astra Per Aspera
by Howard Faxon
I stood still on the stage, an island in the storm. Nobody believed me, but everyone was afraid to call me a liar. This wasn't cold fusion. This wasn't perpetual motion. This was something new.
I had invited one of my all time heroes to the physics symposium that now ran amok--Senator Emeritus John Glenn.
Barely three months before I had finally discovered the key to creating a fast Bose-Einstein condensate-- where the matter became confused as to what belonged where and a mesh of subatomic particles ruled the game field. It was a true fifth state of matter.
After a beery night of celebration we wondered what we could do with it. Nobody had ever whacked a condensate with a neutron storm from a plasma bottle. We tried it. The damnedest thing happened--we got a focused beam of GRAVITONS out of it. This was incredible. We repeated it time and time again, recording the results on some surplus cameras from Los Alamos designed for H-bomb tracking. I didn't dare let the cat out of the bag--it would have been declared a national secret before I took another breath.
When I showed the film at the symposium everyone was puzzled. Then I told them what they were seeing. I finished with "You idiots! Don't you know what this is? This is the core of a star drive! I give to you the stars! I was openly crying, as was my guest. Both of us grinned like shit-eating dogs. The place erupted. Nobody could hear anyone else think. Finally it calmed down. A few fist-fights burst out and resolved themselves. Nobody got knifed, thank God, and nobody got shot.
America got left at the starting gate. Cal-Tech, Fermilab, MIT and the rest were enmeshed in budget wars. CERN offered a position, staff and budget. I snapped it up, along with my partner, Charlie.
Who's Charlie? Charlie is the only female theoretical physicist with an engineering degree that I know of in our generation. She's also athletic, blond, green-eyed, and-- I've got a letch for her that won't stop. Watching her walk away is true poetry in motion. I know that she knows I live for watching her walk away from me. It's got to show, yet she puts up with me. Sigh.
Switzerland was crazy. It was all politics, physics and politics. Bleah. We stayed in the lab and did magic tricks. Our acoustic/optical pump threw out grams of Bose-Einstein condensate by the HOUR, not week! We had to figure out new strategies for holding it. We found that after a certain critical mass had been reached, it seemed to stabilize. It was scary. We seemed to be duplicating the conditions for a proto-universe. We had to break up our storage containers so that we didn't do something that only God had done before--as far as we knew. What was the critical mass for universe generation? Who knew? I really don't want to find out, either. After four months, we called another conference. We had to establish boundary conditions on the experimental teams. We threw out our concerns to the group. Some had not conceived of the possible consequences. Many fast telephone calls were placed to their laboratories to eliminate the possible critical mass problem. We were lucky that we hadn't waxed our communal asses on this one.
We got visitors. The kind of visitors nobody wants. They were four foot tall spiders that came out of the sky in space ships. The graviton pulses told them that we had become dangerous. If we didn't stop with the neutron entanglement experiments then they would bomb us back to radioactive diatoms. We were risking creating a lower vacuum energy state which would depopulate our universe at light-speed, riding a spherical wave front. They couldn't talk but they could sure type fast.
We quickly told them of our concerns about the Bose-Einstein condensate storage stability and our actions. I've never seen a spider relax before. They left us with directions of what to pursue and NOT to pursue. Electromagnetic fields around a B-E condensate proved to have amazing properties, rotating the forces 90 degrees thru the E8 representation. Surfer dude was dancing around and yelling. Well, he was entitled. The man had successfully predicted the GUT. The Grand Unified Theory of Everything. He started working on the Spinor transformations. We didn't see him for over a year after that. Poor bastard. (A vector is a force and a direction. A tensor describes how a vector acts in an n-dimensional environment (flat space? Gravity well? Black hole corona? Torus? Spinning torus? Moebius strip?). A Spinor describes how one tensor "evolves" or transitions into another. These are called transformations. There. Happy topology and uncross your eyes, eh?)
