I Admit It, I Was Drunk When I Invented the Laws of Our Universe
The story of Higgs, gentleman eccentric and accidental creator of our universe.
‘In the beginning the Universe was created. This had made many people very angry and has been widely regarded as a bad move.’
― Douglas Adams, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe
Yesterday, while I played chess with myself in the tub, Jeeves read me a meretricious but wildly inaccurate article by Roger Penrose. Roger is a figment of my imagination and a theoretical—no pun intended—physicist with some pretty outlandish ideas. He believes in an “external reality”. As I reassured my butler, we are all safely tucked inside my head. There’s no need to panic.
Many of you believe there’s more to the universe than your individual or even collective reckoning, that is, your shared reality as my hallucinations. You tell each other, ‘There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy’, to paraphrase yet another imaginary fellow. And you take this as proof of a material world beyond conscious mentality. Ha! What next, thinking you have free will?
The argument goes: long before you inferred the presence of black holes or detected the gravitational waves of two such entities colliding, elegant equations predicted these outcomes—and with such precision too. And isn’t it just “mind-boggling” how mathematics appears to reveal an order to the universe, rather than merely describing and thus imposing it? Oh, it all hints at some “objective truth”, does it not?
The truth is, I accidentally dreamt this universe into being last Tuesday. I didn’t mean to, but it is what it is. Wednesday, I used a Ouija board to come up with a shape for atoms: elongated like footballs. On Thursday, the dartboard helped me decide black holes were possible after all and that your universe is, in fact, expanding. I may come up with more things yet.
An irksomely clever figment with a deep-seated fear of socks once remarked, ‘The eternal mystery of the world is its comprehensibility’. Well, I tried to make it logical and orderly, you know, but the questions are endless. Tell your manservant his new pet turtle’s made of atoms and he’ll ask you what atoms are made of. (I should’ve told him it’s ‘turtle’ all the way through.)
As for the Natural Laws, they came to me during a drunken card game. Jeeves was being quite pertinacious that evening. (That’s a portmanteau of ‘impertinent’ and ‘tenacious’ I created yesterday, by the way.) ‘The universe ought to have rules’, he insisted, ‘Like a game of bridge or backgammon. It’s more fun that way.’ (Personally, the only thing I like about backgammon is rolling the dice.) Therefore, if general relativity or quantum mechanics or any of it ever seemed strange and inexplicable to you, blame it on the brandy. And the butler.
As I recall, our somewhat slurred conversation on the subject of life, the universe, and everything in it, went something like this:
‘Is light also made of these atoms?’
‘No, no, Jeevesie, light is made of ph-ph-photons, which are particle…waves…’
‘I beg your pardon, Sir, which is it?’
‘Both. At the same time?’
‘Yes. No. Particles when you’re lookin’ at ‘em, and waves when you’re not.’
‘I see. And so, if I were to observe the light from a distant quasar bending around a galaxy before reaching us here, the photons would behave just like particles?’
‘You bet your buttle, Butler.’
‘Even though—forgive me my impertinence, Your Lordship—that light has been travelling since before I decided to observe it? And before the earth even existed?’
‘…Yes. Oh, look at that, I’ve rolled a double.’
‘Does effect precede cause then? You’ll be sore before I hit you?’
‘Look, Jeeves, I’ve told you before, it’s this pr-pro-probabilistic weirdness that collapses into one particular outcome when obser —’
‘—Good heavens, I’ve just remembered poor Mittens. He’s been in that dreadful box since Tuesday.’
‘Ooh, jolly good. Let’s open it up and find out if he’s dead or alive.’
‘I’m certain —’
‘Haven’t you been listening, Jeeves, we won’t know until we’ve opened the box.’
After we’d finished burying Mittens, I kept thinking about Jeeves’ nitpicking late into the night, pouring myself glass after glass of whiskey in the study. I began to regret you imaginary folks even more than I regret inventing imaginary numbers. Such a headache. Figments can’t just be happy to be alive and go off and appreciate sunsets and rainbows; they want to know how it all works and where it all came from and why they’re all here. Bah! Isn’t it enough that it just is? Some of you even want a unified theory of it all!
And the ones of you I have the misfortune to know personally insist I’m just an eccentric aristocrat with crazy ideas (‘Remember that time you thought you were made of glass?’) and too much time on his hands (‘Still stacking turtles?’). And a greatly exaggerated drinking problem (‘Are you being treated for that thiamine deficiency, Old Chap?’). ‘Higgs,’ they say down at the Club, ‘How do you know you’re not living in my dream or even inside a computer simulation?'
Wait, how do I know?
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