An essay by Dr Valentina Von Bezzhalostny, as provided by Luke McKinney
Art by Amanda Jones
I didn’t mean to decimate the human race. The Nobel Committee doesn’t know that. They don’t know I did it at all. I’m fairly sure they rescind Peace Prizes if they find out you started all the wars in the first place.
It’s just if I’d meant to decimate the population, I could have enjoyed it. Had some cigars ready. Learned to cackle. Set up a leather recliner in front of a bank of screens instead of learning through fingerprint-stained tablet on the toilet. I can’t grow a moustache to wax, but maybe I could have worn a cape. Worn a monocle. Chilled some champagne. After first buying some champagne. In fact, forget the chilling, just making sure I had some alcohol in the house for when I worked out I’d accidentally ended a fair fraction of the human race. That really would have been a good time for a prepared cackle, as opposed to my unimpressive reaction of “Buh?”, followed by the the gut-freezing horror of someone realizing that they left the oven on and further finding that it’s burned down the continent of Europe.
But it was their fault, and I have the math to prove it.
Because our lives are so short! And so many people don’t appreciate that! We prosecute theft of money, of property, even songs and movies, but nobody punishes the thieves of time. You can be dragged to court for stealing a copy of a romantic comedy, but a delivery driver taking days of my life without ever arriving? Nothing! The comedy can be copied again but the day is gone forever. They steal the one thing you can’t get back, and any attempt to argue only throws good time after bad.
One such theft triggered my breakthrough. A young man walked into a crowded coffee shop and in broad daylight, in front of multiple witnesses, without even attempting to hide his face, tried to impress a busy cashier with tales of his new band. And the thing about “trying” is that it is very much not “doing.” If his band wasn’t called “medium cappuccino, here’s my money,” she didn’t care. I was able to salvage some time by gathering some scientific data: he proved that no-one in the queue had latent psychic ability, otherwise one of the twenty people staring into the back of his head would have set him on fire.
That’s when it hit me: time is observation. Classical dynamics can run backward or forward, it doesn’t care. It’s only the observed collapse of quantum states that defines one thing as definitely happening later than another. This observational escapement is what ticks the great gears of time forward. And the more we intently we observe this passage of time, the more intensely we experience it doing so, the more tiny ticks of time we experience. That’s why queues take so long while drunken weekends whizz past.
To read the rest of this story, check out the Mad Scientist Journal: Summer 2016 collection.
Dr Valentina Von Bezzhalostny became impatient with university bureaucracy, went freelance, and ended up Prime Scientistrix of the Milky Way. She doesn’t know what you’re waiting for but is also too busy to care.
Luke McKinney is an ex-physicist turned freelance writer. He’s a columnist for Cracked, the CBS Man Cave, and RETRO gaming magazine, all of which are tremendous fun. Adding Mad Scientist Journal to the bibliography makes it even more fun! lukemckinney.net
Amanda Jones is an illustrator based in Seattle. She likes reading horror stories, binge watching seasons of her favourite sci-fi/fantasy shows, and everything Legend of Zelda. She focuses on digital portrait painting and co-creates the webcomic The Kinsey House. You can find more of her work on Tumblr under ‘thehauntedboy‘.
“Observations of Life Contraction” is © 2016 Luke McKinney.
Art accompanying story is © 2016 Amanda Jones.