On the edge

“I am possibly leaving bruises on your hips I am holding you so tight,” he said, his words jumbled up.

She revelled in the moment, marvelled at it. St Giles Oxford was totally silenced on this magical June night, as if the Universe in its entirety was built solely on their mingled breaths, their thundering heartbeats and something called Now. Physicists have long studied Time, but there has been no significant progress made on that special unit of time called Now. This perfect moment is all we ever need for the spirit to soar. The body is temporary, transient, gone very soon, and along with it, expressions of physical love. All that remains then is the spirit, the 101010010101 ad infinitum, soaring.

Her voice was soft as she quoted the words from his own book, In the Quest For Absolute Zero, “Because at the extremes is where interesting things happen. Because each trip to the edge teaches us new things and opens our eyes to new dimensions.”

PW trembled. “Yes, that is what I feel, Alice. That’s what I am feeling now, trembling on the edge.”

She said nothing.

“Like catching infinity,” he continued. “The Universe is expanding and we are always on the edge, spiralling outwards. Life wouldn’t have existed if not for cosmological inflation.”

In a static Universe, we would have long been destroyed by colliding neutron stars. In its infinite mystery, the Universe breathes and expands so that there is space for life to be. The infinite mystery is why the cosmological inflation is as it is, just right for life. The mathematics of Einstein’s General Relativity did not work until he added the cosmological constant into the equations. It was then things began to breathe.

“Can you feel my love for you?” Alice asked softly. “All that there is between us?”

PW could.

Alice whispered, “Be still, PW. The Universe is not moving. The Universe is infinite and is already everywhere, and to try to catch it would be like catching infinity.”


Excerpt from Chapter 4: The emptiness of space

Related article on life and cosmological constant can be found here.

Photo: St Giles Oxford at night.


Invisible Music

He listened more, pressing his ear against the cold stone of the square tower of Magdalen College. More music came to him, disembodied, but real nonetheless. Like fire, music is critical to our survival. It predates language and is more than a just frivolity that we often carelessly assign it to. Early Paleolithic humans invested a lot of effort into making music, probably because music touches us all at a very deep level. There is a possibility that music predates bipedal walking, and why not? To communicate, like to procreate, is a fundamental driver of life.

But what is music?

It is a vibration of molecules following a certain, beautiful, established pattern and this sequence of energised molecules works with neurotransmitters, opening up cortical circuitry in the brain, opening up our minds like a chemical flower blooming in its osteoblast cage.

From its source, music travels out spherically, directionless, losing energy along the way. Thus, music gets fainter the further away it gets from its source, until the energy dissipates to the extent that the molecules no longer hum to the beat. But in Alice’s world, these molecules reach him with their message across space and time, and the message that it carried was the beauty of the Magdalen College Choir singing Mount Up, My Soul. Mount Up, My Soul was a little known song, written by Joseph Straphan in 1834 that PW used to play on the piano in the veld to the tempo of crickets singing. How did she know?

“I loved you since forever, PW.”