The Egg

Average: 4.2 (6 votes)
Your rating: None

“Tell me class, what is the strongest force in the universe?”

I raise my hand gingerly.

“Yes, Miss…?”

“Braithwhite. Eve Braithwhite. And it’s gravity.”

“Gravity? But there are four fundamental forces in nature and we know gravity to be the weakest of these. Isn’t this true?”

“Well… yes, but we also know gravity holds everything in place, right? It makes up the way the universe moves, and interacts. ‘first Hell/ Your dungeon stretching far and wide beneath;/ Now lately Heaven/ and Earth, another World/ Hung ore my Realm, link'd in a golden chain,’ as Milton said.”

“Very good Miss Braithwhite!” the old man claps, “and I think you’ve hit on something more than you realize there with your quote. Note how Milton says,” ‘Earth, another World’ as if to say a continuance of a chain of worlds? This is our clue to all of understanding!”

Our class of Physics majors seems less than pleased to be discussing English Lit and I feel red in the face as people give me bored glares.

“Don’t be embarrassed young lady! You have a better understanding of Physics than any of these future lab rats can understand! You say gravity is the strongest force in the universe despite appearing to be the weakest, hmm? Let’s see what else you think. How many dimensions are there, Miss. Brathwhite?”

“Uhh, four?” I respond, wanting the conversation over and the class to move along. I’m already taking this as a Gen. Req. for my degree and am constantly feeling dumb around all these much smarter people. Just give me my useless English degree and let me leave this stupid brick building.

“Tsk tsk. A common misconception still that there are only four spatial-temporal dimensions, but it is that; a misconception. No class, there are in fact 6 dimensions. Count them; Point, Line,” he begins ticking dimensions off on his fingers as some in the crowd murmur along with him, “Object, Time. Good job everyone!”

He’s a good professor but it’s clear that he takes much more interest in his field of study than most of his students. Introductory Physics just doesn’t inspire passion.

He continues, “and Egg,” ticking two fingers off at once. No one else says it. Professor Thompson stands smiling at the front as an awkward silence comes late to class and sits down next to everyone.

“I take it then, that not many of you are familiar with the two incomprehensible dimensions then? Well that’s ok, not many people who come to my Intro class ever have heard of it. Perhaps when you come to my 300-level classes we can discuss it a bit more. For now I’ll simply give you the basic rundown: Gravity, as Miss Thompson volunteered, is the strongest force in the universe. It does, as she also stated, hold the beautiful topography of our universe in its hand, turning the heavens like the gears of a clock. Though she didn’t say it in exactly those words.”

Just then the bell rings and people begin packing their bags. Professor Thompson continues, “and next class we will go over those two dimensions briefly. For homework please read chapters 6 and 7, and I’ll see you all in a few days.”

I gather my things, still embarrassed at this nightmare of a class. Slinging my bag over my shoulder I turn and get up, getting ready to rush out the door but the teacher’s voice calls through the rustling of students, “Miss Braithwhite. Would you stay a moment after class?”

Slumping slightly I turn back and make my way down the stairs of the auditorium towards his lectern. Stupid old man, I think. After everyone has filed out he sits in the front row, gesturing me to join him with a pat on the chair to his left. Helplessly I join him.

“Miss Braithwhite, what was Satan’s sin?”


“For someone who studied his seminal text enough to have mquotes available on hand, I would think you would knew Milton better. No, it was not pride, Miss Braithwhite. It was the same sin as mankind; the sin of lust. Though in Man it had to do with those fiddly bits down here,” he says gesturing to his groin, “and Satan’s had to do with a lust for this,” and he taps my forehead with one thin spindly finger.

“Satan was cast out of heaven for wanting knowledge?” I question hesitantly.

“Oh yes. He was the greatest scientist of all time, and to join him in his infernal prison would be a good opportunity to learn from him I think. But more to the point, he knew of the nature of gravity. Do you remember how Satan left Hell the first time, not the second when given the key?”

“He escaped,” I reply point blank.

“Yes, but how?” he responds, a mischievous look in his eye.

“Uh.. I don’t know Professor Thompson. I don’t think it says…”

He holds up two fingers and says, “The Egg. Gravity, Miss Thompson. Gravity connects not only objects to objects, but objects to time, and time to objects, and even objects to dimensions unknown to those objects. He escaped Hell to gaze upon Earth by the Egg, the fifth and sixth dimensions.”

