As I’m currently writing the third book of The Third Thaw trilogy, I'm faced with a new puzzle: I have an idea for a plot that is very cool - however, I need something to happen that may break the laws of physics. The first two books in this series did not veer too far from real science; however, this third story may require an idea that is currently beyond human knowledge, but should be plausible, even to physicists.
Searching for a plot solution, I found an old book in my basement: “The Road to Reality: A Complete Guide to the Laws of the Universe” by Roger Penrose. In 2004, I never finished reading this intimidating book because the math is overwhelming. Now that I’m older, I seem to skim math, as long I get the gist of the concepts.
Penrose’s book basically states that mathematics reflects reality. As humans have gradually discovered the hidden truths in physics, we are on a "road to reality". There are still many questions about the universe that current physics cannot explain.
In the beginning of this long journey, the “meaning of numbers” was a subject of great interest to Greek philosophers, particularly Plato. “Why does math work?” is a very basic question we can ask ourselves about the nature of reality.The ancient Greek philosophers were particularly interested in the physical significance of integers and so called “rational” numbers; they did not believe in the existence of negative numbers. However, as Penrose explains, physicists have determined that all elementary particles have integer quantum numbers, including both positive and negative integers! Even more interesting, elementary particles seem to "do math" using complex numbers!
Penrose postulates that "reality" may consist of three worlds: 1. Ourselves, 2. a physical world outside of ourselves and 3. a world of abstractions/math. This third world is commonly referred to as the “Platonic world”, consisting of circles, straight lines, numbers…Of course big existential definitions like these are controversial. I think it’s no stretch that this third world is a “world of thought”, which includes math and also such things as language and concepts of truth/falseness, good/bad, and stories.
Much of Penrose’s book covers the mathematical subject of topology. It is quite fascinating to read how physical laws, such as Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity, require an understanding of topology.
Somehow I plan to use this information and boil it down into something fitted for a novel. I have an idea that I think will work; but if it doesn't, I'll need to write a different plot, which would be a shame, because this one will be very cool.