A Lesson in the Theory of Everything

first published in takahe magazine

Science, Poetry, Short Read
Gail Ingram | The commuting Book
Gail Ingram

Dec 15   ●  4 min read

At school, we studied the atom
of protons, electrons
and neutrons. Didn’t know of quarks
with seven flavours, an elementary particle
my dear Watson, this concoction
of the proton—the nucleus of it all.

Well, come the eighties,
all particles were seen
as one dimensional strings. One
dimensional—length,
without height or width.

Now a single particle, it looks
like a strange flower crossed
with a jellyfish, and the strings are the rims
of its folded petals, quivering
in multiple dimensions. The flower
it seems, is its own universe,
each rim a trembling string, flowing
and ebbing within, and depending
on the tremolo in our dimension—the third one,
dear Watson—we will see
matter and light and energy.

Or, in other words,
each discrete form of you, me or the
siphonaptera—the flea
is the result
of the vibration of the strings—
like the plucking
of a guitar that creates
distinct musical notes; different strokes,
different folks.

Come the nineties, contra-dictory
theories followed. Are the strings open
or closed? 10 dimensions proposed.
Could it be
we physicists were
exploring the one same thing?

Edward Witten (and others)
said yes,
which lead us to ‘M’.
M is for mother or membrane
or monster or mystery
because Mr Hawkins marvels
through the vibrations in his throat
that this mama of theories can explain everything,
even the concept of strings, those one-dimensional slices
of a two-dimensional membrane, vibrating
in 11-dimensional space. Hell,

what in the microscope would that look like?