Visualization of a quantum knot, multicolored to represent entwined fields

Bear Stew

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It is a curious footnote in the history of science that Sigmar Trevekkian’s greatest discovery, that leap of insight that secured his place among the scientific luminaries and, more importantly, ushered in our current Age of Expansion, was inspired by a trivial incident which so enraged him that in response he dedicated years of his life to carrying out a great criminal enterprise. Human settlement of the galaxy was thus an unforeseen byproduct of Trevekkian’s hunger for revenge.

The incident which set him on the path to both greatness and ignominy occurred one day while Trevekkian sat at a traffic light in Berkeley, unknotting 8-spheres in his head as he waited for the light to change. Wearying of this mental effort, he stopped in mid-knot and happened to notice the car in front of him. It was a small car containing a family of three. The father was driving, the mother was in the front passenger seat, and a little girl bounced happily in the back with a balloon. Trevekkian was not one to feel much familial warmth at the best of times, and he noticed that the car in front of him had a bumper sticker with a sketch of what looked like a Neanderthal, stooped shouldered and thick browed. The caption read:  “Back to the Pleistoscene! Earth Now!”  

Trevekkian’s gorge rose at what he considered the absurdity of calling for a return to the Stone Age on a bumper sticker. He almost rammed the car in front him when, gazing calmly about, the driver hadn’t noticed that the light had changed. “Pterodactyl bait!” Trevekkian yelled out his car window, and he began honking his horn.  A policeman arrived and asked what all the fuss was about. The altercation that followed led to Trevekkian’s arrest on assault charges. The resulting scandal cost him his tenured position at the university, his social standing, and his long-suffering wife, all in one fell swoop.

While in jail Trevekkian had a great deal of time on his hands. Luckily, the prison officials allowed him to continue his research and to access the online physics journals. In a piece of serendipity, he discovered an old article, long forgotten, describing how to construct a time machine using wormholes. At first, Trevekkian laughed at the arrogance of the authors who wrote:  “…assuming, for the moment, that an advanced civilization will develop the capability to construct and manipulate wormholes…we show how to construct a time machine.” By Trevekkian’s era, the problem of wormhole stability had confounded physicists for over a century, so to simply assume its solution as the starting point for an even wilder speculation reminded him of the old joke about the recipe for bear stew which begins: “First, find a bear.” But the more he thought about it, the more he realized that with his new-found solution for unknotting 8-spheres, a prison epiphany, he could make the old time machine idea work.

But during those prison years Trevekkian continued to seethe about the family in the car ahead of him that fateful day, and all the other people like them. He was offended by what he saw as their blithe and unthinking way of stumbling through their lives. The idea of taking some appropriate revenge upon them bore into his brain like a caterpillar worm. This worm of an idea then hibernated, metamorphosed, and finally emerged to spread its dark wings as a fully developed plan.

Fast forward five years. At this point, another in a series of events occurred which make Trevekkian’s life read like a picaresque novel. In any other time period, his wild idea for building a time machine would never have been funded. But the North American empire was beginning to fractionate, and the various military establishments had begun to despair of their ability to project power in the face of declining budgets, manpower, and attention spans. Wild ideas were welcome. So Trevekkian pitched the wormhole concept to US Pentacorp, the privatized remnant of the once mighty US military machine. They bought the scheme largely on Trevekkian’s reputation as a scientist, and they liked his feisty nature. 

The world is familiar with the next part of the story, and the spectacular success of Trevekkian’s invention. The civilian applications would quickly overwhelm and supplant the military ones, leading to the present burst of outward galactic migration in our timeline. But bringing on a spacefaring millennium was never a part of Trevekkian’s plan. He cared little for humanity, after all. So at the same time that US Pentacorp was exploiting Trevekkian to build a hyperspace transport system, he was exploiting them in order to carry out a very secret and personal plan of his own.

Trevekkian labored mightily to build his wormhole time machine. He was often seen on the work site, wild-haired and wild-eyed, gesticulating, cajoling. Finally, the day of first use approached. After five years of fourteen-hour days, hundred-hour weeks, and without a single day off, Trevekkian’s diabolical plan was about to become reality. 

With the flip of a switch the wormhole time machine came into being. And with it Trevekkian sent ten thousand attendees of the annual convention of ‘Earth Now!’ back to the Pleistocene. 

But, in his crazed mental state Trevekkian had forgotten that wormholes do not create new realities, instead they can provide tunnels between existing pasts and futures of parallel worlds. And so, in his hunger for revenge, he sent all those poor people back to another Pleistocene, thereby setting them on the path to the stars a hundred thousand years before our own timeline. Their descendants are now the Time Guardians. And, as we all know, they have very long memories.

Image: David Hall, A quantum knot.

Copyright © Eugene R. Tracy. All rights reserved. If you enjoyed this piece, please share it, while respecting the Terms of Use.


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