The 2nd Big Bang
Near Socorro, New Mexico, Dr. George Downs and Dr. James Wu make their final adjustments to the VLA (Very Large Array), a vast 21 square mile tandem configuration of nearly seven hundred parabolic antennas, each measuring twenty-five meters (82 Feet) in diameter and all combined to function as the largest telescope in the world.
On this day in April of 2035 A.D. astronomers will focus all seven hundred mirrors on a spot in the universe that has been given to them by an obscure scientist whose brain has been removed from his body and placed in an aquarium for experimentation. If his theory holds, what they will ‘see’ or actually record in radio waves only, will be confirmation of what he claims to be the opening minutes of the 2nd Big Bang.
They finally set their sights on the spot in the universe that is 13.7 billion light years away, somewhat like trying to find an individual flower pollen with the naked eye at a distance of a thousand miles away.
In a long time-exposure snap shot of the area, it will take at least three days for all the data to be acquired and then averaged out or smoothed by the computers to render the most accurate account of what the Very Large Array has just gathered.
Dr. Wu is the first to arrive at the central control building in the middle of the array. As he enters through the door to his office, he’s happy to see the first batch of information streaming onto his computer screens.
“No, that’s impossible,” He mutters to himself.
He calls his research partner George Downs who takes the call from his car racing along the dusty road just a mile or two away.
“It’s true, George,” Wu yells into his phone.
“It’s true? What’s true?” Downs replies, pulling over to the side of the road, the rusty red New Mexico dust billowing all over his car, obscuring his view completely.
“He’s right. That old jokester in the tank is right. The second Big Bang. That’s the only explanation for this thing. And it’s headed this way, faster than the speed of light, and it’s huge. Much bigger than the first one got by this time,” Wu tells him, shaking his head, disbelieving his own data.
What he is seeing is simply not possible. Yet there it is right in front of him.
“Are you joking?” Downs asks him.
“No, but I wish I were. Billions upon billions of completely new galaxies all squeezed into the area the size of the head of a pin. Billions more of them exploding out all over the place, every second. Nothing like this has ever been recorded before. You’re aware of that?” Wu replies, quietly.
Dr. Downs, dumbfounded, silently stares up into the sky, slams his vehicle back into motion and continues his journey to the VLA’s central control building.
“Put it through another diagnostic test. We have to be sure before we tell anyone or we could look like a couple of lunatics fucking around with the most expensive instrument in the world,” he says into the phone.
“Don’t worry. Already thought of that,” Wu returns.
‘Imagine - A second Big Bang. That will keep them up at night,’ Downs mutters to himself, knowing he will be one of them..
# # #
Since the day that my brain was removed from my skull, a procedure which removes all considerations for the rest of one’s body, and placed very gently into the world’s first ‘Manaquarium', I entered into a completely new stream of consciousness that I detail for you here, or at least I will try.
At first blush these thoughts appear to be the same kind of thoughts I had when I was alive, or should I say when I possessed a distinct bunch of muscles and bones put together to support my heart, liver, kidney organs, hands and feet, eyes, ears, nose, and so forth, which must in turn take their orders from my brain.
This ‘Wonderama’ of a physical reality like yours made life fairly easy for me to navigate and control. I ate three square meals a day, almost every day. I breathed in the sweet pungent air of my planet. I placed my heels and toes on the solid ground with the right timing to float around like a free bird. I reached out and touched as many of the wonders of the world that were offered to me in my daily travels. I rubbed shoulders and interacted with some of the most beautiful, thoughtful, sentient people and creatures the universe has ever known.
Today, living in the world of pure thought and imagination, I have to rely on memory alone to keep my feet on the ground. I mean that literally. When I recall my childhood and struggle to feel the grass of rural Massachusetts beneath my feet, my heart soars and my imagination flees to the most distant parts of the universe we can behold.
In the middle of my one hundred twenty-five gallon tank, my mushy gray brain-jello floats in a colloidal suspension of olive oil and aloe vera juice and a few probiotics you might find in your morning yogurt, all of which must be replaced daily. The olive oil gives the solution a slightly yellow tint and a wonderful pizza-oven aroma.
My brain’s energy and food is supplied by the vertebral arteries and the internal carotid arteries they left intact and which are now connected to the heart and lung replacement machine known as the ECMO, or ‘ Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation’ machine that once kept heart transplant patients alive for years.
