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A Man of Yet a Few More Words - by Swan Morrison

The Cosmological Constant

On a parallel earth in a parallel universe, far, far away, Sally walked into a laboratory and stood beside Jennifer, who was intently monitoring her computer screen.

‘How’s the simulation going?’ asked Sally.

‘It’s fascinating,’ Jennifer replied. ‘I’ve just run the program for a cosmological constant of 10-122 plus 10-57 %.’

‘That’s so close to the value for this universe,’ noted Sally, ‘that you wouldn’t expect any variation from conditions here.’

‘At a macro scale, that’s right,’ Jennifer agreed. ‘All the obvious physical properties of that universe are the same as ours. All the galaxies are in the same places, for example.’

‘What’s different then?’

‘It seems to be very subtle,’ replied Jennifer, pointing to a graph on her screen. ‘It’s to do with quantum processes at a sub-molecular level in the brains of living creatures – the areas that impact on consciousness.’

Sally pulled up a chair and sat down next to Jennifer. Jennifer was a particularly gifted researcher, as well as being a good friend, and Sally knew that if she had spotted something “fascinating”, then it was likely to be correct and probably more than fascinating. ‘What effect does that have?’ she asked.

‘It causes aggression and self-interest,’ said Jennifer. ‘I know it’s hard to imagine,’ she continued, ‘but humans on the earth in that universe would probably not be very nice to each other.’

‘That would be a pretty weird place to be,’ mused Sally. She visualised the cooperative, sympathetic behaviour of people on their earth and the resulting peace, tranquillity and happiness of all. It was very hard to imagine unkindness. ‘You mean they would occasionally feel a sense of good natured annoyance towards one another in extreme circumstances.’ Sally struggled to link that world view to her own experience.

Jennifer re-checked the output from the biological life form module of the simulation. ‘It seems to indicate that it would take virtually no provocation for them to kill each other!’

Sally spontaneously broke into laughter. ‘I think, Jen, you might have found a hardware glitch or something wrong with the simulation software,’ she said. ‘I’m sure that no value of the cosmological constant could produce behaviour that bizarre.’

‘I’m pretty sure you’re right,’ concurred Jennifer, ‘but we mustn’t ignore crazy results without fully checking them. We’re only human and make mistakes all the time. That’s why we need everyone else to be kind and help to support and advise us.’

‘Anyway,’ said Sally, ‘whatever is causing the program to produce this horrid simulation, it’s certainly creating interesting results. What else does it predict about the behaviour of the poor people inhabiting that awful place?’

Jennifer typed a few commands on her keyboard and looked at the predictions for people on that simulated earth. She burst out laughing. ‘You’re right, Sal, this is silly. It talks about violence, wars, racism, sexism, homophobia, bigotry in the name of religion, greed, massive inequalities of wealth and privilege, starvation. . .’

They both looked at each other, tears of, now hysterical, laughter rolling down their faces.

‘Thank God it can’t be true,’ said Sally. ‘What else?’

‘World leaders, politicians, bankers, newspaper proprietors and just about anyone else in positions of power would generally be corrupt and self-seeking.’

‘Stop,’ pleaded Sally, holding her side due to the pain of a stitch brought on by uncontrollable laughter. ‘If you read any more about this daft earth of yours, I’m going to wet myself.’

Through her tears of laughter, Jennifer focussed sufficiently on the computer screen to close down the program. She took a deep breath to compose herself. ‘I’m starving, shall we go and eat?’

The women left the building, chatting about other events of the day. As they walked to their favourite restaurant there was a short silence during which their eyes briefly met. Both knew immediately that the other was again thinking of the ridiculous simulation results, and they instantly dissolved into hysterics.

Passers-by had no idea what they were laughing about, but their obvious joy contributed further to the habitual happiness and contentment of all who saw them.