At the Foundations

No Time — Truespace

He is in a room whose distant walls are made of light, and whose ceiling, if it exists at all, is lost high above in glowing mist.

“You have chosen,” a great voice says, “to join the Society of the Work. Before beginning the Work, you must learn. This is your first lesson.”

The entire wall before him darkens to become a display. Images appear on it of rushing space.

“The boundaries of our universe,” the voice says, “are five three-dimensional spaces. These surfaces obey physical laws that are related to those of our space, but separate. They are semi-independent universes in their own right: influenced by true space, but whose denizens cannot in return perceive or influence it.”

The view zooms in through many orders of magnitude until motion is visible.

“The motions that you see here,” the voice continues, “are a depiction of the eternal random activity at the ultimate foundations of physical reality. These motions are sufficiently energetic to distort the three-dimensional boundary of our space where they collide with it.” The view moves to show the membrane of the boundary of space distorting, and not in small bulges as the prince might have imagined but in long tunnel-like protrusions which extend, branch, and bend before snapping back, overshooting, and finally oscillating to minimum-energy repose.

“These distortions would be perfectly elastic—returning all of their energy to space—except for a unique property of three-space which permits the one-dimensional distortions to occasionally form self-sustaining structures called knots.”

As the prince watches, one of the long distortions curls into a loop. The flailing end of the distortion then collides with the loop in such a way that the end goes through it. As the entire distortion then begins to collapse back toward repose an event occurs that the prince does not at first understand. Responding to his confusion, the illustration reverses then proceeds again more slowly.

At last he understands. Because of the limitations of three-space, the rope-like distortion can get in its own way. As it tries to contract further it is unable to, because such contraction would require a degree of freedom that does not exist in three-space. Yet three-space does have just enough freedom for the loop-and-tuck structure to form in the first place.

The loop-and-tuck thing—the ‘knot’—forms, and remains. While the particles of three-space around it continue their eternal random dance, it alone persists.

Looking at the miraculous entity, the prince feels enthusiasm for the first time since he left his home.

“Is this one of the creatures that inhabit the world of the Great Work?” he asks excitedly.

“No,” the voice smiles. “The inhabitants exist at a much higher level of complexity. This knot is the simplest possible ‘physical’ object in their universe. It is called an electron neutrino. There are many other such ‘particles’.”

As the voice speaks the moving illustration changes to show a bewildering variety of knots forming—dozens of them.

“Most require the participation of more than one thread of distorted space. Spontaneous particle formation is rare, occurring only about once in every one hundred vigintillion events.”

The voice continues, but the prince is wondering just how much more complexity can possibly exist in the simple, three-dimensional universe of the Great Work.

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