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First pages

The blackboard duster flew, awkwardly somersaulting through the moist classroom air finally thumping into the left side of the new pupil’s temple.  Not a direct hit but not one the relief teacher, a proud native of Sri Lanka, was unhappy with either. The Indian student, still acclimatising to his new academic surroundings, had not expected such retribution for merely correctly correcting, on the subject of infinity too, his all-time favourite. That paragon of paradox!  He wisely abandoned any idea of mathematically developing his point.

Behind Anoop, his pimply peers flinched in a wave of school-shirts avoiding the classroom projectile and the very real threat of more to come, all praying for a limit to Miss Fernando’s vengeance. School, a place where doting mothers were left behind at first bell!

It was late afternoon and the tattered, pull-down window blinds were fastened taut to their maximum, the room subdued in an eerily, crepuscular light.  A number of errant beams of sunlight intruded, fractured by the edges of the window panes into skewed Fraunhofer lines.  Twinkling dust-flakes fluttered in and out of the sight-line, like quanta.  The heat pressed oppressively on sticky clothes, the pupil’s bushy eyebrows arresting forehead sweat which, every so often, trickled down their cheeks into wiping territory.

Anoop was accustomed to playground squabbles, he accepted them as part of the inevitable growing-up process where normal schoolchildren get to torture, by right of passage, the subjugated demographics of the know-alls and the short. His father’s family’s, gangly genes exempted him from the latter whilst over-qualifying him for the former. 

In more modern times there was a third category, the sporting-inept, to which he was indeed a willingly conscript.  He despaired at his classmates’ undying obsession with the bat and ball, to Anoop, cricket was just a game and Bollywood little more than noisy dancing. His only interests in life were cosmology, particle physics and pure DNA research and proving a causal relationship between all three which he instinctively knew existed, had to exist. How could it not? DNA, after all, was made up, like everything else, of jittering, over-energetic quarks.

He once read that Dirac relied on gut-instinct as much as he did good science, this didn’t sit well with Anoop and he felt a little disappointed that Dirac should make such an obviously emotional statement. Anoop never stopped questioning the universe and its components and out of what components, those components came from, all the way back to a time when there had to be ‘complete nothing’.  He accepted that modern day cosmology could account, in some fashion, for everything following the first trillionth, trillionth, trillionth of a second after the Big Bang before which, the mathematics breaks down.  Infinity resides there, again and again.  He believed in re-occurring inflation and the inflation field arresting it time and time.  Our universe had inflated like one bubble in a pond of bubbling universes.  We were growing less and less special as a race.

So when is one of the Gods of the terrestrial religions going to come out from beneath burning bushes and talking rocks and confuse us further with the answer? Tell us the whole truth and nothing but the truth, for once.  Quantum Entanglement, if not God, is Godly.

Patterns came easily to Anoop, from combinatorics to topology, it didn't matter, there wasn’t a process he just saw it.  When Anoop was a small boy he would take his mother's talcum powder from her ornate chest-of-drawers, the family heirloom, (he asked permission first) and carefully smoothed out a sun-sized, chalky semi-sphere in the middle of the largest dark blanket he could find.  He would summon his parents and the three of them, under Anoop's choreography, would carefully lift the ends of the blanket taking great care to keep the powdery sun circularly intact and on the count of three, move inwards, like Morris dancers, and then with all their strength they would pull the blanket tight and immediately lay it flat on the floor capturing the falling trajectories of all of the talcum flakes, vis-à-vis solar systems.  He called it, The Big Talcum Bang. 

He explained to his parents that the force he and his parents imparted by pulling the blanket out sharply was equivalent to Dark Energy and the initial extent state of the droop in the blanket, dark matter. Gravity was the same in both universes, this analogy appealed greatly to Anoop as gravity was always his favourite fundamental force.  It wasn’t even a force, in the strictest sense of the word, it was just a droop in the curvature of space-time.

‘Yes son but why do we have to do it in the dark?’

‘Mama it would have been dark at the beginning of the universe.  That is like turning the light on to see how dark it was!’  This particular recreation of the universe was completely ruined when Anoop’s father dropped his end of the blanket laughing!

