One Step to Tau Ceti - Chapter 1

Gateway is a lovely place for an academic exile, nestling lushly in the Gate valley. A green and pleasant place, not renowned for scientific advance as yet, but little did the town’s people know they were just about to become a gateway to the whole universe.

The ‘gateway’ was being constructed in the dark brick-walled cellar of a house halfway up Upcombe Down, and this name was almost as bizarre as the machine being made. In the cellar was a wooden table upon which was a power supply and next to it a couple of parallel circles made out of arrays of gold-plated cubes held together by thin wires. Fret, thin and nervous was there with his son, six, who we shall call Henry. Fret was pondering, tinkering, procrastinating, his son sat on the floor nearby imitating the structure in Lego.

Presently, their activity seems to reach some kind of consensus. Both the Lego and the metallic machine were ready and the boy, said

‘Do it Dad.’

Fret flicked a switch on the power supply and peered intently through the two hoops. The part of the room visible through them subtly changed, almost as if a lens had formed within the hoops, but not quite a lens, in fact another thing entirely in that the property we crudely call ‘space’ had just been deleted for a distance of a metre behind the loops. Fret now picked up a pole with a net on the end, from one of their many excursions to the beach, and pushed it through the loops.

‘Dad, the pole is sticking out of mid-air!’

Fret withdrew the pole and net, looked at it, shook his head, burst into tears and hugged his son, which was quite a difficult thing to do since Henry was jumping up and down with glee as if propelled by a pneumatic road drill. The man sat down.

‘It works! Go get your Mum.’

Mum came down then to see the effect. She was small, dark and organised. She was understandably sceptical about it but being an engineer and therefore always ready to appreciate utility, she was impressed when she was able to put her hand into the empty space that had opened up along the length of the pole. She nodded with interest and asked

‘It really is separated. How does it work again?’

‘What the loops do is delete the space just behind them so the pole jumps over that gap and reappears beyond it.’

‘So it’s not an optical illusion?’

‘No, it’s real in a way that Mach and Einstein would understand.. I’ll explain later, but, I tell you, we’re going to have some fun with this!’ 

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