Author : Cesium

Professor Sean Katz walked into his lab the next morning, and Katherine was waiting for him.

“So, how did the trials go?”

“You'd better come see for yourself.”

He glanced up from his Blackberry. She looked as calm as usual, but there was a tinge of worry in her voice. He followed her down the corridor, brilliant sunshine streaming through the windows on one side, graphs and xkcd posters plastering the wall on the other. They turned a corner, and Sean stopped short.

The lab's very expensive new electron microscope was blackened and charred, and emitting a thin trickle of smoke which was slowly drifting toward the ceiling.

“Dr. Ko reported a breakthrough at around 3:30 last night –”

Sean's sense of doom was suddenly offset by indignation. “3:30? How late were you up?” He noted the discarded cans of Mountain Dew spilling out of the recycle bin.

“She insisted, after reading the report for herself…” Katherine looked apologetic.

“And this?”

“So after my apparent success, I decided to examine the atomic structure of the spoon… and, well, not only did Aristotle not believe in atoms, he didn't know about electrons, or electricity. He would have described them as little bits of fire, I suppose. Hence…” Dr. Ko waved helplessly in the direction of the wrecked machine.

Sean suddenly felt dizzy, and he leaned against the counter. “It actually worked.” He looked around at the other two. “We can change the laws of physics at will. No, more than that. We determine the laws of physics by studying them. God, the effectiveness of mathematics in explaining the universe is probably just because we expect physical laws to be mathematical in nature, so they are.”

“We can control matter by thinking about it,” offered Katherine. “Magic.”


They looked at each other for a while; at the microscope, symbol of a paradigm that now seemed so limited; at the spoon, which was apparently currently composed of mostly earth, with some fire and water and air.

“Well, you know what we have to do now,” said Dr. Ko.

They performed further experiments and tests, and once they were sufficiently convinced of their results, the manuscript was submitted to Nature.

Katherine walked into Sean's office. “How are you feeling?”

“A bit nervous. Once this thing hits peer review, news will spread, and every scientist on the planet's going to want to test it for themselves.”

“You know, something occurred to me. When Newton and his contemporaries started trying to explain the world through mathematics, the spread of the Enlightenment probably changed it into a form that could be understood that way. That might explain why reports of supernatural sightings and miracles have decreased since then.”

“Hmm. That could –” Sean stopped. If the efforts of relatively few scientists over centuries could change the way the entire universe worked… and just about now, every scientist hearing the news would be trying it with their own favorite discredited scientific paradigms, which were probably incompatible and almost certainly dangerous. The charred hulk in the corner of one of their rooms was testament to that. He reached for his keyboard, intending to compose an urgent email.

But it was too late.

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