From deep inside the Circle of Willis, the externally replenished blood continues to trickle down in all parts of my cerebrum. I jokingly told the Doctors that their artificial life support made me feel ‘high’ and that without all the normal poisons we feed ourselves, I would certainly outlive them all. They laughed a bit, but soon put together a team of experts who continually probed and stuck me in pursuit of Science. This book is the product of that very challenging but worthy collaboration of them and me.
In one of the first days in the tank, it occurred to me that they should give the oil bath I was floating in a slight electrical charge. They asked me why and I said I didn’t know why. They asked me how much of a charge and I didn’t know the answer to that one either, but suggested that they add a few drops of salt into the tank’s solution and put a cathode at the bottom of the tank and the anode at the top so that electrical current could flow upwards.
I suggested that the one or two volts coming out of the electro-chemical process couldn’t possibly do any harm and might make my brain feel more at home. I thought it might create a nice and homey magnetic field and this might be beneficial somehow, though I never told them that.
Somehow that guess proved to be correct and one of the most important first decisions I made in my new ‘extracorporeal’ state. I should also mention that the only basic change that was made to my environment over the years was to increase the electrical/magnetic field flow first by a factor of 10 times, and in recent years to a factor of 100 times as things got more intense.
Now, you may be wondering at this point in my story how my brain having no connection to a mouth or hands can be verbalizing these thoughts and how they are being recorded.
Well, first of all, you must realize that this wouldn’t be much of an experiment if there was no way of recording my thoughts and dreams inside this type of existence. So, Dr. Marconi, yes the great-great Grandson of the inventor of the radio, Guglielmo Marconi, convinced me months back that he might be able to record my thoughts by connecting about a half dozen electrodes to the language center in my brain, known as Broca’s Area, and/or the lower left cerebral lobe and Wernicke’s area or the ‘Arcuate fasciculus’.
This was done moments before they removed my brain from the skull. To be certain they had the right connections, they were talking to me in my final moments while I still had a body attached and could respond to their probing. Luckily for me, and you, they eventually got it all right.
As soon as they had me situated comfortably in the warm fluid of my ‘Think Tank', they connected the electrodes to a tiny transmitter placed on the side of the tank, which they said uses WiFi to communicate with an AI based computer they had in the back office specially designed to take my thought waves and translate them into the English language. Piece of cake so far, right? I asked if they were using Bluetooth for that, but they just laughed it off, probably because they had something far more secure and effective, I’m sure.
Having no ears, makes the intake of ideas, conversation, other sounds in the room a bit trickier to handle. At first, they told me they had no way to let me know what was going on in my immediate vicinity but when the Internet got word of the experiment and this particular aspect of it, the Medical School of the University of California at Berkeley went into high gear and had their students work on the development of an artificial ear.
They reasoned, quite smartly, that the ear should be the easiest human sense organ to duplicate since it was really just a bunch of tiny hairs vibrating to the waves that sounds make as they travel through the air. It was the translation of these sound waves into the appropriate brain waves that makes the magic of hearing happen.
So, you guessed it, more electrodes were inserted deep into my brain at the auditory cortex found in the temporal lobe under a fissure called the ‘lateral sulcus’. Then, after connecting my speech center to the computer, they attached my new wiring to their artificial ear which was at first, just a garbled and noisy mass of brain stimulation that almost made me crazy. I have no idea what it sounded like, but they said I made something like the most alien kind of growl they had ever heard.
It took a few more tries, but several weeks later, they finally had an artificial ear hooked up that worked well enough for me to hear the words spoken in the room as long as they weren’t whispering as well as other background noises.
My eyesight would come next by hooking up a retina in the form of a very sensitive video camera of around 10 Gigapixels in resolution. This time the electrodes, only about a nanometer in diameter, were inserted into the visual cortex or the occipital lobe of my brain at the extreme back. The other end of these tiny wires were cabled off to the camera which was placed temporarily on a round piece of plastic that was allowed to float on the surface of my colloidal solution. For the time being, I would be able to see things that were directly above my aquarium.
They told me that in a few days they would connect my camera to something like an extendable arm that could be adjusted from time to time by anyone in the room. I asked them to do this as soon as possible because it was annoying to be looking up at the empty ceiling hour by hour, minute by minute. They said they understood and were constantly asking if I needed them to cover the camera so that I could ignore that bit of visual stimulation for a while. Knowing that seeing anything is better than being in the dark, I politely rejected that idea.