He would experiment continuously and document the results, fascinated that no two talcum-verses were ever the same.  His mother kissed the top of his head and laughed that he must be the only boy on the planet with talcum powder all over his hair, not to mention, bedroom walls.  Over time he varied the room temperature, pulled the blanket at different forces, different heights, different amounts of talcum powder all the while fastidiously documenting the results.  He learnt about cause and effect, pattern correlation, the universal physics of momentum, revelling in the fact that the very same Newtonian forces that were applied to each particle of talcum powder were exactly the same forces that accounted for the retreating galaxies that littered the night sky with their redness.  

Anoop’s father spoke about his son’s activities at work and a colleague mentioned the name of Isaac Newton and the profundity of the Newtonian laws of motion.  ‘Newtonian, Newtonian’ Anoop mouthed the name reverently, somehow the name was right, it was the right name, like naming a newly discovered element like testing animal pet names until the right one rises above the others.  Within a week Anoop had mastered the vagaries of velocity, acceleration, spatial vectors and in the second week was beginning to question them.

‘You really shouldn’t read and eat rice at the same time’ chided his mother but not too discouragingly. He lifted his eyes and stared distantly his rice and book-page, cold.  ‘Dirac, Dirac’ there would be no doubt now!

One starry night, his father sat with him on the roof of their house and pointed out the constellations to Anoop with stories about hunters and oxen.  With an exasperated frown, Anoop asked his father to skip the silly stories about cattle and water-bearers, whatever a water-bearer might be, the galaxies have nothing to do with that one and were far more interesting anyway.  They smiled together, and Anoop hugged his father to let him know that it was alright, alright not to fully understand his son.  They sat silently knowing that some of the joys of childhood had left them, left them at such a young age!.

He was quite certain that musical notes were quantumly entangled, corresponding with other specific musical notes attesting for the human affinity for harmony.  More than that, musical notes were entangled with the spiritual side of a person’s aura and with animals, botanical species and stars, yes stars.  Plants could feel the music, just couldn’t applaud. It made perfect sense to him, it couldn’t be any other way.  It couldn’t be any other way!. 

Every human being in the world spoke essentially at the same frequency and tempo when they were hysterical or when they were sad.  If there is not an empirical link, then harmony and rhythm would have to be interracial piano-key coincidences! Unlikely!

As an experiment, Anoop assigned a musical note-combination to each letter of the alphabet and started ‘playing’ people’s names, he found that any causal link was very tenuous.  He required more source data.  He catalogued the early works of Adolf Hitler, Mahatma Ghandi, Srinivasa Ramanujan and Rabindranath Tagore set them to music and plotted the datasets to uncover any patterns and sure enough they were there, clearly for all to see, for all who wanted to see, for all who could see!

He started cataloguing people he knew to be good or bad, people who cared for others and people who didn’t.  He would memorise every word and intonation from their conversations, dashing home, repeating the phrases in his mind careful not to transpose, recollecting the intonation and tempo, documenting the dataset on his bulging spreadsheets.  Sourcing good data was relatively easy but to record bad data he had to speak to the school-bully or visit the unsavoury parts of town. ‘What are you staring at you piece of shit?  Do you want me to come over there and beat the shit out of you?  Your mother is a whore!’ Anoop found that he could remember the dialogue more clearly if he didn’t speak himself, unfortunately this led to communication confusion even with the good.  The wise Pujari would wait patiently for Anoop to reply to his questions but all Anoop ever did was to stare back at him blankly, his lips mumbling ever so slightly.

At the age of nine he was studying the WMAP image which looked sinisterly like one of his early talcum-verses.  He was absorbed by the inky, eggy blob, a heat-imbalanced fossil in the initial spatial state of the universe.  There was a frightening quality to the cosmic microwave background maybe the universe itself was frightened?  Frightened of what? Frightened of God?

For Anoop, scientific developments in DNA was taking his research to whole new heights and directions.  Blood and skin were, after all, baryonic matter composed of subatomic particles which existed, co-existed and non-existed, here, there and nowhere. He fundamentally believed in an inter-connectedness between particle physics and DNA.  The neural entanglement dream!  There are just as many quarks in ‘dead’ skin as living, breathing skin and they continued to squirm like sperm even while the priest chants the ‘ashes to ashes, dust to dust’ bit. Quarks rummaging around in muddy graves.  He would need more than talcum powder to solve this!

