Golden streams of energetic photons that had begun their cosmic journey from a star eight light minutes way, shone through the no-pollution curtains into the dark room. The room had plasma lights all over but the occupant preferred to keep it dark except for a small table lamp. The sun had risen and a brand new day had just begun on planet Earth. But things were a bit different for Dr. Gotham. He sat there at his table with papers having weird characters written all over them, strewn about. He furiously scribbled away not even noticing the sunrise. Then a mechanical robot dog beeped somewhere nearby and distracted him from his work. Irritated by the unnecessary interruption, Dr. Gotham got up and went to look for his sole companion to feed (charge) him. As he knelt down to the dog and plugged him, he looked at the calendar. It was the 14th of March, 2023. Oh, well just another day as the cosmos travels through space-time, he thought. But then it struck him. It was one of the most significant days for theoretical physicists. The birthday of the greatest human intellect – Albert Einstein, the father of modern physics, as people knew him today. He went and stood up to his idol’s portrait and murmured a silent “Happy Birthday” to him.
Dr. Gotham had been a brilliant student at school. Not the “average” brilliant student but the real prodigy, he had been fascinated by the wonders of nature as a child. The lofty Himalayas in his hometown and the clear blue rivers, everything had intrigued him. He would ask himself how these things came about. Great intellects, like Newton, Gauss, Lagrange, Lorentz and Bohr had inspired Dr. Gotham since childhood. Finally he took up a career of Theoretical Physics as a professor at the World Centre for Theoretical Physics (WoCenThePh, in short). Often found deep in thought, murmuring to himself, people near him found him eccentric. They often considered him mentally ill. He had recently shifted out to live alone so that he would have no disturbances when he was on his “quest” for that was Dr. Gotham called his work. Materialistic wants was not what Dr. Gotham was after, he did not pine for money, a Ferrari or a villa. All he sought was an equation. Yes, an equation indeed- though it was no ordinary equation. It was the equation of everything: The Grand Unified Theory. The one line (or many lines) that would describe everything from the tiniest grains of sand to the nebulae, black holes and existence of the whole cosmos. Even the genius Einstein had not been able to do what Dr. Gotham was after. So what made Dr. Gotham think he could fulfil Einstein’s legacy? He had wanted to have a go at fulfilling his greatest dream- to unify physics and explain everything in one grand theory. Yet, people like Stephen Hawking, George Penrose and Edward Witten had failed. Quantum Mechanics had followed General Relativity and there was great confusion as to how to unify the two giants. Ed Witten had broken the deadlock with his M-Theory. The future of physics was indeed a bit uncertain.
Dr. Gotham looked sleep-deprived, yet he chose to return to his “quest”. Despite mankind’s advancements into science and technology like landing on Mars, performing cold nuclear fusion and running quantum computers using superconductors, no person on the earth could answer the basic questions regarding our very own existence, the same question to which our ancestors sought answers. After spending three pain-staking years at his “quest” he had come up with nothing much. He had failed and now even the WoCenThePh was thinking of cutting his grants short. He needed inspiration from some divine source that could spur him on for he thought he was just at the verge. Edison once said, “Most people who give up never realize how close they were to success when they gave up”. But quantum mechanics and Relativity seemed to be like the two opposite poles of a magnet that would just not fuse and produce the ultimate theory. Why did the two greatest theories be like the two sides of a coin? They were so vastly different from each other and yet they were entwined in some way to result in the cosmos. It had intrigued Dr. Gotham for long.
After sleepless nights of toil, one morning Dr. Gotham thought a stroll in the park might do him good. He took the paper he was working on and grabbed his UV protection suit and went through his laser door into the megapolis he called home. He walked past ultra-modern houses, and skyscrapers more than a kilometer tall. He saw nuclear powered cars whiz past and wired-up people who just looked like the monotonous robots, without any passion. He pitied such people who had no inspiration, no spirit. They just drudged like drones, leading meaningless lives in the cyberage. Consumerism and materialism had long replaced the human soul. The world was not exactly a happy place to live in. Most countries had grown strong and they constantly competed for whatever little resources Earth still had to offer. New land was as precious as diamonds once were, giving rise to tensions and conflicts.
The park was not on the ground but 50 floors high. He strolled in and sat down on a bench. The park always seemed to emanate positive feelings. Dr. Gotham looked at a beautiful blossoming rose and noticed its intricate petals and patterns. Most of nature’s creations followed something called the “Golden Ratio”. Blue clouds floated above. Someone else would have not noticed anything special about them but the keen scientist noticed that though clouds seemed random and chaotic yet they had some order in that chaos. Everything in nature had a deep underlying elegance that only the most brilliant intellect could notice. Children played around in the park giggling and having fun with no cares or worries to bog down their free spirits. They were the ones who made Dr. Gotham feel relaxed. Suddenly there was a strong gust of wind and the paper he held in his hand flew away. He was tired, yet Dr. Gotham dashed after that piece of paper. It flew under the buoyancy the wind generated for it. The document flew close to a playful girl. She plucked the paper out of the air and began looking at it. Dr. Gotham reached there and asked her, “Hey kid, mind giving me the paper back?” and smiled at the little girl. She smiled back at him and asked him, “What is this?” That is some question, how do I explain it to her what this is, thought Dr. Gotham. “It is a beautiful pattern that I was trying to make out of symbols”, he replied. The girl ran to him and snatched his pen and began scribbling all over the paper. “Wait, stop. Don’t do it” but it was too late. The girl had spoiled all his recent work on his quest. She smiled at him. Innocence can often get you out of tough situations. Dr. Gotham did not have the heart to scold her. “Well, I thought the pattern looks much more beautiful this way,” she said ,and handed the paper back to the scientist. He stared at it and saw what the girl had done. He looked at the girl, annoyed that his work had been spoiled and he would have to spend another sleepless night starting all over again.
Three weeks later, as he was throwing away waste papers, Dr. Gotham noticed something which perplexed him. He picked up the paper the girl had scribbled on from the wastebasket and rushed to his desk. He noticed something new and distinctive about the equations scribbled on the paper. They seemed to tell him something, something he had not thought of. Then he realized it was the paper the girl had “beautified”. He stared at it and then it occurred to him that there was a new way of arranging the variables in the equation that spelt out something previously unnoticed.
His curiosity aroused, he spent the next night at his desk excitedly trying the same procedure on other equations. It worked on some equations of general relativity and quantum mechanics. It seemed to be the link between the two banks of the same river. The banks never meet but now the two theories seemed to gel into one another as if a new bridge had been built to connect the banks. There it was, the greatest scientific moment in the history of the human intellect. It had not been found by people clad in white clothes in gigantic laboratories working with huge accelerators but by a person driven by passion, helped a little by divinity and chance. It was too good to be true, could it be possible? Had his quest finally ended? He had never been so excited in his life. The theory seemed so beautiful, so elegant that it had to be it. After centuries of some of the world’s most brilliant minds chasing it, it had been found.
Dr. Gotham spent the next few months testing the theory in every possible way and threw complex challenges at it yet the theory passed every test and emerged unblemished. Had he fulfilled Einstein’s last wish. Nothing could make Dr. Gotham calm down not even sleep. Yes, he had done it, “Eureka,” he cried, like the great Archimedes once had. So as the cosmos still traveled through the cosmos and photons traveled through space towards earth, only one man knew it all from the tiniest grains of sand to the nebulae, black holes and existence of the whole cosmos. He looked at Einstein’s portrait. The grey-haired genius stared at him with a childish excitement. Dr. Gotham smiled at him, “Your last wish, your legacy has been fulfilled. Man has it now, the ultimate theory”.