Why did we so desperately want the field spinors? With them we could manipulate space. Look, if you change reference frames the speed of light changes for you. If you can select your reference frame, rather than let inertia and gravity do it for you, you can pick your "C". If you can define your own reference frame, well-- that's immunity from "C". The trouble is, that means you have to define your universe. Big problem there, folks. Simply declaring yourself to be on the outside doesn't work. There's a lot of other variables you have to account for, such as the granularity of space (planck's constant), the granularity of time, the strong force, the weak force, VanDerWaals force, on and on and on. If you change one of the critical variables too far, then matter doesn't form into convenient little clumps called atoms, hydrogen doesn't burn, black holes happen at 200 pounds, oh, all sorts of fun things that would wipe you or I out in a femto-second or so. How many critical variables are out there? We don't know yet! We haven't gotten far enough along the curve. Just getting proteins to form and stabilize is enough of a trick, much less getting stars to form and planets to cohere. What makes ice float on water? Hell, I don't know, do you? I know it has to do with crystalline lattice packing, but that's about it.
There's got to be a way to "clone" the universal constants we are familiar with. When we can put a mouse in one end and get a mouse out the other, not a radioactive onion, we'll have something.
Meanwhile we played with our new toys to see what we could find out. Monkies monkey around, eh? Charlie and I played around with different elements forming the B-E condensate. When we got to Iodine some damned funny things started happening. The condensate didn't want to form, then 'popped'. It didn't cohere, but spread itself through the room. We were in the same room. We became part of the B-E condensate. I suddenly had four arms, four eyes and tits. We both frantically started pawing at ourselves. We felt a flat chest and a warm pair of boobies at the same time. We both felt the others genitals as well as our own. Now THAT was strange. Trying to move was an exercise in futility. We both fell flat on our faces. We looked into each other's eyes and knew deeply and perfectly what we felt about each other. <wedding?> <yes.> <Love you.> resonated between us as we passed out holding each other's hand. It's a good thing that the Iodine condensate diffused through the walls and lost density. As we slept the effect faded. Still, as we woke we still had echoes of each other's thoughts and feelings. We smiled into each other's eyes and gently kissed.
The doctors gave us a clean bill of health. They couldn't even detect what the hell happened! We found that we knew where each other was at all times. Our research took off in leaps and bounds. The word was sent out over the scientific grapevine to stay away from using Iodine as a base for a condensate. I didn't say why. I simply said that counter-intuitive results had occurred, and the spiders were to be consulted before attempting any further experiments in this area. Their first visit had scared the squitters out of enough people that this request was taken as gospel.
We were married two weeks later. It wasn't very ethical, but during our honeymoon we cleaned up at a casino in Monaco. We both had misgivings about having a child until we talked with the spiders again. However, that didn't prohibit us from 'practicing'. The saying that "there's no such thing as bad sex" has always been my motto. However after the accident our loving climbed to a whole new level. We were supremely comfortable with each other and had no qualms about bringing up trying something a little different. We lived in each other's back pockets.
We had a beautiful villa built in the hills North and West of Trieste, Italy at the head of the Adriatic Sea. The Mediterranean climate is wonderful, and the seafood has to be tried to be appreciated. We settled there because the airports are handy, as is high-speed Internet fiber to CERN. We could do theoretical work from home, accessing the big iron near the accelerators while still maintaining a certain separation from the politics of the scientific community. We hosted Garrett Lisi over the winter when the surfing was bad. Before long we all became burned out from experimenting with E8 supersymmetry. Fishing was a wonderful distraction, as was exploring a city that has been an important port since the Hapsburgs.
My cellphone rang while we were exploring a bookseller's wares that probably started business sometime in the 1600's.
They were back. We had to get back to CERN fast. We reserved a jet copter and pilot by phone and got to the airport as fast as we could.
Two hours later we set down in Switzerland. The spiders were there, waiting for us. Yes, us. I felt humbled that they had come untold light-years to find me.
They had a reason. The Iodine condensate had been detected near Titan, a satellite of Jupiter. They asked who had been near the sample when it cascaded. Charlie and I put our arms about each other. We didn't have to say a word. We were told that ...