The next phase in my new existence was a series of tests to try and quantify just how healthy my brain actually was at the time and how they might be able to maintain the health of the gray matter for years or even decades into the future.
After my Tomography or ‘Pet Scan’ was completed, the next thing they thought of doing to me, was to simply ask me a bunch of silly questions about my physical and mental health and I was instructed to reply with the first thing that came to mind.
One time I tried to gaff them by telling them that I was hungry. I could almost see them gesturing at each other desperately wondering how that could be true since I had no stomach nor any need for one. I even wondered to myself what made me say something so ridiculous.
But then it occurred to me that eating and digestion, even the procurement of food had become such an incredibly ingrained habit throughout my life that the sensation of being hungry was probably embedded deeply into most, if not all of my cerebral areas. I knew I had better get control of it quickly or I could be in serious trouble since tasting food or drink of any kind at this point was totally out of the question, unless of course, I could devise some way around that problem, which I eventually did accomplish.
We’ll talk more about that later. Soon after this series of questions they played some music and asked me to identify the song and the author of it, if I could.
At first, most of the it was inane, dreary, not even music really, more like someone ranting to let off steam. I suspected that they were intentionally trying to find the limits of my thought tolerance in this way.
I remained aloof for the first ten or twenty of these and when they refused to give them any satisfaction. Finally, they gave me what they knew I liked, mostly Beatles tunes, Chuck Berry, some Pink Floyd, Herbie Hancock, the classics like that.
When it came to the Beatles tunes, I could identify every one of them of course and even attempted to sing along. I had no vocal chords of course, but it occurred to me that by bending the shape of my mind in a way that won’t make any sense to you at all, I might at least be able to sing along in a way that also won’t make any sense to you – at least not right now.
Next were the visual acuity tests. They began by holding up photos of people to my camera that were part of my family or friends mixed in with random photos of famous personalities and completely random people.
The first picture they held up was my mother when she was a young woman, my favorite picture in the world, not just because she was one of the greatest beauties of all time, but because she was the greatest influence on my life simply by having me and allowing me entrance into her life the way that all mothers do without any fear, prejudice or equivocation.
When you think about it, Moms actually accept a complete stranger into their lives and commit to love them unconditionally and provide for them for the rest of their lives, no questions asked, come Hell or high water. The greatest miracle of all time is reproduced millions of times a minute, so many times that we simply take each miracle for granted.
“Mother”, I said through the speakers at the other side of the room. I started to tell them more about her, how much she sacrificed for her two sons, how hard she worked, how easily she laughed and joked around, was always happy, never complained about anything or anyone, deciding as a child she would never make enemies, only friends.
They had to cut me off eventually as this was not adding much to my health profile.
The next photo they held up above the tank was the infamous photo of President Donald Trump hosting the White House ‘Summit’ meeting with Russia’s Vladimir Putin, during Trump’s second term as President, Putin’s tenth, and the day that they declared the European Union would be disbanded and replaced by the ‘Union of Soviet and American Republics.’. (USAR)
The E.E.G. machine which measures brain wave activity nearly broke the scale. I couldn’t say anything because I knew I’d have to scream the words loud enough to wake the entire neighborhood and that the speakers would explode under that kind of volume levels and it would destroy their ears. So, I just chilled for a few minutes by recalling the history about how these two lunatics were declawed, marginalized and finally put out to pasture.
After they determined that my senses were all functioning well enough, they told me they were done with the tests and were rewarding me with what I had officially requested and had been granted to me by contract.
They were going to open the roof that night. They told me the sky would be clear and I would be able to gaze up at the stars undisturbed throughout the night. The news made me feel something like warmth even though I had nothing that could feel it. It was more like the memory of what ‘warm’ would or could feel like.
“I’m going home,” I told them.
So, before going any further, I think this is a good point to introduce you to my support team. Officially, I was, and technically still am, the property of the University of California at Berkeley Medical School. I literally donated to the University ownership of my brain with permission to experiment on it under the condition that there would be no pain and they would always prioritize the long term survival of my brain.
Whether that meant ten minutes, ten days, ten years or ten centuries would be an open question. They would put my survival in this basic fundamental state of Consciousness above any other consideration. In the meantime, under this ‘Prime Directive’, as I called it, they were allowed to conduct any experiment on my brain proposed by the Scientific community as long as it might advance our knowledge of Consciousness, where it came from, what kind of energy it consumed and what was its purpose.