The classroom consensus was that it was convenient, but unfair, to place all the blame with the teaching staff for Anoop’s recurrent classroom woes.  It was unheard of and, more to the point, downright disrespectful in conservative Colombo for a pupil to ‘pull-up’ a teacher. Challenging the academically-unchallengeable!  Anoop’s first full month at school provided a portent of confrontations to come. ‘It is not so, simply because a teacher says it is so!’ he had confided to a few of his half-listening classmates, unbalanced by their heavy satchels, loitering after class thumbing their phones waiting for the car screechers to return. ‘We should question their assumptions and conclusions just as we should question religious doctrine and science, we are at school to be taught, to experience, not to blindly conform. A reconnoitring Miss Fernando dwelt within earshot, she heard the didactic profanity clearly.  Miss Fernando was a woman who prided herself on not missing much! She remained silent, licked the whittled end of her pencil lead and in her slow, scribbly handwriting jotted down a few lines under the heading ‘Student Anoop Rajan’ her angry expression for once missing replaced by a self-satisfied smirk.

To be fair, his Sri Lankan schoolmates had been receptive, even welcoming, to Anoop.  They listened to his enthusiastic account of the true beginning of existence, of a space-time where only subatomic particles existed, whizzing around at the scorching speed of light. No physical matter, mass or weight existed.  Enter the Higgs Field and its force carrier the Higgs Boson, the deity of all force carriers.  He spoke of the inevitability of time travel, wave particle duality and super-positioning or as he dumbed it down to, the very real prospect of being in multiple places at once.  The very thought of playing cricket while their other zombie-halves listened to Miss Fernando was enough for them to encourage Anoop to ‘get on with it’.  Most called him arrogant, he didn’t object, except to say that that wouldn’t be the word he would use.

Were all Indian teenage students this clever? They had not questioned their parents’ assertions that it was, in actual fact, Sri Lankans who made the best students. His classmates revelled in their revenge when he was ‘stumped’ by elementary questions on cricket restoring a somewhat truant sense of equilibrium.  Oh how they sniggered ‘but everybody knows what team Sachin plays for in the IPL’.  Each letter I, P, L spat out like broken teeth.  Anoop suggested that, evidently, not everybody did.  He had a fair idea but didn’t want to be wrong, not even on such a silly topic as cricket.  ‘You stupid fool, and you are from Mumbai’ they reminded him as though Anoop’s very heritage had been fatally compromised. The truth was Anoop knew as little about Sachin Tendulkar as they did about Arthur C. Clarke, a person who their parents no doubt still revered.  Arthur C. adored his adopted land and promised to never leave Sri Lanka and he never did, even after his non-quantum death!

Their temporary relief teacher Miss Fernando was in a foul temper, she leant forward and rocked on teacher’s desk with her fists hinging back and forth like a distressed primate. The children’s secondary education, secondary!

Anoop fixed his gaze on the dark wave patterns that streamed across his wooden school desk frightened like electro-magnetism.  He had a large hooked nose and high forehead, his tight curly black hair oiled back in dark waves, he was tall and gangly for his age.  He avoided Miss Fernando’s peremptory stare, her nose-fuming audible three rows back.  The physical sound of the connecting blackboard duster re-ignited her fury, her pupils feverishly dilated. 

With the exception of his parents, he found it difficult to engage in meaningful conversation with his elders. He knew that for the most part they simply couldn't follow his logical reasoning yet all parties with a heightened sense of societal procedure, theatrically pretended that they did!  He could usually pinpoint the drowning moment when they realised that they were the only ones going around in circles, not quite grasping it.  They usually became defensive, even hostile, he could morph from an inquisitive student to an upstart in a single conjecture and from that moment on, the adult’s authority was drawn tight like a bow and arrow.  In synch with a thousand teachers on the sub-continent Miss Fernando excelled at controlling the unruly but floundered, untrained, with the educationally willing.  There was no question in Anoop’s mind that Miss Fernando could never teach him anything, not even about cricket and definitely not infinity!

He resisted the urge to rub his temple and more purposefully to check for exculpatory traces of blood. What was so wrong in correcting Miss Fernando on one of his favourite subjects?  Knowledge begat responsibility.  It wouldn’t be fair to the other pupils to allow them to be taught, erroneously, that infinity is just a ‘very large number’. ‘The Googol’ is a very large number, infinity is an absorbing existential concept, a juncture at which to ‘call it a day’ before the mathematics self-contradicts.  Education should never discriminate between who is passing the baton of knowledge.

