The soft and sullen silence of midnight descended unnoticed upon Dr. Vincent Hauber as his fingers danced on the wireless keyboard of his computer. His face, illuminated by the bluish light emanating from the computer screen, showed signs of fatigue, and yet, his eyes were wide open and trained on the typed letters appearing one-by-one on the display. Five minutes later, his fingers relaxed, and he realized that his computer was the only source of light in his so-called laboratory.
Unperturbed, he pressed the ‘Enter’ key on his keyboard.
A few seconds later, Dr. Hauber smiled for the first time in five days as he saw his creation unfold on the LCD display in front of him.
“Magnum Opus!” He thought, his eyes twinkling.
Dr. Hauber arose from his chair and turned it around, so that it faced the door. Every cell in his body purred with satisfaction as he gazed, once more, into the revealing depths of his work. This, alone, would have the scientific community worshipping him.
But, being Dr. Hauber, he had taken it one step further.
His gaze shifted to the hemispherical contraption that lay on his desk beside his keyboard. The helmet, wires coming out of its rear, would allow him experience his creation. He lifted the helmet and felt its inside, which was inlaid with thousands of tiny probes meant to form connections with his brain, to allow him to become the computer.
Thank you, Human Electronics!
Dr. Hauber sat on his chair, and made himself comfortable. He stroked his bald head fondly.
What will the almighty say when he discovers that his son has insulted him?
He then wore The Helmet.
The fact that Shruti’s watch read 5:30 AM did nothing to ease her tension as she walked hurriedly down a corridor lined with doors, most of them locked from the inside. She walked to the end of the corridor, and came back, mouthing the word “Damn”, and adjusting her handbag, which had slid down her right shoulder.
She stopped at the third door from that end; it had a black-lettered sign that read:
DR. VINCENT HAUBER
PROFESSOR(EMERITUS) OF PHYSICS
Beneath the sign, there was a hand-drawn banner which said:
GOD IS A MYTH
She rang the doorbell, expecting to hear the professor’s throaty voice yell “Come in!”
Ten minutes later, she was knocking furiously on the door in an attempt to announce her presence to her mentor.
Five minutes later, no one had answered the door, and Shruti was sitting on the tiled floor of the corridor beside Dr. Hauber’s door, cursing that bald retard. Then, she pulled out a round compact mirror and began grooming herself.
“Going to propose to the professor, are we?” Ashish, another post-grad, was walking towards Dr. Hauber’s lab wearing an old t-shirt and jeans, his right hand clutching what looked like a flash drive.
Shruti stuffed her mirror hastily into her handbag and got up.
“Oh, it’s you.” She said, in what she hoped would be a condescending tone.
“While you’re at it, you might want to remove that ash on your forehead; last time I checked, the guy wasn’t keen on marrying an orthodox hindu.” Ashish had a smile on his face that extended to his ears.
“Ha ha ha. Shut up!” Shruti rubbed her forehead vigorously and wiped her hand using a small handkerchief that she produced from her handbag. “What are you doing here?”
“Why don’t you ask the Professor?” He pronounced the words “The Professor” as though he were introducing a WWE wrestler.
“Yeah, right. Guy asks me to meet him at 5:15 AM, and dozes off in his study.”
“Even you, huh?” Ashish shrugged “He does that, sometimes, that’s why I asked him for a key to his lab.” he pulled out a small metal key hanging on a motorbike shaped rubber keychain from one of his pockets.
Shruti’s eyes widened. “And he just gave you one?”
“The fact that I’m teaching him to program using N may have had something to do with it.”
“Just open the door.”
Ashish inserted his key into the keyhole below the door’s handle and twisted it, pushing the door so that it would swing inwards slightly.
“Sir?” Shruti said, uncertainly.
We are points.
There are many points. A single point here, a pair there, a triplet here, a cluster there, another cluster there. Not a single point is stationary. One is moving in a straight line, and another…seems to be moving…revolving around that point, moving in a straight line. Another point here seems to be vibrating, moving between two positions alternatively. This point appears in one place, disappears, and appears in another place. How does it move between those two places? Is it like an electron, getting excited from a lower to a higher energy state? Except, why does it oscillate between those two states, what happens IN BETWEEN?
The clusters are unique. The constituent particles of a cluster interact differently from the constituent particles of another cluster. These interactions are rich, and will be studied later, when exploration is over.
Doublets are boring; most of them consist of two points rotating around each other in fairly predictable ways.
Triplets have interactions that are more complicated; but that is to be expected. Poincare knew that before computers were invented.
Many, many, points; where should I start?
Darkness, except for a few dancing spots on a computer screen.
The flicker of a fluorescent lamp, and brightness. Ashish had switched on the lights.
