Padratheleon’s Ghosts

Les Sklaroff

"You can have too much minimalism, you know"
Gil Williamson

“He still looks crabby.”

“Brawk from Research says that’s one of his three natural expressions: basically, preoccupied, sullen and unconvinced. According to Brawk it’s difficult to distinguish one from the others.”

“These quizzicists are trained to be sceptical, I suppose.”

“He usually avoids interviews. I wonder what made him agree to this one.”

“You mean apart from Tessany’s charm and good looks?”

“And considerable skill. You have to admit she’s damn good at her job.”

“I know. I see the ratings. She’s irreplaceable.”

“Let’s hope she can get him to explain… hang on, I think Twilene’s finished with him. We’re about to go live.”

Twilene Moach from Cosmetics had indeed completed her emollient ministrations and had

packed away her array of brushes and powders, leaving her latest subject looking, under her expert camouflage, unthreateningly stoical.

Tessany Flume flashed him a reassuring smile, and turned to the quietly hovering camera.

“Hello again. Well, I hope you all enjoyed as much as I did those nostalgic tales of the stage from Trafford Croles. I’m Tessany Flume, and I’m delighted to introduce as my next guest this evening a distinguished scientist, a quizzicist greatly respected by his peers, but by the very nature of his work, perhaps less well-known to you at home: Professor Sivid Padratheleon. Welcome, Professor, and thank you for joining me on ‘Tessa’s Guests’.”

“Pleased to be here,” murmured Padratheleon, as sincerely as his temperament would allow.

“Now, a few background details for our viewers. You are currently the Heliard Professor of Theoretical Quizzics at Platport University. And your wife Preen, also a mathematician, has turned to sculpture…?

“She constructs intersecting lattices, yes.”

The muscles around his mouth flexed into what may have been smile, but it was not easy to tell whether he regarded this arcane pursuit with secret pride, or even approval.

“And I believe your daughter is a choreographer?”

“She dances, yes.”

Sensing that he was growing impatient, Tessany Flume decided to move on swiftly.

“I’m told that you have formulated a theory which you say is of major importance to our understanding of the universe.”

“That is corrrect.”

“And if I might paraphrase one of your colleagues, this theory is so… bold and innovative that it opens up a totally new area of science.”

“Indeed so.”

“Would it be possible, Professor, for the benefit of those of us less familiar with advanced mathematics, for you to give us an insight into your thinking, in terms that the general public might understand?”

“Probably not.”

“But Pr...”

“But I will try.” The craggy face contrived to display tolerant amusement, without conspicuous success.

“Quizzicists are concerned with the nature and properties of matter and energy. Significant advances in our understanding occur as the result of a process of continuous questioning, which of course is why the subject is known as Quizzics. Keeping an open mind is not easy. It is a facility too often lost after childhood, and particularly difficult to recover once we have been indoctrinated with a traditionally piecemeal system of knowledge. However, as a theoretician I have found it more pertinent to question our basic assumptions, rather than squabble over additions to a structure whose foundations we have only assumed to be unshakable.”

Tessany Flume knew better than to interrupt a guest in full flow.

“There are limits to what we can observe, even though we have devised increasingly sensitive instruments to extend the reach of our senses, but mathematics provides us with tools that can transcend these limits, exploring regions which would otherwise be inaccessible. I am speaking here of the very stuff of which the universe is composed. My equations indicate the existence of a set of unimaginably small.… what for the sake of simplicity I shall describe as particles, which bind and permeate everything.”

“That’s extraordinary, Professor. You say unimaginably small. Does that mean there would be no way of actually confirming the existence of these.. particles, other than mathematically?”

“I am not an engineer. It may be possible in future to develop some kind of sophisticated apparatus by means of which one or more of the set of ‘particles’ may be detected, most likely by inference, provided that sufficiently controlled conditions could be achieved. They exist on a scale and in a realm utterly invisible to us, ghostly presences underpinning the whole of our reality. Of all fields of scientific study I think this must qualify as the most fundamental.”

“Then may I ask you, as the pioneer in this field, what we are to call it?”

“You may call it whatever you wish, Miss Flume.”

“That’s commendably modest of you, Professor, but surely such a major advance deserves to be given a name by its discoverer.”

He frowned, considering the implications of letting others – perhaps ill-informed detractors, suggest something flippant or totally inappropriate. The corners of Professor Padratheleon’s mouth again twitched imperceptibly.

“Well, until my conjectures can be verifed experimentally…”

Padrathelion closed his eyes, focussing on the equations which drove his haunting subatomic vision of an infinite seething field of what, from a certain perspective, might seem to be intersecting lattices.

“I suppose it would have to be ‘Phantom Quizzics’.”

© Les Sklaroff 2017 All Rights Reserved

Date and time of last update 10:50 Thu 24 Aug 2017
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