‘If new technology doesn’t look like magic then it has failed its purpose’ Arthur C, famously penned back in the days before ‘A 2001 Space Odyssey’ existed.  Arthur C had such a compelling way of capturing the essence of mystery that tortured the reader, as they eagerly turned page after page, learning at the speed of sight.  Anoop had been in awe, watching re-runs of ‘the film’ his mind whirling in musical tandem with the space-station in the cold vacuum of space.  His dream was to die like Bowman, whizzing through the energy of a multi-coloured, hallucinogenic worm-hole to face his final ergodic moment in a visual conundrum of thought.

A sprinkling of chalk dust partially covered Anoop’s desk he imagined forcibly rolling Miss Fernando’s finger prints through it.  ‘Yes headmaster, Miss Fernando threw the first baton!’

‘You think Mumbai students know more than our stupid Sri Lankan students, isn’t it?’ declared Miss Fernando nodding pejoratively, ‘Mumbai the great home of Bollywood world, isn’t it?  With a histrionic change of tone, her voice quivered down an eerie octave ‘Filth and bad goings on is all.  Mumbai is Bombay and Bombay peoples were never any good, never any good’ she screamed, as if her first stentorian bark had not bitten. 

The chalk dust was stirring Anoop’s asthma, his school-time inhaler was tucked securely away, next to his jotter in the corner of his desk.  It felt like an orbit away.  His mother had taken him to one side as a young boy gripping him hard for once and making him promise that he would always have an inhaler close by and that he would always use it at the first sign of an attack.  He had always kept that promise.  She told him that when it was first confirmed that he was asthmatic the doctors gave him an injection but instead of being full of cure the syringe was full of cure-iosity and that’s why he was so clever, because of his asthma.  He tried to surreptitiously lift the desk-lid by inserting and flicking his thumbs upwards in the crevice.

‘Keep still!  I know what goes on. I have been to India, don’t think I have not!’ continued a nodding Miss Fernando in a slower more threatening rhythm, her lower jaw protruding with small, spittle-bubbles popping at the corners of her thick lips ‘I know all about the wicked movies you young people all love to watch.  I know all about Snoop Dog Millionaire movie. Oh yes, I know it!’

There was an outburst of classroom laughter which both surprised and encouraged Miss Fernando who, unaware of her contemporary malapropism, sat back in her chair, arms folded slightly less belligerently, rocking a little, her eyes moved from Anoop to the rest of the class. ‘Oh yes I know this! Now what do you have to say for yourself Snoop Dog millionaire?’ for the second time the class erupted in laughter, young girl students giggled whispering Miss’s words to each other. Pupils’ dark pupils bounced around in ultra-white eyes.

There was an ethereal swirl of air and the temperature dipped a barely perceptible degree. Anoop knew that the ghostly shadow which could, with imagination, be taken for a wiry old man, would come.  Arthur C. always came just at the right moment.

‘A strong mind sees more than the moment my son,’ the words popped clearly into Anoop’s mind just as if they had been audible.  Anoop looked up at Miss Fernando and absorbed a morsel of her pain, saw a slightly different woman, twisted by her own life-sadness.  ‘Let her have her moment lad’ counselled Arthur C. in a conspiratorial whisper, ‘she is just a relief teacher after all.’ They both smiled at the oxymoron.

For the first time Anoop turned and looked at Miss Fernando wanting to apologise, his asthma was beginning to encroach.  His shoulders normally soldier-straight began to droop.  His eyes shocked wide open as he punched his own chest and wheezed.

A confident hand went up in the aisle beside him, a thumb clutching a Kleenex in its tiny, lined palm.  The owner was a pig-tailed young girl with a flat face and peculiar oriental eyes which her family strenuously denied as being anything more than an aberration of nature, her hand stretched to its maximum, poking through the classroom paralysis.

‘Miss, miss, Anoop has asthma miss and he needs to use his puffer thing.’

‘Be quiet child, there is no need for you to interfere.’

But Pigtails did see a need to interfere. ‘Miss Fernando we all beg your forgiveness, but let me say that Bollywood is after all bringing thousands of crores into Mumbai families, and dreams also to peoples all over India.  You indeed could have been in movies yourself with your natural beauty and femininity.’

