Monday, September 28, 2009

99. Einsteinium


The Dark Lady of the Equations

Shakespeare had his dark lady of the sonnets, that mysterious muse after whom he yearned hopelessly and who spurred his finest efforts. So too with Einstein.

Look! Look! at his equations. Those are not dry and unemotional lines of mathematical symbols, but passionate stanzas of desire. They dance! They sing! They are his sonnets, written in the language of Creation and addressed to her for whom he longed.

Who was she? Who was this woman for whom he wrote that gravitation is not a force but a curved field in the space-time continuum caused by the presence of mass? What dangerous beauty made him declare that time and motion are found to be relative to the observer?

Nobody knows. The title of Einstein's paper laying out his special theory of relativity, "On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies," has led many a romantic to conclude that their love was consummated. Certainly it would be nice to think so. But that ignores the tragic implications of his theory, in which objects are forever receding, forever approaching the speed of light, forever falling, forever rising, and yet never arriving. Mass and energy may be interchangeable, but there is no evidence in Einstein's life that they ever did.

Einstein spent his last decades working on a unified field theory which most physicists think was proved unattainable by quantum theory. Scholars read this as an attempt by an aging man to bridge the uncrossable gap in space-time that lay between himself and the distant sylph he had loved when he was young.

It's a sad tale.

But it is recorded that either shortly before or shortly after he died, Einstein had a dream. In this dream she came to him at last, his dark lady of the equations, in a time before time and a place before space. Beauty laid bare, she lay down and drew him to her. Her eyes were filled with love. She spread herself open and took him within her, and when their flesh touched, matter was converted to energy. All in an instant, their passion exploded.

In an unimaginable blaze of glory, the universe was born.

© 2002 by Michael Swanwick and SCIFI.COM.

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