I’ve already mentioned Dr. Phillip Marconi, the great-great grandson of the inventor of the Radio, called at the time, the ‘Wireless Telegraph’. Dr. Marconi, whose skilled hands actually removed my brain from my skull, would direct the others as to where, when and how to connect all the electronics leading into and out of my brain. He himself rarely wandered closer than five feet from my Aquarium. It was as if he didn’t want to get too close to his subject.
His staff includes:
Marilyn Jacobs, a double PhD in Robotics and Evolutionary Biology.
Suzanne Quantana, PhD in Human Cognitive Operations.
Eric Zymbalist, PhD in Theoretical Quantum Physics and Chair of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Advanced Physics department.
John Stuart Andersen, PhD in Computer Engineering and author of the standard text book for all first year Computer Science students, ‘Programming the Metaverse’.
Felix Sandoval, PhD in Human Biology with a specialty in brain/computer interfaces.
Each of these main investigators employed various assistants, mostly Graduate students in related fields of study.
I would not learn most of the assistant’s names except for one. Her name was Jane Moressi. She was connected to Doctor Marconi in some mysterious way. I hoped she was not his mistress, as she was perhaps one of the most beautiful women I had ever seen.
Of course, seeing her now through my electronic lenses may have distorted her actual appearance, but somehow to me, she floated around the room in the background, always helping the main investigators in any way she could, but always gesturing in my direction which made me think she was in charge of my physical comfort. This assumption proved to be correct also.
Just after dark, the roof rolled open to reveal a star-filled sky. It was designed to work exactly like a planetarium. But on this particular night, with my enhanced and amplified visual capability, the view was inspirational. It was almost blinding me to observe so many millions of stars blazing away in the heavens all at one time.
With my ultra-high resolution field of view, I could see stars and galaxies that not even the most modern telescopes can resolve. I could fix my gaze at one spot on the sky and do a ten minute or even a ten hour time-lapse view of the sky, without blinking, which gradually allowed me to drill down into the greatest discovery of all time.
# # #
Months later, I would be awarded the Nobel Prize for uncovering the secrets of Dark Matter and Dark Energy, the second Big Bang, plus a whole bunch more related material. I will go into all this in detail later. Of course, this will be the first time in history that they awarded a living brain a Nobel Prize for work done while the brain was without a body to house it.
My acceptance speech would be viewed by over a billion souls, but it would be delivered by someone I loved and admired for decades, someone who inspired me every day to do more and to be a better person, but also a woman who had married someone other than me, three times so far. Her name, or at least her maiden name is Zora English. Even her name drives me crazy.
As she delivers my speech to the world on live television, they have a background video playing on the screen behind her. It’s a very kind and generous documentary of my life about how I wound up in the aquarium and then it explains how I have arranged for my ex-girlfriend to speak my words, saving them from my robotic voice from inside an aquarium.
“I am humbly accepting this greatest of prizes today,” she begins, “not because I need the money or the adulation, but only because I believe the event itself might allow more of the world to recognize and appreciate what is about to happen.”
She pauses dramatically after my opening lines and stares directly into the camera. Her brilliant brown eyes gleam like two great lighthouses in the night. Most of the viewers will estimate correctly that she’s in her mid-seventies. Her dark brown hair, still soft and shoulder length, is graying around the edges. Her figure is still smooth and graceful. Her voice is steady but in a musical manner.
I think it was quite effective to deliver my speech this way and for reasons of credibility, I didn’t want the world to hear this come from a cold, emotionless electronic voice. But when I asked my oldest and dearest friend in my life to deliver the words, I gave it less than a ten percent chance she would accept. Yet, somehow she found it in her somewhere to give me this one last gift. Suddenly I knew that I had been right about her all along. She married those three other guys just to mess with my head - Oh, baby, how it worked.
“Stripped of my physical body and left to float here in my aquarium all alone with nothing but my thoughts to keep me company, I am able to achieve more in this form than at any other time in my life. Therefore, I heartily recommend you all try it someday. It’s really quite relaxing and educational,” she continues and gets the laugh I had intended.
She rolls her eyes at this point and if there was a chair that I could be sitting on, this would have knocked me right off it. The facial expression appears to be an Ad-Lib that speaks volumes about her uncanny, inescapably flirtatious personality. I laughed until I cried, metaphorically speaking of course.