Miss Fernando, now the relief comedienne, sat back nodding and agreeing, thought about dreams for a few seconds and then clapped her hands dismissively and instructed an already-hushed classroom to be quiet and get back to their studies. Slowly she rubbed the back of her right hand with her left fingers as if applying invisible hand cream, her thoughts drifting through a maze of past opportunities, some romantic. She instructed the class to open up their trigonometry books and start reading about equilateral triangles.  Anoop, the new Indian boy, who could express Pi to as many digits as could fit on the blackboard, slipped his hand into his desk to retrieve his breath-giving Ventolin. Behind him smiles spread like wildfire, whispered appreciation of ‘Snoop’ the new Indian boy who could even make Nando’s class bearable.

At the end of class Anoop and pigtails rose at the same time, packing away books into their satchels amid clunking desk-lids, their eyes momentarily met. She smiled and he returned her smile. ‘Thank you’ and slinging his school-bag over his shoulder, hurried out of the classroom.

 Chapter Two

The entertainment, The Fab Five, flung their guitars to the extremity of their shoulder straps in perfect rhythm with the music and each other.  Over the decades, they had mastered the art of performance for their ‘niche’ market, ‘the sixties’, in both age and musical era. In the mind of the Fab Five’s John Lennon equivalent, they were still only one song away from a lucrative cover contract.  This belief was not shared by the other band members who viewed their practice sessions no more than an excuse to get away from the wife for a few drinks.  The lead singer sang with a pained expression practically swallowing the microphone as the members of The Vines Golf Resort and country club rocked and rolled enthusiastically across the dance-floor as if in direct defiance of the ‘snooty’ reputation.

Across from the dance-floor, out on the members balcony, overlooking the putting green, dressed elegantly in tuxedos a man in his fifties lit a cigar for a man in his eighties both seated at a table full of empty drinking glasses some tall and narrow, others short and thick.  ‘Oh go on Kurt it’s not going to kill you for God’s sake, not tonight anyway” encouraged Henry as he lit Kurt’s cigar. 

Kurt Kraus the long-retired banker ducked his bald Germanic head over the flaring match, puffed strenuously ‘I hope Doc Ronson stays on the dance floor a bit longer Henry as I am not sure he would share your prognosis. I shall regret this tonight’ he added staring appreciatively at the cigar, turning it ninety degrees whilst removing a soggy flake from his tongue. Somehow as he spoke, his words did not interfere with his smile.  With his rubicund pallor, wispy grey hair in and around his ears and wiry frame it was easy to imagine him more in full lederhosen regalia than the tuxedo he sported for the evening.

To an uninformed observer, their seating arrangement looked peculiar.  Their two away-facing chairs were distanced from the table and pushed to the extremity of the balcony unencumbered by the rumpled eaves of the members’ club roof.  They stared upwards arching their heads as if they were inspecting a recently renovated ceiling.  They didn’t speak for some time, they both respected each other’s appreciation of the West Australian sidereal night sky. Though cosmologists, rather than astronomers, they recognised beauty when they saw it.  Henry shuddered and then closed his eyes, ‘Can you feel the night photons Kurt? I love sunbathing under alien suns.’

Kurt chuckled, a sound Henry often plucked out of him.

Where did we go wrong Kurt?' Henry asked without diverting his eyes from the night sky.  Kurt knew Henry well enough to assume that he was referring to ‘mankind’ rather than the two of them.  In his usual placatory nature Kurt reasoned that mankind had indeed made some mistakes, his own race more than most perhaps, but on the whole, mankind had an awful lot about which to be proud.

'That's nonsense Kurt and you know it.  If battles had to be fought at night then there’d be no wars as moonlight is solely for romancing.’ Henry looked up at the moon’s sallow tumescent face and winked.  ‘You always look on the bright side and that's so unfair to the millions who have been denied a bright side, wonder where their next meal of pebbly rice and contaminated water will come from.'  Henry sullenly sunk his fists into his pockets ballooning his jacket tails forward like a cloth gunfighter.  There was a whoop of encouragement from inside member’s room as the Fab Five started to 'Get Back', the familiar cascading riff belting out from the synthesisers gave the illusion that the Fab Five had more musicianship than they actually possessed.  Through the double-glazed walls they could see Evelyn, Henry's wife, leading a spontaneous conga line on to the dance-floor, eyes closed, she clicked her fingers and swayed dreamily, only Henry detected the pretence.  Evelyn would much rather have been sitting at home with a glass of red, a book and the orchestral sounds of Mahler than the Fab Five and the company of the small-minded members. 