“Umm, I don’t think I understand Professor. I really have to get to my next class..” I say turning to get up.

“Wait! Before you go Miss Braithwhite: Think. Why is gravity so weak?”

I give it a moment, but come up with nothing. I shrug my shoulders.

He laughs, and says “It’s seeping Miss Braithwhite. It is escaping our four dimensions and into the other two connecting everything together immediately. We can only measure what is left.”

“Um, ok,” I return hesitantly. “I really do need to go Professor, I’m sorry.”

“So do I.” Closing his fingers slowly, he gives me a wink.

“I hope to see you soon, Miss Braithwhite.”

Then he is simply gone, disappeared. Escaped.

Newsletter Signup

Submit your email address so we can send you occasional competition updates and tell you who wins!

Quantum Theories

I is for ... Information

Many researchers working in quantum theory believe that information is the most fundamental building block of reality.

R is for ... Radioactivity

The atoms of a radioactive substance break apart, emitting particles. It is impossible to predict when the next particle will be emitted as it happens at random. All we can do is give the probability that any particular atom will have decayed by a given time.

L is for ... Light

We used to believe light was a wave, then we discovered it had the properties of a particle that we call a photon. Now we know it, like all elementary quantum objects, is both a wave and a particle!

K is for ... Kaon

These are particles that carry a quantum property called strangeness. Some fundamental particles have the property known as charm!

P is for ... Probability

Quantum mechanics is a probabilistic theory: it does not give definite answers, but only the probability that an experiment will come up with a particular answer. This was the source of Einstein’s objection that God “does not play dice” with the universe.

Q is for ... Qubit

One quantum bit of information is known as a qubit (pronounced Q-bit). The ability of quantum particles to exist in many different states at once means a single quantum object can represent multiple qubits at once, opening up the possibility of extremely fast information processing.

A is for ... Alice and Bob

In quantum experiments, these are the names traditionally given to the people transmitting and receiving information. In quantum cryptography, an eavesdropper called Eve tries to intercept the information.

Z is for ... Zero-point energy

Even at absolute zero, the lowest temperature possible, nothing has zero energy. In these conditions, particles and fields are in their lowest energy state, with an energy proportional to Planck’s constant.

J is for ... Josephson Junction

This is a narrow constriction in a ring of superconductor. Current can only move around the ring because of quantum laws; the apparatus provides a neat way to investigate the properties of quantum mechanics.

V is for ... Virtual particles

Quantum theory’s uncertainty principle says that since not even empty space can have zero energy, the universe is fizzing with particle-antiparticle pairs that pop in and out of existence. These “virtual” particles are the source of Hawking radiation.

N is for ... Nonlocality

When two quantum particles are entangled, it can also be said they are “nonlocal”: their physical proximity does not affect the way their quantum states are linked.

C is for ... Cryptography

People have been hiding information in messages for millennia, but the quantum world provides a whole new way to do it.

D is for ... Decoherence

Unless it is carefully isolated, a quantum system will “leak” information into its surroundings. This can destroy delicate states such as superposition and entanglement.

W is for ... Wave-particle duality

It is possible to describe an atom, an electron, or a photon as either a wave or a particle. In reality, they are both: a wave and a particle.

C is for ... Computing

The rules of the quantum world mean that we can process information much faster than is possible using the computers we use now.

O is for ... Objective reality

Niels Bohr, one of the founding fathers of quantum physics, said there is no such thing as objective reality. All we can talk about, he said, is the results of measurements we make.

X is for ... X-ray

In 1923 Arthur Compton shone X-rays onto a block of graphite and found that they bounced off with their energy reduced exactly as would be expected if they were composed of particles colliding with electrons in the graphite. This was the first indication of radiation’s particle-like nature.

F is for ... Free Will

Ideas at the heart of quantum theory, to do with randomness and the character of the molecules that make up the physical matter of our brains, lead some researchers to suggest humans can’t have free will.

P is for ... Planck's Constant

This is one of the universal constants of nature, and relates the energy of a single quantum of radiation to its frequency. It is central to quantum theory and appears in many important formulae, including the Schrödinger Equation.

B is for ... Bose-Einstein Condensate (BEC)

At extremely low temperatures, quantum rules mean that atoms can come together and behave as if they are one giant super-atom.

