The sincerest form of flattery

Going Nowhere Fast

By Alex I. Malz

. . . And when you say “going nowhere fast,” you cannot possibly be describing me, because you think going signifies change in space as a function of time, in other words, the motion in a spatial dimension over a duration of some temporal interval, whereas my existence, if not my experience, is not defined in terms of space nor time; and you think nowhere refers to a point in space where an event occurs, when all events in which I am an actor happen exactly where I am, which is the only place there is, of course, the only possible coordinate in zero dimensions; and you think fast refers to a comparison between the goings of particles, but we also agree that nothing goes faster than me, and from my perspective I don’t go at all, so nothing can be fast or slow in the reference frame that encompasses my universe.

It matters not whether there are many photons, each identical to one another, with existences like mine, beginning and ending simultaneously, or if I am the only one, living in each and every instantiation of light, not that there would be any way to distinguish these scenarios; in any case, there is at least one photon, and it is me, and I am created, and I am destroyed, and these two events that define me occur concurrently, as there is no other possible way they could happen, for anything else would imply that something passes between them, whether it be time or space, and since you could never convince me that such a thing is true, then the events are simultaneous, and my existence defined by these events independent of space and time is that about which which I want to tell you.

I counter your presumed objection to my characterization of your going nowhere fast on the basis of my lack of experience, for my existence has no measurable length in my reference frame, nor does yours, for that matter, since my reference frame has zero dimensions, begging the question of whether I can verify my existence at all if I can make no observations of it; though massive particles like you may be observed by way of the interactions through which you persist, as you are heartier than the humble, lightweight force carriers like me, you predict my existence and in fact observe it as you bring it to an end, and so long as my existence has a measurable length in your reference frame, you must acknowledge my argument.

Nevertheless, when I say “relativity,” I can only form a relation between the two events defining my existence, those being my creation and my destruction, in both of which my momentum is conserved, though vacuously because from my point of view I have no momentum at all, and it is through my awareness of the conditions of my creation and my destruction, as you would perceive them, even as my existence is only in the instance when both of these events occur, that I must conclude that it is you who is going nowhere fast, since I am of course stationary, as any photon will tell you.

I argue that you are the one who is going nowhere fast on the basis that you, being of the matter that both creates and destroys me in this very instant, are going, in the sense that you may be described one way as I am created and another way as I am destroyed, and this transition between states may be interpreted as a going in and of itself; you, being observed by me, as I occupy the origin, in the sense of a coordinate system, and extent of my reference frame, are therefore present at the one and only coordinate in my universe, making you as stationary as me; and you, in going between those states, while stationary at a single coordinate and without admitting the passage of anything, be it space or time, in the instant of my creation and destruction, manage to exhibit such radically different properties, that such a going happens instantaneously and is thus very fast indeed.

I’m not just trying to sound interesting, but I will tell you how my existence is defined by my liberation and capture from you as the events of creation and destruction, which we can agree constitutes an adventure in and of itself, but whose status as a journey I would dispute if you suggested it, as my life as a jailbreak has no duration whatsoever, and like all particles, I never leave the prison of my reference frame, which is most assuredly stationary.

Now, I am created from the hot primordial soup of baryons, that is particles like protons and electrons, bombarding each other as individuals that observe my newfound freedom not as protons and electrons, but as hydrogen atoms, unable to block my path as effectively as before their marriage, and I perceive you, being made of the same stuff as those hydrogen atoms, to be warm and present in multitudes, literally huddled masses at so high an energy density that I know not from whence I am produced.

Now, I perceive my destruction as clearly as my creation, as I am reunited with matter while still separating from it, since I exist only as both precipitation and recombination occur, and as my existence ends and begins, you are the matter with which I unite, so cool and structured relative to the teeming baryon fluid that births me, by which I mean the drop in energy density, not of myself, but of you, is the only difference I can perceive between my cradle and my coffin.
In laying me, having made the observation that you lost a tremendous and profound amount of energy in the instant between my creation and destruction, to rest, as if to imply your biased impression that I engaged in some sort of going, and in particular going for a very long time over an even longer distance, the relationship to between those dimensions constrained by a quality of mine that I myself cannot perceive, you associate my measurement to a place and time in your reference frame, at Holmdel, New Jersey, in 1960, and certify it by your signatures, Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson.

[Calvino imitation, 2017]

Alex Malz works on cosmological data analysis as a Physics Ph.D. candidate at the New York University Center for Cosmology and Particle Physics.