She was as tall as most of the men and her long blonde hair made its way down to the middle of her back, steel-straight the way Henry liked it. She had soft blue eyes and though turning fifty was still slim due to an abstemious appetite and a desire to live a long life.  If asked, Henry would reply with lie-detector truth that she was the most wonderful human being on the planet, at least since the passing of Arthur C. Clarke.

‘Look at Evie pretending she's enjoying herself' Henry smiled. Kurt chuckled again as he turned to witness Evie navigating chairs and tables as conga leader. Henry laughed vicariously 'Look she's deliberately making it difficult for the, how should I say, the more corpulent members of the club to get through the tables’.

'You are very lucky to have met Evelyn, Henry.'

‘Now on that point I agree with you one hundred percent Kurt.  The one thing I truly regret in my life is that my parents never got to meet her.  I sometimes try and imagine the conversations we all would have had and of course with you as well, father always said that you were the most free-thinking cosmologist he had ever met.

‘Did he really? You know what, he was right, I am free-thinking but not because of any talent I possess, no, because of the advantages I received from my parent’s money. He prodded the table with his forefinger a number of times for effect. Kurt paused as if he was contemplating living his life again without those advantages.

'Henry, I have a proposition for you.  Now listen young man as I think you will like what I am going to say, in fact I know you will like it very much so be quiet and listen for once”.  Kurt looked down at his cigar which he cradled rather dangerously in his lap. “There is no Segway for this so I will just come out with it.  I want a group of us to donate a significant amount of money to a worthy cause in Sri Lanka'. Henry inherently knew exactly why Sri Lanka had been chosen, everything they did revolved around Arthur C. Clarke.  Kurt's eyes held a distant twinkle 'I want to give you some background first.' Henry was intrigued he had never heard Kurt quite so serious even in those hellish few hours before the Higgs was confirmed.  He looked at Kurt in a friendly fashion and theatrically scraped his chair forward, ready to listen.  Kurt didn't seem to notice the theatrics, his mind had already wandered back to an unwelcome time and place he didn’t visit often.

'You know Henry, a German male my age is accustomed to answering questions from curious children but never from friends.  You have never asked me about the war but it has been on your mind from time to time, I know it.' He gave a grandiloquent wave of his wrist.  'I don't talk about it much because the misery has no place today, all of that nonsense belongs back there and that's where it should stay but this evening, with your permission, I am going to tell you a little bit about those days’. Henry sat back silently and listened.

‘I was only a young boy of course, twelve years old at the outbreak of the war.  We didn't have television back then just papa's trusty old wireless crackling its way from channel to channel, country to country, barely audible.  It was the fulcrum of all news and propaganda. We crowded around it listening intently to every word, us children didn’t follow the broadcasts for long, we would lose interest and retreat to our comic books and drawings.  We didn’t need the wireless to tell us things were bad, we could see the news deep-etched on the worried faces of our parents.  In our family at least, there was never any talk of leaving Germany, not at first, the strange thing was that we were making lots of money.

My father was an eye doctor, well that is what he was colloquially called, in actual fact he was an ophthalmologist specialising in the nascent science of laser technology.  He was fortunate enough, and the family rich enough, to be educated at Oxford, his timing was impeccable.

After graduating from university he joined a mid-sized specialist practice in Stuttgart with a small group of professional ophthalmic surgeons, all greatly his senior.  They were such a repository of knowledge and freely gave him advice all except for Rene Rosenberg who was a nasty bespectacled little man who never made eye contact with Kurt.  During their weekly practice-review meetings, Rosenberg would announce that he had been contacted by a few very disillusioned patients who had been treated by Kurt Kraus.  He insisted that it would be unethical to refer to them by name but that the good reputation of the practice was falling into disrepute because of Kraus. My father was too naïve to confront him and instead promised to do better, later flicking disappointedly through the files in a futile search for the complainants.  This response seemed to satisfy Rosenberg who would slowly wipe his spectacles with his handkerchief and remind them all that talk was cheap and that hard work and respect was what was needed.

As you know Henry my father was an ardent disciple of quantum theory and he avidly read everything Einstein wrote including the 1916 work ‘Strahlungs-emission und-absorption nach der Quantentheorie’ which was later claimed to be the forerunner of light amplification stimulated emission of radiation or ‘laser’ as we now know it.  It was undoubtedly a pivotal work by a brilliant mind but my father had one advantage over Einstein, he could see its application from a vision-correction point of view.  All good science applications come from a discovery in one field being observed and assimilated by an expert in another.  My father theorised how the precision of this laser beam could reshape the stroma layer of the cornea and, in theory, perform optical miracles far in advance of the allies. 

