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Hotel room in Zurich, murky and dreary, was sheltering a skinny, bearded man, sitting on the edge of bed, lost in his thoughts. Beside him, notebook with five-pointed red star and “С Новым 1986” embossed on the covers. He was about to attend a lecture of a physicist who had won the Nobel Prize for the discovery of some particles, carriers of weak force, but his mind was far from science and lectures. He was thinking about life, freedom, childhood and chess, wagging his hands as if he was arguing with the silence and inventing scenarios and outcomes of different actions.
Entangled in thoughts and worn out by restlessness, he decided to visit the hotel bar late in the evening. The place was empty, there was one man sitting at the bar and across him sleepy bartender was arranging glasses. It was an opportunity to silence logic, reason and fears with some alcohol, and the saying was “wine is a drink of the gods”. He quickly toped a glass of red wine and asked for another one, but as the bartender put a glass in front of him, strange bearded man knocked it over with one clumsy move of the hand. The man who was sitting few bar stools away jumped in to help and grabbed the glass that was rolling to the edge of the counter. He chuntered something with a smile, but clumsy kook didn’t quite understand him, so the man extended a hand and introduced himself.
His name was Lenard and he was a professor of mathematics at university in the United States. Confused bearded man stretched his stiff, cold hand and said his name was Phaeton. Bartender replaced Phaeton’s glass and everyone sat in uncomfortable silence for few minutes. A bit tipsy Lenard started talking, mostly with himself, about Zurich, new discoveries in physics and “Standard Model”. After mentioning Euler’s equations, red-eyed-red-nosed Phaeton passionately interrupted his monologue.
“Standard model is a horse with the head of a giraffe and the body of an elephant. This theory says that the world of particles operates on different principles from the world we see. The “Theory of Everything” has to be simple, elegant equation that merges the world of relativity with quantum world. Quest for this theory is the reason I became a physicist…”
Now Lenard was quiet while Phaeton continued his monologue about something called “String Theory”, interaction between spinors and vectors, normed division algebra, eight dimensional numbers and so on. Lenard listened for a dozen minutes but “String Theory” seemed confusing. Phaeton took a few more sips of wine and continued to speak about 10 dimensions required by tiny strings.
“At the base of everything are these one dimensional lines. If a man were the size of the universe, the lines would be as big as this tree in the park. Their dynamics is affected only by potential and kinetic energy which cause the oscillations. So, these quantum strings with their different vibrations create all existing particles, even the types of energy and states of consciousness.
Particles collapse into definite state when we observe them; still we are simple creatures able to perceive only four dimensions. I imagine there is a fifth dimension, combined of pictures of our entire life, from birth to death. Our lifeline would define one worm-like being or a roll of film, and this moment in present would only be one picture, the cross section of the fifth dimensional being.
Now, every time we make a decision or choice, the universe divides. In the sixth dimension are summed parallel universes with all possible outcomes of our lives. Within it, like branches, different consequences of the same actions would exist, all possible combinations of our existence, the infinite number of the worlds in which we ill-fatedly died as child, and as many lives where we got into our hundreds. In this dimension, we could see ourselves as an astronaut, an ordinary family man, free person living in utopia or maybe a slave to some sick ideology.
The seventh dimension bears the entire life of one universe, from birth to death. Its analogy would be the fifth dimension, except instead of our life it would relate to the existence of universe. The eighth dimension would unify all possible branches, stories and outcomes, created by that universe and all of its beginnings and ends. The ninth dimension would contain all imaginable and unimaginable variations of all the universes and some of them wouldn’t even have the same laws of physics. The tenth dimension would be the sum or the keeper of all these possibilities. If I were religious, I would call it the dimension of God.”
Phaeton finished talking and asked for another drink. Lenard was silent and lost in thoughts for few minutes. Then he nodded his head as if he understood.
“If tenth dimension keeps all possible variations and outcomes of everything, could it be that there is eleventh dimension, which aside from tenth, holds another sum full of nothing? In that other sum total there wouldn’t be us, universe, God, no laws of physics, space or energy; it would be an empty amount of all possible and impossible nothingness, a complete opposite to your tenth dimension.”
Phaeton quietly and awkwardly stroked his beard and Lenard burst into laughter and complained that he was drunk and couldn’t make any sense. He got serious and asked Phaeton when he realized that he wanted to be a physicist. Phaeton sighed while looking past the walls as he was recalling.
“Sitting in a cranky school desk and listening to a lecture about ratio between diameter and circumference of the circle. News arrived. Famous physicist died at age 76. Newspapers published a photo of his worktable. That moment when I first saw a bunch of notes, and equations written on a blackboard was a spark, which triggered the enlightenment and afterwards I never saw the world with the same eyes. I heard that the notes were unfinished work of the late physicist and at any cost I had to find out and comprehend what was written in them…”
This conversation was interrupted by barman, who had them know that the bar is closing. Unwillingly, the men obeyed and left for the hotel lobby. They said goodbye to each other, and Lenard suggested that they exchange the addresses. In that moment, Phaeton felt a sickness in stomach. He had the need to talk with this fellow about how he wanted to escape from a dark society and emerge into dark, unknown depths of the mind, in which he would shed a light on everything that the man never conceived. He was in need of respect and freedom to carry on with his study; he wanted to change the world, to change his life. He wasn’t in Zurich for the lectures; he wanted to cross over to the west.
