137 – an odd space essay by Chris Green
Victor Malpas and his associate Leon Dusk made a killing in the initial dot-com boom. While many others had been working on it, they were the ones who came up with the encryption required to make secure financial transactions on the internet a reality. At least they were the ones to take the credit and reap the rewards. In reality, who deserves the recognition for any great leap forward is going to be a matter hotly disputed. In this case, it could easily have been Statham Polk or Tom Esso or perhaps Vaughan Conti or Otto Jett, but it is a question of who is in the right place at the right time. Victor Malpas and Leon Dusk were there, then. In the right place at the right time. The development changed things overnight. Everyone wanted a piece of it, and in a very short time, the pair were billionaires, their fortunes supplemented further by financial irregularities.
There are those who, with their accumulated wealth, dedicate their lives to making the world a better place. These are not plentiful, it is true, but it is still worth emphasising that Victor Malpas was not one of these. When the dot-com boom showed signs of slowing, he sought larger profits elsewhere. He moved his interests out of silicon valley and into oil and arms and the murky world of global destabilisation. The potential for wealth accumulation here is huge. Given the right circumstances, money can change hands very quickly. Victor is believed to be the driving force behind many of the uprisings and coups you will have heard about on the news in recent years. He may not be a household name, but you can guarantee your lives have been and will continue to be affected in some way by his actions.
Leon Dusk, on the other hand, disappeared without trace. How, in the new age of mass communication, a high-profile figure like Leon could vanish so completely was a mystery that had everyone stumped. It defied all logic. The money was still going round and round, somewhere, somehow. Money does not like to stay in one place. But no one could work out where and how it was circulating for long enough to get a fix on Leon Dusk. In these days of cryptocurrencies, this kind of fiscal invisibility would be perfectly possible, but back in the dark ages of the nineteen-nineties, it should have been impossible. From time to time, suggestions that he had been murdered or taken his own life were put forward to explain how he remained undetectable, but there was never evidence to back it up. It seemed Leon Dusk was still out there somewhere.
Gravity is subject to the whims of the changing seasons and normally varies by between a half and one per cent with the position on Earth’s surface. It can also be affected by shifts in land and water on the ground. Not many will have noticed it and those that have will principally be scientific observers financed by governments. Governments that have interests in keeping it quiet. But, if the observers’ reports are to be believed, every year since 1999, gravity has been getting slowly but steadily weaker. Its normal range would be from about 9.78 metres per second per second at the Equator to 9.83 metres per second per second at the poles. A recent reading at a location in the Tropic of Capricorn had it as low as 9.52 metres.
You don’t like to imagine there might be a connection between this physics bombshell and a missing person. This would be too big a leap. Surely, it is the kind of thing that no amount of billions could buy. It’s a celestial matter. The moon would have to be slowly drifting off or something. Or scooting off pretty determinedly, perhaps, compared to its more leisurely drift of 3.78 centimetres a year. Or the Earth itself would have to have become less massive.
‘You are really stuck on this one, aren’t you, Jacques?’ Echo says. ‘You don’t know where you can take it. …….. What about some extraterrestrial sabotage to get you out of the hole you’ve dug? Or perhaps superstrings? Or have you used that one too often? Lenticular printing? Acoustic holograms? A surreal dream generator? …….. You could bring in the number 137. The magic number of the universe.’
I ought to tell Echo that I am not Jacques. Does Jacques have snake tattoos and wear drawstring waist joggers, I suspect not. Does Jacques smoke Balkan Sobranie cigarettes? Unlikely. Jacques, the science fiction writer that Echo seems to be referring to, would probably smoke Disque Bleu. But Jacques is in fact someone else. I decide to play along to see what her game is if this helps and see where it gets us to.
‘137?’ I say. ‘Tell me about 137.’
‘137 is an Angel Number,’ she says. ‘One of the few ones not to have repeated or consequential digits. 137 bridges the gap between science and mysticism. Isn’t that what you are looking for? It’s a peach. The number 137 holds the key to the mysteries of the universe. It’s the perfect prime number. Mathematics and Physics are hugely in debt to the number 137. It determines how stars burn, how chemistry happens and even whether atoms exist at all. In esotericism, 137 gives you a clear channel of communication with angels, archangels and ascended masters and offers you divine guidance. Science and mysticism come together in one handy package with 137. A useful one to get you out of your hole, eh? But you’re going to struggle to get Victor Malpas back into the story. Good luck with that.’
It seems to me that Jacques could use the science surrounding 137 to get the narrative back on track. He could make the number’s properties account for the dramatic recovery of Earth’s gravity, or even explain that the low reading resulted from a miscalculation in the first place. But the esoteric properties of the number 137 are interesting too. Angel Number! Now that sounds like a winner for Jacques. Echo is right. There’s a resurgence in new age mysticism that could be nicely exploited. But wait a minute. Let’s not get carried away. I’m not Jacques, am I? Who is this Jacques?
Leaving the mystery of Jacques for another time, I do my own research and discover everything Echo has said about 137 checks out. Physicists believe 137 could be at the heart of a Grand Unified Theory, which relates the theories of electromagnetism, quantum mechanics, and most especially, gravity. From here it is just a question of connecting Leon Dusk and doing the sums. There is usually a simple explanation to a mathematical problem. After all, Maths is elegant. If something looks awkward, you are missing something. There will be a factor you have overlooked. Maths is precise, orderly inarguable. When it hits the spot, it hits the spot.
Leon Dusk, of course, has changed his name many times now. If you scan the list of the world’s billionaires, you might be able to work out which one he is. You might not. But it probably doesn’t matter. And he won’t be that person for long. And if it weren’t him, it would be someone else. Unless you fancy yourself as a cyber-detective, it is best not to try to fill in the gaps. You will only tear your hair out.
Victor Malpas is thought to be behind most worldwide conflicts today. He will be involved in some way in the surge in bloodshed we are seeing across the globe. You hear his name whispered here and there in connection with atrocities in far-off places you had not heard of with weapons you did not know existed. But the allegations never do him any damage. You don’t see them making the headlines. Although Victor Malpas’s media interests are known to be substantial, his vainglory warmongering never comes to light for exactly that reason. Because his media interests are substantial.
I’m still not sure who Jacques is. Perhaps he is my long lost brother. That would make sense. Frère Jacques. Or might I be the Jacques that Echo addressed me as, and might frère be my long lost brother, Jules? With so many conflicting stories fighting for one’s attention, it is hard not to have an identity crisis these days. There are no longer any over-arching narratives. Besides Planck’s Constant and Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, there is little you be certain of. What can you rely on in this post-truth world? Perhaps only Mathematics, Spacetime, and Tattersall check shirts.
Copyright © Chris Green, 2022: All rights reserved