Carry the One
By Lou J Berger
The Professor glared at his students. Yet another class of eager, fresh-faced children, each convinced that they had the skills to craft a Universe somehow different from any created before.
“Your final assignment is simple.” He took a moment to look each student in the eye. “You must build a unique Universe, using whatever base laws you deem valid.”
One student, the class sycophant, raised her hand.
The Professor managed not to roll his eyes in disdain. “Yes, Mortimer?”
Mortimer leapt to her feet, face beaming with inner radiance. “Thank you, Professor. Do you have a preferred subset of the base laws? One that would please you, personally?”
“Mortimer, you pose an interesting question. The short answer is no, I have no preferred subset of base laws. In fact,” he paused, lifting a forefinger for emphasis. “You each might consider using rarely-used base laws. Who knows what form your Universe might take, given the multi-variant possibilities?”
A hand rose in the back row.
The Professor barely managed to hide his shock. It was Bernie, the pathetic student whose work was consistently fraught with mathematical errors. “Yes, Bernie?”
Bernie stood and cleared his throat. “Will there be extra credit possible?”
That was a good question. Bernie needed a top grade on this final assignment just to pass the class. The Professor inclined his head. “Yes, Bernie. If any student in this class can create a Universe, a stable one, with photonic luminescence . . . I will give them top marks. So far, it’s proved elusive.”
Bernie grinned, his face glowing. “Thank you, Professor!” He sat down and began jotting down base laws he wanted to use.
After class, when the students had all been dismissed, Bernie approached the desk. It was the first time he’d done so, all semester. “Yes, Bernie?”
“May I use the lab, professor?” Bernie’s entire body pulsed with lambent energy, discrete quanta radiating in a variety of electromagnetic emissions.
Bernie left a faint trail of stardust as he bolted from the room.
On the last day of class, each student sat with their final projects in front of them. None were glowing. The Professor, always optimistic, felt dejected. Thirty years of teaching, not a single student had managed to crack the magical combination of base laws that would permit photonic luminescence. He sighed and began grading.
The sycophant, Mortimer, was first of course. She stood when the Professor approached, presented her list of base laws, and activated the Universe. They watched as it sprang to life, dark matter coalescing into linked pools of inky darkness, swirling into and through each other.
The Professor made a mark in his grade book. “Very nice,” he murmured.
Mortimer beamed, filling the room with rays of light.
Each student, in turn, received a grade and an encouraging word from the Professor. Finally, it was Bernie’s turn. The Professor steeled himself and approached Bernie’s desk.
“What have you brought for me, Bernie?”
Bernie shrugged, and presented his list of base laws. The Professor glanced down the list, then hesitated. Something was wrong. He peered more intently at the list, read it again, and then cleared his throat.
“You have four hundred base laws in this Universe?”
The Professor frowned. “There is a physical limit of only three hundred base laws. How did you manage to incorporate an extra hundred?”
“Oh, I folded them!” Bernie’s voice thrummed with pride.
“Yes, through an extra dimension.” Bernie peered up at the Professor. “You know, so that they would all fit.”
“But that’s impossible.”
“No it isn’t,” said Bernie, irritated. “You just have to not carry the one.”
“If you carry the one, in the mathematical model, there is a physical limitation on the base laws. I chose not to carry the one.”
The Professor sighed. “You can’t . . . “. He took a deep breath, let it out slowly. “Fine. Activate your Universe, please.”
Bernie frowned. “Um, with four hundred base laws, I can’t start it in the traditional manner. I have to trigger its inception with sound energy, to create a cascade effect through the time-space fabric . . .”
The Professor grew irritable. “For heaven’s sake, Bernie, just start the damned thing!”
“Sorry, Professor.” Bernie cradled the Universe in his hands and then bent forward until his lips brushed his Universe’s zero-point. He drew in a deep breath, and then spoke.
“Let there be LIGHT!”
Bernie’s Universe glowed.