Y is for ... Young's Double Slit Experiment

In 1801, Thomas Young proved light was a wave, and overthrew Newton’s idea that light was a “corpuscle”.

H is for ... Hidden Variables

One school of thought says that the strangeness of quantum theory can be put down to a lack of information; if we could find the “hidden variables” the mysteries would all go away.

A is for ... Atom

This is the basic building block of matter that creates the world of chemical elements – although it is made up of more fundamental particles.

U is for ... Uncertainty Principle

One of the most famous ideas in science, this declares that it is impossible to know all the physical attributes of a quantum particle or system simultaneously.

G is for ... Gravity

Our best theory of gravity no longer belongs to Isaac Newton. It’s Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity. There’s just one problem: it is incompatible with quantum theory. The effort to tie the two together provides the greatest challenge to physics in the 21st century.

I is for ... Interferometer

Some of the strangest characteristics of quantum theory can be demonstrated by firing a photon into an interferometer: the device’s output is a pattern that can only be explained by the photon passing simultaneously through two widely-separated slits.

E is for ... Entanglement

When two quantum objects interact, the information they contain becomes shared. This can result in a kind of link between them, where an action performed on one will affect the outcome of an action performed on the other. This “entanglement” applies even if the two particles are half a universe apart.

D is for ... Dice

Albert Einstein decided quantum theory couldn’t be right because its reliance on probability means everything is a result of chance. “God doesn’t play dice with the world,” he said.

A is for ... Act of observation

Some people believe this changes everything in the quantum world, even bringing things into existence.

R is for ... Randomness

Unpredictability lies at the heart of quantum mechanics. It bothered Einstein, but it also bothers the Dalai Lama.

H is for ... Hawking Radiation

In 1975, Stephen Hawking showed that the principles of quantum mechanics would mean that a black hole emits a slow stream of particles and would eventually evaporate.

M is for ... Many Worlds Theory

Some researchers think the best way to explain the strange characteristics of the quantum world is to allow that each quantum event creates a new universe.

R is for ... Reality

Since the predictions of quantum theory have been right in every experiment ever done, many researchers think it is the best guide we have to the nature of reality. Unfortunately, that still leaves room for plenty of ideas about what reality really is!

T is for ... Tunnelling

This happens when quantum objects “borrow” energy in order to bypass an obstacle such as a gap in an electrical circuit. It is possible thanks to the uncertainty principle, and enables quantum particles to do things other particles can’t.

W is for ... Wavefunction

The mathematics of quantum theory associates each quantum object with a wavefunction that appears in the Schrödinger equation and gives the probability of finding it in any given state.

L is for ... Large Hadron Collider (LHC)

At CERN in Geneva, Switzerland, this machine is smashing apart particles in order to discover their constituent parts and the quantum laws that govern their behaviour.

Q is for ... Quantum biology

A new and growing field that explores whether many biological processes depend on uniquely quantum processes to work. Under particular scrutiny at the moment are photosynthesis, smell and the navigation of migratory birds.

S is for ... Schrödinger’s Cat

A hypothetical experiment in which a cat kept in a closed box can be alive and dead at the same time – as long as nobody lifts the lid to take a look.

S is for ... Schrödinger Equation

This is the central equation of quantum theory, and describes how any quantum system will behave, and how its observable qualities are likely to manifest in an experiment.

T is for ... Teleportation

Quantum tricks allow a particle to be transported from one location to another without passing through the intervening space – or that’s how it appears. The reality is that the process is more like faxing, where the information held by one particle is written onto a distant particle.

S is for ... Superposition

Quantum objects can exist in two or more states at once: an electron in superposition, for example, can simultaneously move clockwise and anticlockwise around a ring-shaped conductor.

U is for ... Universe

To many researchers, the universe behaves like a gigantic quantum computer that is busy processing all the information it contains.

G is for ... Gluon

These elementary particles hold together the quarks that lie at the heart of matter.

M is for ... Multiverse

Our most successful theories of cosmology suggest that our universe is one of many universes that bubble off from one another. It’s not clear whether it will ever be possible to detect these other universes.

B is for ... Bell's Theorem

In 1964, John Bell came up with a way of testing whether quantum theory was a true reflection of reality. In 1982, the results came in – and the world has never been the same since!