My Theory of Everything

We now know that black holes can bend gravitational waves, but what can explain the bending of space and time when a loved one is lost?


AsianScientist (Mar. 7, 2016) – A few weeks ago, physicists heard a rising noise in the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (commonly known as LIGO) in Pasadena, CA. The note above middle C was the sound of two black holes colliding, a brief chirp amid the silence.

For the first time, astronomy had grown ears. This is proof that a billion or more processes are happening around us that are invisible but barely audible, reminiscent of the time cell theory was discovered in the 1830s: just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

When my father fell ill two months ago, time slowed significantly as we reeled from the news. Time fell forward as I boarded a plane home and flew through time halfway across the world. Time galloped as we headed to the operating theatre, and then slowed down while he was in there. Seven days plodded by after his gastrectomy, as he lay in the stark white hospital bed day in and day out, unable to consume anything but a few sips of water and stark white porridge.

He received many visitors, jovial friends from his running and cycling groups.

He looked wistfully at the pair of hideous yellow Hoka One One running shoes I had bought him over the holidays as his friends said, “We’ll go to the Sahara next year—ten year anniversary!” He chuckled appreciatively, “Ya, ya, of course.”

They would leave eventually as we remained behind. Time ticked away listlessly, regularly when he went home. I watched him struggle to eat morsels of food at a time.

Life flickered before him. Time meant everything and nothing, was quick and slow simultaneously, a contorted ebb and flow of life that soon fell out of sync with the disease in his body. It was the collision of black holes happening in physical space on Earth, a phenomenon where “the flow of time speeded, then slowed, then speeded … a storm with space bending this way, then that.”

Time seemed normal again when my father attended my registration of marriage. He got on a plane and flew to Singapore. He stayed in a hotel and rested as a regular post-op patient would. We were hopeful; time was on our side, time did not bend like an iron rod in the flame.

The fridge was filled with his favorite foods and drinks to ease the reflux of bile and stomach acids: soybean packets, Japanese milk teas, and fried noodles with beansprouts from the market. He was hell bent on resisting the contortion of time. I returned to work and all seemed normal from my end, as normal as I could make of it. He would get better. He could get better.

And then time began to be bizarrely distorted. His illness rippled through space and time across the continents to my tiny studio apartment. I denied that he was becoming sicker, worse with the passage of time as my mother reported over Whatsapp.

His condition began to deteriorate two weeks before Chinese New Year. He would vomit everything he ate: all the soybean, all the milk teas, and all the noodles. I was not there at the height of his suffering. I could not be there. He persisted and carried on, going back to the hospital to solve his reflux issues, going back to get chemotherapy.

Nothing worked anymore. On the seventh day of Chinese New Year, time stopped for him.

His funeral service was cathartic for his family. At the crematorium I picked up his remains from a metal sheet tray and placed it into the urn. There he is in a white marble urn of bones: calcium and dust. My mother says that he has been taken up to Heaven by angels. My own argument and belief is a touch more facile: just because we can’t see him doesn’t mean he doesn’t exist.

This article is from a monthly column called Our Small World. Click here to see the other articles in this series.


Source: Asian Scientist Magazine; Photo: Shutterstock.
Disclaimer: This article does not necessarily reflect the views of AsianScientist or its staff.

Annabel is currently a 2nd year Masters in Public Health student at Yale University. She received her MEng in biomedical engineering from Imperial College London in 2010. She spent the summer of 2014 researching substance abuse in Tanzania. She has a keen interest in food, yoga and metal music.

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