The left third of the office was a total mess. A supercomputing processor took up most of the space; the wires coming from its rear end were horribly tangled, and connected to a LASER printer, a high-end modem, and an LCD display. The right third, in contrast, had a hospital-like neatness to it. A wooden bookshelf lined the right wall, housing a collection of scientific volumes, some of them well-known, some obscure and some written in German. On top of the bookshelf, Dr. Hauber had kept his certificates and some plastic roses in an equally plastic vase. Below the bookshelf, and to its right lay a black leather sofa on which a layer of dust had settled.
The central third, however, was the one that had a firm grip on the visitors’ attention. The wall opposite the room’s entrance housed the professor’s workstation: a desk made of teak that he had received as a gift from the University for his ‘outstandingly amazing contributions to the Standard Model’. A 21 inch LCD display stood on top of the desk; its screen was filled with bright points moving randomly against a black background. A wireless keyboard had been kept in front of the display, and a modem beside it. Beside the modem, a stack of books was visible. Ashish recognized one of them as his:
A BEGINNER’S GUIDE TO N-THE LANGUAGE OF INTELLIGENT SYSTEMS
It lay, opened, on top of titles such as:
COMPUTERS AND CHAOS-BRIDGING THE GAP BETWEEN REAL AND ARTIFICIAL
FEYNMAN’S LECTURES ON COMPUTATION
COMPUTER LOGIC!-TEACHING DUNCES TO ADD.
And in front of the desk, sitting on his chair, eyes closed, arms on the armrest, and head bowed, was Dr. Vincent Hauber, wearing a perfectly hemispherical steel helmet, which was also, Shruti noticed, connected to the supercomputing processor.
“He isn’t dead, is he?” Shruti asked, forgetting herself.
“I don’t think so.” Ashish walked towards Dr. Hauber and lifted his face. His skin was a little cold, and when Ashish held his hand below Dr. Hauber’s nose, he could feel his breath. “Nope, he’s alive.” He let go of the professor’s face, which resumed its bowed position. “Although…” He turned Dr. Hauber’s arm and pressed two fingers into his wrist. “The pulse appears to be normal…”
“Nothing.” He shook his head, “I want to see if he’s conscious.”
Shruti walked forward and gave Professor Hauber a hard, resounding, slap. His swung to one side and came back to its original position. She looked at Ashish.
“Go downstairs to the entrance and tell the watchman to call Dr. Purushottaman, and Dr. Shah. If he asks you why, tell him that Dr. Hauber would like to meet them immediately.”
“Why do I have to lie to him?”
Ashish slapped his palm to his forehead. “You see that helmet on his head? Do you know what it is?”
Shruti looked hurt “I do, but…”
“If you do, then you’ll know that it’s illegal here. Our government doesn’t like the idea of Mind-imaging that much.”
“It doesn’t look like the computer’s reading his mind! I’ve seen mind images, they look nothing like those dots on the screen!”
“He could use it to end the freshwater famine, and the government will still punish him! Now please go and do what I told you to do, and stay with the watchman till they come!”
“Fine. Try and do something useful.”
“I’ll try to make sense of those dancing dots.”
Shruti threw her handbag onto the sofa and walked out of the room.
Ashish began opening the drawers in Dr. Hauber’s desk. In the bottom drawer he found nothing, except a dusty laptop and a pair of wireless mice. The drawer above that was empty. The top drawer was full of notebooks. He took the first notebook in his hands and opened it. It was full of equations, diagrams, and scribbles. On the last page, Dr. Hauber had written in big, bold and capital letters: “MY UNIVERSE”.
Ashish’s mouth remained open as he stared at the professor.
This point takes a helical path around two other points orbiting themselves and revolving around an axis perpendicular to the axis of their cluster. Clusters…symbiosis between hundreds of points…why do their points never escape? What holds them together? Why don’t the clusters move?
Who said the clusters don’t move?
The earth doesn’t seem to move, and yet it does, I’ll watch this cluster for as long as it takes.
That other cluster moved! The small one! I’m going there now!
The points in this cluster seem to be moving at random and yet when I observe each of them, their behavior seems regular and obvious.
Only points, doublets, triplets, and small clusters move?
That’s absurd! Size and movement! But…
Size is affected by distance, what if I have to go farther to see it move? What about this zigzagging point? Will I be able to see it move if I go closer?
Points are shooting past me and the point I am aiming for is becoming larger and larger and larger and larger and…
Almost the size of a small cluster.
It has points in it. Moving at random and yet interacting rhythmically. Closer!
Another zigzagging point.
Closer. Points shooting past like stars.
This point is also a cluster. All points are clusters!
Repetition! Self-similarity! The building-blocks of nature!
I’m going back.
To Be Continued…