I believe the world can be reduced to a few, simple physical principles. I don’t have the proof, nor am I seeking it. I could probably argue my way and just point to science and say looky here: there’s the answer somewhere. And then I can probably probe further as a good scientist at heart, a bad one in his mind, and say looky here: it’s all physics in the end. And then I’d be forced to grumble on with less enthusiasm – a testament that I was still a naïve, half-fulfilled scientist – that physics is just math, math is just logic, and logic just is. And then I’d stop, scratch my head as a scientist is supposed to do, and say looky here: that’s all there is. And in it, there’d be one premise, two premises, a conclusion, and the world.
But I won’t. In my writing, I’d argue I do quite the opposite of reasonable simplification. I waffle around for paragraphs saying things that can be reduced in a sentence. For example: this introduction.
What makes me write to you now is not certainty then; at least this much I’m certain of. Instead, it is a feeling soaked in unknown and a belief that the complexity we wade through daily can be understood and directed in a simple mechanism.
There is an equation we both know quite intimately that illustrates this: It is the universal law of gravitation, one discovered in the flickering romance of candles and soft scribbling of quills. In a sentence, it means that when things grow apart, they are less attracted to one another.
Tomorrow, we will be taking steps that may provide future experimental evidence. You might go off to Toronto, doing things that even a theoretical physicist might gap at in wonderment. And I might be doing things too, though I’m sure Heisenberg wouldn’t put too much money on it. And in between we’d be living, doing, acting, feeling, loving, fighting, kissing, fighting again, not feeling, wondering, still not feeling, and moving, then further, then further still.
Then, one day, we might be apart. I’m not sure how it would happen, and I can’t think of a scenario where such a cataclysm would erupt, but it’s possible. Electrons may find themselves the other side of the Universe. A near impossible quantized energy gap, but an energy gap nonetheless.
Exciting stuff, at least for the electron that is. Not so much for us.
If something does occur, though, I want you to remember one thing: the universal law of gravitation. It may not mean much: it is just some cold, inane formula that illustrates a fundamental aspect of nature after all. The memory of it is programmed to a tango of numbers, variables and constants. There’s an input and an output. Then, another question, another formula.
But for a second when you’re passing onto another question, working out some other puzzle or problem, I want you to remember what that equation represents – gravitation. While it is true that distance decreases attraction, remember that there is still attraction. It may be faint. It may be miniscule, almost zero even.
But it will never be; there will always be something there.
And maybe that’ll be enough for you to think of me or I to think of you or both of us to stop our busy, future lives, scratch our heads one more time because once a scientist told us to do that and we are trying our best to think scientifically, even if it is half-hearted, and wonder what the other person is doing, where they are going, how are they doing, do they still kiss softly, fuck loudly, laugh stupidly, are they finally eating healthy, do they still play squash, have more confidence, are they writing, is it sunny where they are, and are they happy.
I don’t know the answers to these questions. As I said, this letter was written in uncertainty. But I do have the belief in simple equations that can describe a whole lot more, and I’d like to believe that my answer will be found in the numbers, the memories, and the physical reality of your body’s gravity pressing onto mine, if only for a little while.