I stared into the crackling chamber, trying in vain to see through the flickering light at the small block of aluminum that had been placed within. “This isn’t bad for my eyes, is it?” I asked, probably too late.
But behind me, the scientist standing at the control panel just chuckled. “Nah, it’s fine,” he told me. “These goggles are really just for the over-zealous safety people. They spend most of the time protecting my forehead.”
After another minute of staring fruitlessly into the small chamber through the thick protective glass panel, I gave up, turning back around. “So, can you tell me more about this ‘brane shifting’ phenomenon?” I asked, hoping vaguely for some good quotes that would help provide a solid finish to my article.
“I can, but probably nothing that you’ll actually understand,” the other man replied, scratching at a small beard on his chin. “Gimme a second to think about a good analogy.”
The man might be wearing a lab coat and goggles, but he still didn’t seem like much of a scientist to me, I couldn’t help thinking. Under the white coat, which hung loosely open in the front, he wore faded jeans and a button-up plaid shirt. Between the clothing and the aw-shucks attitude, he gave me the impression more of a part-time farm hand than a serious researcher pushing the boundaries of science and physics.
And despite the fact that he still looked like a fresh-faced youth struggling to grow his first beard, Professor Gene Hardy had his full doctorate. Every time I considered that, I felt quite inadequate in my own qualifications, nothing but a bachelor’s degree in journalism.
Because I’d taken a couple science classes, my editor had assigned me to the science beat. I now spent most of my time nodding and putting on an understanding expression as professors and academics spat gobbledygook at me across their messy, paper-covered desks. Despite the expression, however, it almost all went over my head.
A good analogy would be a welcome break from my usual dense line of science that my interview subjects tried to feed me.
Dr. Hardy made a couple last adjustments, and then stepped away as the violent blasts of light from within the heavily armored chamber began to subside. “All right, let’s try this,” he said, stretching his arms back behind his back so that his joints popped. “I’ve got an analogy, but I’m not sure how it will hold up.”
I nodded, checking my voice recorder to make sure that it was running (it was).
“Everything in the universe,” Dr. Hardy began, “has its own location. Coordinates in space and time. This location is an integral part of every object – it defines that object’s existence. Without a location, a thing can’t really exist.”
He held up a finger. “At least, we assume. Remember that all of this is theoretical – we’re pretty much just guessing.”
“But of course, things aren’t ever as simple as what we’d like. As it turns out, this location, these coordinates embedded in every object, also contains the history of that object. People who believe in homeopathy will rejoice when they hear this – the coordinates of some object don’t just tell where it is now, but also where it was, showing how it’s moved around the universe.”
Hardy scratched his chin again. “My analogy is to compare it to a FedEx package,” he said. “If a package has been bounced around a bunch by FedEx, you can look at all the airport and location codes stamped on it, and you can figure out both where it is – the destination address – and where it has been – all the other airports that package has passed through.”
I nodded. “Okay, that sort of makes sense,” I said, not lying. “But so what’s your big fancy machine here doing?”
“Well, like I said, this is all pretty much just educated guesswork at the moment,” Hardy replied. “And while that’s good enough to get into some scientific journals, it’s not really useful in the real world. So this, here, is all supposed to prove the theory. We erase the coordinates, and poof! Object vanishes.”
The light and energy crackling inside the chamber had almost completely faded away, now, and Hardy gestured towards the viewing panel. “Oh my god,” I gasped, as I peered inside.
The aluminum block on the platform within the chamber had vanished.
“Yeah, it’s pretty cool,” Hardy agreed, but he wasn’t looking as happy as I would have expected. “See, erasing the coordinates from the object makes it disappear.
“But once it’s gone, it’s gone. It’s proving to be a lot tougher to get it back…”