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The Equation

UPPER-INTERMEDIATE Vydáno dne 16.11.2009

Lze matematikou vysvětlit skutečně vše? Na to nám odpoví Brian Davis ve své povídce.

The Equation

Brian Davis



"An equation?"

"Of course! As you said, mathematics IS the 'universal language.' If that's true, even GOD must communicate through mathematics!"

"Well, I agree with the idea of mathematics and science being universal. But the idea of God..." I had to pause a moment, simply to handle the enormity of the idea.

"...Being an equation?"

I apologize in advance - I know that there are many who would take severe offense at the idea. But at the time, it seemed perfectly innocent. I mean, think about it. It's mere speculation, but what an intriguing possibility! The ONLY supreme being that could truly be universal, understood by every intelligent species across the universe, would most likely be mathematical in nature. With no specific physical, mental, or even spiritual form, it would have the infinite flexibility and sheer enormity that would seem necessary to a supreme being.

I never thought I would take this idea seriously. But as I considered it, it grew more and more intriguing. Then it seemed more and more likely. Finally, my curiosity and certainty reached a simultaneous climax that drove me to find this equation.

To this day, I believe that this is true. Worse yet, I know this is true... because, as arduous and cosmically complex as it was, I actually solved the equation.

And I've regretted it ever since.

When I first decided to compute this equation, I worked as a mathematics professor at Stanford University. I possessed, supposedly, the most brilliant mathematical mind in history. Fourier analyses, quantum equations and the like were all fairly simple to me, and complex calculus was a breeze. So when I began work on this equation, it seemed only a little more complex than the most intricate equations found in mathematical history.

Boy, was I wrong. Ridiculously, laughably wrong. For you see, finding the elements of this equation turned out to be far more difficult than I had anticipated. And, as I discovered later, computing and reducing the equation to its most basic form took twice as much time.

At first, I had only the computers and the professors of the University to work with... which, in and of itself, was relatively large. But as time went on, curiosity and intrigue lured hundreds of additional people to the project, as well as several CRAY supercomputers loaned to us by the university. Despite this elite team of mathematical genius, it took our massive crew nine years to find all the elements of the equation.

The equation, in its unreduced form, revealed itself to be the mathematical equivalent of the "Chicken or Egg" question. It filled sixty billion pages of computer text, looping and twisting around itself as if trying to evade those who pursued its answer. Numbers like pi, square roots, sines and cosines, and even imaginary numbers occupied all the key positions in the equation.

So our crew pressed on further. Most of the people involved, however, found the unreduced result absolutely ludicrous, denouncing it as a haphazard mishmash. Obviously, because it followed no apparent string of logic, our deductions had to be wrong. Soon, the equation became little more than a curiosity to most of its researchers, who fled the project in droves. After this "exodus," fewer than seventy mathematicians remained on the project, although five of the CRAYs remained.

Twenty more years would pass before this equation would finally be reduced.

After all that time, after such massive efforts and incredible discoveries, it finally panned out on a Wednesday night in the middle of a frigid winter. Our team had reduced the equation to a single page that night, and had retired to rest up for the monumental discovery of the next day. But I, being as anxious as I was, couldn't wait; I brought a printout of that single page home with me, and worked on it all night.

Several hours and several pots of coffee later, I had it down to one line. Only a few tangents and inertia formulas remained, which seemed easy enough to solve. Fifteen minutes later, I had the answer.

It was wrong! It had to be! But I checked it over five, ten, twenty times, reworked every function and variable. It was right.

The next day, I called the entire staff and told them not to bother with coming to the project site that day, or the next, or ever. We had done it entirely wrong, I told them. The men who had left were right. Most of the mathematicians were furious, demanded that they at least check my answer on the CRAYs before giving up. But I told them that I had checked my answer on them already, had gotten error messages from it. They abandoned the project reluctantly, but trusted my calculations even more than the CRAYs. All of them left believing that we had been wrong from the start.

We hadn't been. To this day, only I know what the true, unifying equation of the universe is... and it is with grave doubts that I reveal this answer to anyone.

Does anyone remember Winston Smith's conversation with O'Brien in the novel 1984? The whole "Does 2+2 equal 4 or 5" debate? Well, I have the answer right here.

According to my calculations... 2+2=5.

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