I wondered how many people picked up on this and how many viewers might be as aware of her charms as I was. Being at this advanced stage in her life, it couldn’t be more than a few thousand people who might see her as I saw her. If she were standing here as the very graceful, slender twenty-four year old beauty, I once knew, however, it would be in the millions. No doubt in my mind.
“Most of you have read the accounts of how I am the first of a kind. They portray me as a great pioneer, an explorer of a great new realm of the universe just recently discovered,” she says without looking down.
She’s apparently memorized my speech as I hoped she would. As I watch her performance, I can’t help but wonder what she’s thinking as she speaks my words for me. Is she recalling the day we met and how electric it was?
“In describing this experiment, they like to use words like ‘brave’ and ‘courageous’ and ‘daring’, but I am none of these things. I merely ran out of time. My body had begun to deteriorate to the point where I knew every day would be harder and harder for me to exist and get good work done. So, when the University let me know that they had developed this technology and were looking for volunteers I jumped at the chance to live a completely new life, a kind of rebirth. I believe any of you out there would have made the same decision,” she continues.
I’m wondering if she ever gave the same kind of bliss to the other three husbands that she gave to me? In the most ridiculously stupid kind of unselfish way, I hope she did.
I’m struck with her manner, her pacing, her tone of voice as if she’s creating each word that she speaks, and it makes me recall the magical feelings I had when I was lucky enough to be with her.
“I also want to thank the Nobel Committee for honoring my work for two years in a row, an unprecedented endowment. Last year, they gave me the Prize for my discovery of the Three Laws of Consciousness and this year it was given for my mathematical formula that proved them,” she continues.
Though I can’t be near her physically, I feel closer to her than I ever knew when we were young and passionate lovers. I hear in her voice, the same trembling and delicate creature who called me on the phone and invited me to dinner one glorious and happy day. Everything changed for me after that historic and unprecedented phone call and I mean everything.
I look back up at the starlit sky above my tank and give thanks to the power and majesty of whatever it is that makes me feel this way. In the background, I can hear Zora summing up the speech that I wrote for her and which she has faithfully followed, without improvising, from the start.
“My life,” she concludes, “has been the most powerful proof at least for me, and hopefully for some of my readers, that there truly is a singular and superior force out there, something our predecessors wanted to call ‘God’, but which is a force far stronger, more ubiquitous and far more effective than any God can ever hope to be.”
She pauses here as I instructed her to do and looks directly into the camera for several long agonizing moments. I had advised her to make this moment appear like she had lost the words or something. I said that it was her moment as well as mine and I wanted her to look around the room and appreciate the moment as something special that was given to both of us to enjoy forever.
As I lay there in my tank, the roof open to the stars, my mind stretched out to the outer reaches of the universe, listening to her singing my words to the world, I begin to hear a kind of crackling of space and time bubbling over the horizon of the universe and racing toward us at a record breaking speed. What the Hell is that?
I’m also expecting that she will bring it all home with the final wisps of gratitude and humility that I had written for her. So, imagine the shock to my brain and missing body when she goes off my script and starts talking about something that she apparently thinks more important than what I had written.
“I have to tell you that I was involved with this man romantically when I was a young woman just having graduated from college. I was too young, timid and inexperienced to see in him what he saw in me and so I gave him notice one day without warning that I would be leaving him. I had simply made up my mind to leave him and look elsewhere for my true love,” she says, quietly, yet profoundly dignified.
I had no idea what she would say next, but it paled in comparison to what I saw coming directly toward us from the middle of the sky.
“I knew that I was going to tear his heart out and that it would nearly kill him, yet I did it anyway,” she adds, bravely.
She takes a few seconds to take a handkerchief from her shirt pocket and swipe at the moisture falling down along her soft celestial cheeks.
“If there is anyone in this world who deserves the Nobel Prize, it’s my dearest Hank . . .
“I thank you,” she says, bowing, barely audible.
She turns away from the podium and slowly walks away. I can hear the click of her heels as she makes her way across the stage and receives the medal and the formal greeting from the King of Sweden as is the custom.
The room is dead silent. The entire planet is peaceful for a long moment. I’m numb from the sledgehammer admission of how she killed me.
Then, suddenly thunderous applause explodes from the room and echoes all around the world. The audience stands up and continues their applause for almost as long as the speech lasted. They say it was the longest applause for any Nobel Prize acceptance speech ever.
“Maybe it’s part of the impact of the second Big Bang,” I suggest to myself.
‘No, couldn’t be. Could it?’ I wonder.