A Length of String

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A Length of String
By Jim Stanfield
City Hall was bedecked and speckled with colored lights for the grand opening of the time capsule. As I waited in line to get into the auditorium, I reflected on the number of times I had been here before for this event. Shuffling in, I gazed around at the familiar faces of the other spectators.
I took my usual seat along the railing of the first balcony. The tedium of waiting never seemed to get any easier to bear. It was the custom of some to nap in their seats. Others ate packed lunches and passed the time in small talk.
All the heads of state and their cronies had arrived and were taking advantage of their captive audience, making speeches to fill the three hours since the auditorium had been sealed closed. Three hours was considered to be the minimum prudent buffer to isolate any foreseeable length of time anomaly from the outside world.
This time had not been a total waste. I had been reading one of those bulky and wasteful relics, a book printed out on paper. It was as large as my e-reader which, when patched into ALBERT, could read out, page by page, every book in the public domain. Despite its shortcomings I liked this old book. It seemed as though the author was writing to me directly. I had read this book before.
Shortly the call came down from the Chairman of the Floor, "Ladies and Gentlemen, may I please have your attention." The crowd noise abated in response. The Chairman then announced several distinguished scientists, all summa cum omni with space master or time master certification, satori and all that. They would preside over the opening.
The time capsule set on a stainless steel table within a glass isolation chamber in the middle of the stage. This would provide an initial buffer for its contents upon opening and also to contain any possible contaminants within.
The time capsule contained a single cosmic string.
Captured in free space and brought back to earth by the Cosmic Explorer, the strings released so far had ranged from less than a meter to over two hundred meters long. As a coiled spring stores energy, so a coiled cosmic string stores time.
Simply put, as the string is released from its confinement, it unfurls and releases its stored up hoard of seconds. It would shed it, so to speak, in what they call a Calabi-Yau bubble emanating outward along its length. Expanding backwards, the bubble carries us upstream within a localized rift of time.
Minutes would go by and then they would go by again. The sensation of deja vu was quite pleasant. When released under these carefully controlled conditions, the discontinuities are local and do not seem to have any effect outside the electromagnetic confines of the auditorium (a hemispherical faraday cage). But within, the participants are provided with an all pervading feeling of well being and connectedness, and the very minor nuisance of having to set our watches ahead to the correct outside time when we leave. We gained just over forty-five minutes in the case of the two hundred meter specimen. Momentum anomaly measurements on this particular capsule hinted that this specimen might be even longer.
To state a length for a cosmic string is quite a bit of an oversimplification, of course. The length is theoretical and is figured backwards from the time gained, 13.7 seconds per meter. In its opaque abstraction, the math of it makes sense to the mathematicians who study that arcane branch known as topology but a full understanding of the effect eludes even the best minds. Quantum mechanical effects are, in essence, inexplicable and this is no exception. It was first described in the mathematical formalism of 10-D Kaluza-Klein space, then more succinctly, in super-cubal Hawking 'sixteen-space' in which three of the four sets of four space-time dimensions are curled around each other in a topological way so as to confound any common sense understanding. Dimensions so tightly curled that their extent is as much of a jump smaller than a quark as that same quark is smaller than the mind that tries to understand it. Dimensions so small that they stand diminished from the scale of man by thirty-three powers of ten.
It was still a topic of scientific debate just how long a cosmic string could be.
Deja vu. I seem to be able to remember the explanation each time I review it, and the nice part is, I seem to be able to understand it just a little bit better each time around.
They know it isn't strictly the case, but as they explain it to the layman, the uncurling of the primary dimension, length, causes a tightening of the curl of the other fifteen, four of them being time dimensions. As curl is conserved, this causes time to flow inwards, or as we perceive it, backwards.
Dr. Opperman set the movement range at one-to-one on the mechanical hands and slid his fingers into place. Within the chamber the mechanical fingers extended toward the capsule. On the index finger of the right hand was a snipper, which after three attempts, engaged and bit through the first of four retaining wires. After the other three were dispatched the stainless steel bolts were turned releasing the top. The top was still being held firmly against the capsule by atmospheric pressure, so Dr. Opperman then opened the equalizer valve. The top was spring loaded and would fly open releasing its cosmic contents in much the same fashion as a child's jack-in-the-box.
A wave of anticipation would always overtake the audience just before the magical event. Simultaneously, we leaned forward in our seats.
City Hall was bedecked and speckled with colored lights for the grand opening of the time capsule.

About the Author: 
Jim Stanfield is a retired engineer formerly at Stanford Linear Accelerator Center and is an avid photographer, writer and hiker.

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