Lack of courage made him swallow the unrest as he quietly headed to his room with heavy steps.
Yet his thoughts were deafening and becoming unbearable. With snappy turnaround, he decided to catch up with Lenard, but out of nowhere this man in front of him in leather jacket, extended his hand and Phaeton felt uncomfortable stinging under his ribs and unbearable cramp overcoming his whole body. He lost consciousness.
Almost a year later Lenard received a letter from Europe; no returning address, signed with “John Greaves”. He started to read and realized that the letter was actually from the unbelievable bearded man, who, he suspected till then, was a creation of an inebriety in a foreign country. Phaeton called Lenard a far stranger and the closest friend, which made him the only person he could speak to freely. He confusingly continued to describe a cold and firm embrace of social problems that his country was in, his failed plan to cross over to the west and lack of courage to carry it into effect. Secret service followed him everywhere and “carefully escorted” him back to the homeland because of suspicions that Lenard was a recruiter of some western state. Lenard stopped reading for a moment and unexpectedly felt uncomfortable chills on his skin. Further, he read of a badly conducted ideology and weakened economy. Weak economy was abridging freedom, spreading discontent and announcing changes. Phaeton was stressed all the time due to the anxiety and impatience in the demands of the superiors. His work was confidential, cut off from the world, under surveillance and control of government and he compared himself to the tailor from Anderson’s fairy tale, fabricating an invisible artifice to a bunch of smug politicians of stone stance, who didn’t gave too much value to the human life.
Then, on the next few pages physicist described his new theory. He thanked Lenard for inspiring him to look at a problem on which he worked for a long time from different perspective. It was about correlation of five different equations describing the same theory and by combining these five equations in new, eleventh dimension, he got a clear, unique explanation, which he called “Universal String Theory” or “U Theory”. Lenard chuckled while reading about Phaeton’s fantastic discoveries, thinking that ten dimensions were too much and eleven was comical. In addition, eccentric mentioned a device he built after revelation of “U Theory”. He didn’t know what exactly it did, but it modified particles, mostly gravitons.
Lenard tried to get in contact with his not-meant-to-be friend, but inexistence of communication between East and West, as well as everyday stuff, eventually diverted his thoughts to some more familiar, less science-fiction and less dramatic topics. Sometimes, he would think of Phaeton, while reading about new achievements in physics, watching a sci-fi movie or catching some news about Europe.
More than two years later letter from Europe arrived, no returning address, signed with “William Jones”. Just a short message inside: “I realized what is happening with my gravitons. Our world successfully communicated with a different universe, and the sole possibility of communication tells me that laws of physics are common and that someone there came up with the same idea as me. In few days, I’ll take a trip and it will be the beginning. I’m ready even if it doesn’t work. Keep in touch and keep your mind open…”
The date on postmark was couple of weeks old. Concerned, Lenard was trying to find this strange guy and after few months of inquiring, he received a phone call from State Department. With regret, they informed Lenard that the Phaeton was declared dead after a horrible explosion in his laboratory. They couldn’t even recover the body. Lenard was once more left silent and only one simple thought was occupying his mind. “Mad scientist…”
A year later, around three in the morning, earthquake awoke Lenard. Same thing happened in the following years and finally Lenard noticed that earthquakes were happening on the same day, at the same time, at 3:14 at night. He decided to consult his colleague from geology department, who was following seismological data and also noticed strange phenomenon. They set up measuring equipment in Lenard’s yard, where the epicenter was located according to data, and indeed on the same day, at 3:14 AM, tremor was recorded and it lasted three minutes and 14 seconds and had magnitude of 3.1. Lenard became obsessed with finding an explanation to this statistically almost impossible event, but all geological, speleological, hydrogeological and even religious researches showed no insight. An article published in university’s magazine unexpectedly interrupted this obsession. It was about a young mathematician who came up with the solution to decades long problem. This prodigy merged five different equations, which were explaining “String Theory”, in a higher, eleventh dimension. It seemed to be a step towards the “Theory of Everything”. He called his discovery “M Theory”.
Lenard ran home and insanely started to tumble through his notes. In one folder, labeled “mad scientist” he found Phaeton’s letters. He was trying to read every character as carefully as possible, starting from the envelope, going through the words at which he laughed years earlier, while his hands were shaking with anxiety. He picked up the second envelope and next to the name “William Jones” he saw faded postmark and the date was same as the date when the unexplainable earthquakes were happening. He recalled a number Pi and Welsh mathematician William Jones from seventeenth century. He started to laugh hysterically while he was looking at the last words in the letter. “Keep your mind open…”