My father had another advantage over Einstein and his peers at the practice, one that, at that time, he didn’t even realise was such an advantage, he was from pure Aryan stock.  Night after night he trolled through Einstein’s papers, the words lifting from each line and sparking his own imaginative thoughts.  Sometimes he felt that he could actually hear Einstein’s voice narrating!  The simplicity of his theories was exquisite, the depth and breadth, ethereal. It all made perfect sense the only missing ingredient for my father was a laser machine itself to practise on.

He made a few enquiries with well-placed political contacts and was quickly advised to apply immediately for some government funding.  Then war broke out and all communication and enthusiasm for the project was dropped which was intolerably frustrating for my father.  War stopped everything, he’d say, even thought!  Many months after the commencement of hostilities, patients of the predominantly Jewish practitioners were mysteriously re-allocated to my father by faceless superiors as a 'done deal'.  No-one objected to ‘done deals’ in wartime Germany and the fortunate out of his fellow practitioners became my father’s assistants, the less fortunate were never heard of again.  ‘If there is anything I can do to assist you sir’ announced a wide-eyed Rosenberg ‘just ask me and I will do it immediately Herr Kraus. Please just let me be your assistant, I beg you.’  He fell forward steadying himself on my father’s desk the strain of abject fear and fatigue all too present for his elderly body. 

My father said that every relationship was affected by the war.  Parents were telling their children how much they loved them instead of telling them to be quiet and finish their meals. Proud people like Rosenberg were forced into humiliating subservience. The surrealism was disconcerting at a societal level, to the Third Reich it was like bloodless ammunition and they enjoyed every minute of it.

Word spread as high as Hitler that with his amazing skills Kurt Kraus in Stuttgart could give his patients perfect vision.  My father was instructed to operate on a dozen Jewish villagers a day and that if he needed anything, all he had to do was ask. At first, senior Nazi medical officers circled around the operating theatre making notes and acquainting themselves with the new paradigms of this ‘laser’ technology.  They would interrupt my father at any moment during the operation, mid-slice if necessary. My father tried unsuccessfully to persuade them that he would only need a few seconds of silence during each operation.  Their patience never lasted that long.

Though very learned in his field, laser technology was still in its early stage of development and the successes were considerably outnumbered by the disasters.  My father was powerless to decelerate the apocryphal tales that were propagating throughout the third Reich.  The senior medical team was strongly advised by Gobbles to approve the technology that had 'caught the eye' of the Fuehrer himself. Hitler had a quasi-maniacal interest in technology and reasoned that if his scientists could split the atom surely reshaping a cornea with this 'laser' magic shouldn't present too much of a problem especially after experimenting on a few hundred 'guinea Jews'.  Hitler was amazed at how many issues were being promptly solved once dissenting voices were silenced. All that was needed was true leadership, a trait he had in droves.  He looked in the mirror and straightened his tie, his fingers massaging and dampening down his slightly off-square moustache. 

The war-mature medical team had absolutely no intention of being the purveyors of unwelcome news to the powers that be, the 'piano player' defence had a very poor track record with the third Reich.  'We are confident that it will work Herr Gobbles, Herr Kraus assures us that he cannot believe how far ahead of schedule his experiments are right now, just imagine an army full of German soldiers with German twenty-twenty vision'.  Today's 'selling the dream' marketing specialists could have learned much from the senior medical team, self-preservation, not necessity, is the mother of invention.


AUTHOR Q&A

About me

I am a populariser of quantum physics and teach schoolchildren on the subject of particle physics and the strange unsolved mysteries of the sub-atomic world we live in! I am passionate about quantum entanglement and I will not rest until everybody in the world knows about it!! If Einstein couldn't figure it out then that's good enough for me!!

Q. What did you learn while writing this book?
A.
I found that I had to learn more about particle physics to explain certain theories adequately. I also researched DNA, particularly Recombinant DNA which is a fascinating subject
Q. Which writers inspire you?
A.
For some reason I love Indian authors from Salman Rushdie, Amatav Ghosh to Aravind Adiga. They really are amazing!!
Q. Tell us about the cover and the inspiration for it.
A.
I had it designed on Fiverr for a few dollars :):) I really can't believe that at one stage I was actually considering designing it myself which would have been an unmitigated disaster!!

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