It was over thirty years ago that a friend who worked at Fermi Lab – the massive proton-antiproton collider outside Chicago – took me on a tour of the facility. The lab itself was fairly new, and the physicists there had just identified a range of new subatomic particles: quarks. As I look back, I think that the experience of getting up close and personal with that absolutely massive particle collider and coming under the spell of my friend’s enthusiasm for high energy physics launched my own interest in the subject.
All eyes are now on the Hadron collider in Switzerland, where scientists are sifting through the results of proton-proton smash-ups looking for dark matter, whatever undiscovered subatomic particles might exist, and perhaps those elusive extra dimensions of the universe.
It’s the possibility of extra dimensions that I am exploring, in my own way, in the BRIGHT EMPIRES series of novels. Positing a continuous and endless creating of the universe and human history, I’ve set myself the task of imagining what that might actually look like if a handful of human beings managed to visit worlds that were not, so to speak, their own. What would they find as they travelled outside their home universe into the limitless omniverse of endless possibilities?
The first Soviet cosmonauts left the only world any of us had ever known and ventured into outer space in the 1960s. On returning to earth, one famously remarked that they didn’t find God out there. Were they looking? I don’t know. But it seems that the majority of those in the international community of physicists who have invested their professional lives in the examination of both the smallest and the largest bodies in our universe are looking, and fully prepared to find, Something out there, or in there. Many are pleased to call the object of their quest The God Particle, or the God Field.
I wonder what my characters – Kit, Wilhelmina, Arthur, Xian-Li, and the others -- will discover. Will they be looking? One puzzling aspect of quantum physics proposes that the act of observing a phenomena actually creates the phenomenon. The simple observing of something, the measuring of it, brings it about; observation moves the thing observed from a state of pure potentiality into the realm of physical reality – an idea Einstein himself struggled with and disliked. He remarked, ‘I like to think the moon is there even when I’m not looking at it.’ Still, this ‘seek and ye shall find’ theory has been demonstrated and proven to a great degree of satisfaction and acceptance. It has even given rise to a brand of scientific joke, a la: “If a man makes a statement and his wife isn’t there to hear it, is he still wrong?”
While Einstein himself might have had difficulty accepting some of the theories and conclusions his own work in physics initiated, one thing is becoming ever more apparent the further scientists delve into the true nature of the created order: the universe is far stranger than we imagine or, possibly, can imagine.