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Short story: Two-dimensional

Day thirty-six on the ISS-2, and I can’t swallow my gel-breakfast fast enough. You’d think the new International Space Station would have updated its cuisine, but between a complete overhaul of living quarters, additional cargo space, upgrades to instruments, and a brand-new EVA system, there just wasn’t enough money left to figure out bacon in zero-G.

I don’t care. Two minutes and I’m already pulling myself into the Z-3 suit-port that’s attached to the outside of the Station. It’s so easy – you just open a port and slide straight into it. No pressurisation chambers needed. Twenty seconds and you’re stepping into space.

I push myself over to the working platform attached to the D-Port. When I reach it, my feet are over the Ganges.

The D-Port, or Dimension Portal, looks like a huge mirror, except it reflects back other dimensions. It began as a serendipitous incident at CERN, took over fifty years and countless dollars to build, but the crowning achievement of Multiverse Theory was finally switched on last month to the bated breath of eleven billion earthlings.

Day 1 was horribly anticlimactic: Black space with one star. Our first-ever cross-dimensional knock-knock, and we get a one-star universe. I floated by the D-Port like an idiot, feeling mankind’s collective “meh” ascend towards me like a prayer.

Of course, the dimensional physicists did backflips. Their baby worked, and we had the first ever proof of another dimension. It was like discovering aliens. Nonetheless, the scientific community’s primal excitement was diluted through layman disappointment and Twitter LOLs.

The idea behind our dimension-hopping expedition was to find a dimension that is similar enough to ours – ideally with only one difference. Like flying dogs or singing cows or fluorescent cucumbers. Something we could deal with. But since our math can’t pinpoint specific dimensions, we’re just switching channels until we find something to watch.

So we kept looking. That’s all you can do, by the way. The D-Port is an energy barrier that doesn’t allow sound or matter to pass through, although photons have no problem. Nonetheless, we still thought it prudent to install it in orbit, away from Earth. In theory, there must be a dimension out there where the D-Port will be more of a D-Hole.

The second dimension we found was creepy. Something out of a Lovecraft story: a universe of reds and translucent greens that pulsated like veins, all radiating out of an incandescent white sphere that I swear knew it was being watched. We recorded it, turned it off, and moved onto the next dimension while the world freaked out.

It went like that for a month: A parade of lifeless universes, some dull, some inexplicable. Even the staunchest acolytes began to lose interest. Kind of like SETI.

But today – today is history. The D-Port has finally located another Earth. The initial readings say that it’s exactly like ours – even its climate matches ours. It’s hard to believe, but here I am, hanging onto the D-Port’s platform and staring into a universe that had the same ideas as ours.

And that’s not all. The Other Earth has an orbiting station too, and they’re sending someone to say hello. That’s right: I am about to make contact with a sentient being, probably a human, from another dimension.

I’m so excited, I can feel my Maximum Absorbency Garment swell a little.

I tether myself to the platform and eye-tap the comms icon on my HUD. “Houston, this is Mission Specialist Dr Leonard Mann. Requesting all-clear for D-Port interfacing.”

“You’re good to go, Dr Mann. Just relax and follow the script.” Loaded into my tablet, the Cross-Dimensional Interfacing Protocol has been put together by our top exo-psychologists and translated in virtually every language we know, dead or alive. Crowdsourcing works wonders.

A spacesuit appears on the edge of the D-Port’s frame, slowly floating towards me. I confirm the contact my headset, although Houston’s getting real-time, hi-def feed of it.

It looks like a woman. The suit is form-fitting, and the body shape wouldn’t match a man’s in our dimension. Of course, we don’t even know how many genders they have over there.

I tell Houston all this, conscious that the whole world is listening in. As the spacesuit approaches, I can make out the face behind the helmet: Definitely a woman. Definitely human. My MAG swells a little more.

She comes to a stop on the other side of the D-Port and raises her right hand in what I can only assume is a greeting. I do the same and she smiles.

She’s beautiful – in either dimension. I can’t see her hair under her Communications Carrier, but its absence just highlights her stunning features.

“Dr Mann, this is Houston. Please proceed with the script.”

I breathe out. “Copy that, Houston.” I raise my tablet: WE COME IN PEACE. Cliché.

She smiles and produces her own tablet. Their technology looks like ours: WE KNOW.

“Houston, confirm: Subject communicated in English. Are you seeing this?”

“We are as stunned as you, Leo. Just keep going.”

I raise the tablet: WHAT IS YOUR NAME?

She grins playfully and taps her tablet: WHAT IS YOUR NAME?

I frown. “Houston, please advise.”

“The psychs say go ahead, Leo.”

“Copy that.” MY NAME IS LEONARD MANN.

She’s laughing. Hysterically.

I’m feeling a little offended. Forget the script. WHY ARE YOU LAUGHING?

Her tablet flashes on the other side of the D-Port. LEONARD MANN FROM ATHENS, GEORGIA? ONLY SON OF RUSSELL AND PATRICE MANN?

I stare at her and my fingers type. YES. HOW DO YOU KNOW?

She laughs inside her helmet, and her tablet flashes with cross-dimensional excitement:

I AM YOU.

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Quirky photons spin out of the Standard Model

New article on EPFL!

Doing some hardcore analysis on data from the LHC “beauty” experiment, a group at EPFL found evidence that when a bottom quark decays into a strange quark it emits a photon that’s polarized.

Why’s that important? Because it might just be a nudge towards New Physics. And no, that doesn’t mean we’ll be leaving on the Enterprise any time soon. Although…

Read more here.

–Nik