‘Wow, that’s quite a performance, my dear Professor,” she said, coming to his side and linking her arm round his waist. To Alice, he was simply the most beautiful man in the world, this fearlessness of his coupled with his intelligence, humour and boyishness. Almost forty three, but still the eight year old boy from the veld who wore his older brother’s oversized tackies and veldskoen, who dreamed of building an accelerator so large that it can be seen from the skies.

He laughed happily and kissed her on the top of her head in gratitude. “I learned that from you!”

“From me?” She was incredulous. She was just this nondescript postgraduate student who lived in the underground bunkers of the Physics Department of Oxford University like a subhuman mole whereas he, he was the Superstar Scientist, the Greatest Thinker of Our Time.

“Yes. Because many months ago, at the top of the squaretower of Magdalen College Oxford, you showed me that we could manipulate empty space which is not really empty by rearranging the invisible particles in that space. And that’s what I did just now. The protestors who came to decry the construction of my accelerator were driven by their personal fears. Initially, they spoke to a friend about their personal fears, then two friends, then three. Then they formed a group, and personal fears grew into paranoia. That’s what paranoia is, a self-generating negative energy field. What I did just now was to annihilate the negative field by sending positive particles out there, you know, like matter / anti-matter reactions. English is not my first language, but I believe the word for that is pronoia. That’s when you state an intention, and the Universe conspires with you.”

Alice smiled happily up at him. “Yes, that’s those blerrie magic particles at work. The invisible negative field physically stopped five lorries delivering liquid nitrogen, and you, my beautiful Professor, turned five hundred people round with the sheer power of your will.”

(Excerpt from Chapter 14: Yo-yoing space-time)

Note: Photograph shows liquid nitrogen, a chemical that is extensively used to cool the components in particle accelerators and detectors. It looks dangerous, but can harmlessly be used to make instant ice cream from milk. N2 is just the stuff that the air we breathe is composed of. Paranoia often stands in the way of us achieving great things.