The World Without can be found in Magazine Entry


ACCUSTOMED as we are to our world in which the laws of nature are well-known to us, we are apt to forget that what seem to be absolute laws are really only approximations. Since cause and effect seem to follow with precise regularity, we construct from them laws of nature.

The truth is that our laws of nature are just convenient explanations of things. But it is possible that the real and ultimate laws of the universe might be very much different than we imagine. Our universe might stand in the same relation to the universe of reality, as the universes of microscopic creatures stand to us. As Alphonse Berger said, writing in Candide (Paris) recently, "By the side of the microphysics of the infinitely little, we have a cosmophysics of the infinitely great. And beyond? May not our universe itself, huge as it seems, be for some vaster being nothing but an aggregation of molecules, of which each is a solar system? What unimagineable physics must govern the movements of the vast solid made up of such units? But is it not fine that the brain of man is able to rise to the height of such thoughts?" The present story dealing with this theme is one of the most unusual we have read.

ABOVE the subdued din around the dinner-table wherein the fashionable evening clothes of the day were gathered all white people worthy of note in Cairo, could be heard the dictatorial voice of Mr. Parling, the mathematician. Broad-shouldered, stout but not fat, with legs set wide apart like the Colossus at Rhodes, he dominated the company and delivered his speech with the gusto and rhetoric of an orator. He was s perfect type of dinner guest. He would emphasize a point of his discourse with a blow of his fist on the table which threatened to spill the wine.

Opposite him with glowering eyes sat Dr. Klington, philosopher and amateur archeologist. His lean hard frame, long ascetic features, and hair of the colour and texture of fine copper wires, were in utter contrast to the appearance of the speaker.

For more years than either of them would care to admit, they had waged a wordy War, mainly through the medium of the press. Few were the scientific controversies in which the one participated without the opposition of the other, and now for the first time they had encountered each other in person. The guests who were "in the know" smacked their lips in anticipation.

Their amiable host had realised too late and with a deep sense of chagrin the the trouble he might cause by inviting them both to the same dinner. He trembled at the thought of the con-sequence of this tactless act. What nonsense was Mr. Parling saying now?—

"...and it is my firm opinion, based upon irrefutable theory, that our universe is composed of a great number of three-dimensional worlds existing side by side in a fourth dimension, just as the two-dimensional leaves of a book lie side "by side in a third dimension.. "

Mr. Parling droned on while the host wondered if his new social idea of allowing everyone present to speak upon his own special subject hobby was as good as he had first thought it. His mental peregrinations were suddenly terminated by the sound of a low, highly-cultivated, insistent voice; the inevitable had happened at last. Dr. Klington had interrupted the thread of Mr. Pauling's discourse.

"I beg to question that latter statement of yours, Mr. Parling. Such an utterly absurd idea can have no foundation when opposed by the doctrines of the very keenest brain of the last century, I mean the eminent and profound scientist, the Frenchman Henri Poincaré!"

"Henri Poincare! He was a mathematician, yet he was also a philosopher, and like all philosophers he was a dreamer!"

A buzz of excited voices swept around the table for this was a direct attack upon Klington.

Developments after that threatened to depart from a mere discussion and become a brawl, in which the excited guests did not hesitate to join. The affair promised to be a welcome relief from the boring speeches which had hitherto marred the evening. Mine host's voice was heard occasionally above the tumult, pleading but futile, "Now, gentlemen, do be a little more quiet, please!"

Events were brought to a sudden silent standstill, broken only by faint whisperings, by the booming voice of Parling. "Stop!" he cried.

"Dr. Klington," he said in a quieter tone now that silence had been restored, "would direct experimental evidence convince you of the truth of my assertion?"

Klington smiled sarcastically. "It certainly would."

"If you care to call at my bungalow tomorrow morning I shall be pleased to offer you such evidence."

* * *

Klington did not fail to keep the appointment. He was let into the bungalow by Parling himself. They were both a little stiff and cold in manner as they walked to the sitting-room and Klington haughtily took a seat.

He was instantly aware of a strange sweetish aroma which faintly prevaded the atmosphere of the room, but on looking around he could not see its source. His antagonist stood before him in the characteristic Rhodian attitude, legs wide apart, and began to speak.

"You probably know that the firm of constructional engineers for which I work is at present building a dam across the White Nile in order to facilitate irrigation."

The philosopher nodded assent.

"While excavating for the foundations on the bank of the river, the workmen came across a sealed chamber hollowed out in a rock face, and within the chamber was discovered a sarcophagus. It was temporarily transported to my bungalow, en route to the British Museum. There it is, behind your "chair."

KLINGTON turned his head and perceived the origin of the odor. It was a stone burial receptacle of the usual type. An inspection of the interior showed nothing more startling than mummified remains and a scroll of some material, probably papyrus, with an inscription on the outer surface.

"I understand you know something about archeology," said Parling. "Can you tell me what these hieroglyphics mean?"

"Certainly. Hum. This is rather strange. It means—Before Isis existed this was. Very peculiar. But what has this got to do with the question?"

"You will soon see."

Parling took the scroll, unrolled it and revealed within a flexible bar of some bright purplish material, about three feet long and two inches wide. One end of the bar was fitted into a small transparent globe containing a yellow liquid. The bar could apparently slide right through the globe, a groove having been made for it.

Parling had assumed a confident overbearing manner and the light of triumph was in his eye. He pushed the rod till the end projected about four inches beyond the other side of the globe.

"I found it entirely by accident," he said.

"Found what?" said Klington, manifestly puzzled and a little contemptuous.

"The secret, of course," said the other. "Now watch the end of the bar carefully."

With these words he continued slowly to push the rod through the bowl. And then it was that Klington began to think he was being hypnotised. He could no longer see the end of the rod. Up to four inches from the bowl there was firm solid matter, but beyond that, nothing!

Parling chuckled at his astonishment.

"You're wondering where the end of it has gone, eh? Well, you see it's perfectly flexible? J...

This is only a preview of this story. The site administrator is evaluating methods to bring it to you.