The God Equation and Other Stories (2 page)

BOOK: The God Equation and Other Stories
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As I towel dry, I examine the body in the mirror. Tall. Heavy-set. Lightly tanned. Spanish mestizo, mid-twenties, with a pug nose, unibrow, bristle-cut hair, and a tattoo of a flaming skull behind the shoulder. He has no muscle tone.

It

s an ugly disguise, the nearest I can find, but the easiest way to get hold of a weapon.

I pick up the revolver, wipe off the moisture, and check the chamber. Two more trigger pulls would

ve fired the round. Not exactly a flaming sword, but pretty damn close. I turn the cylinder slowly, aligning the loaded chamber with the firing pin.

I enter the bedroom and search through his luggage. He didn

t bring a change of clothes, just a bag of dope, booze, and two pairs of handcuffs, one still latched to the bedpost, and no condoms. I

m forced to wear cargo-style Bermuda pants and a tie-dye shirt, the same clothes he had worn the evening before. I check his wallet: wads of cash, several credit cards, driver

s license for

Diego Merced,

and a firearm permit from the National Bureau of Investigation. I tuck the .38 against the small of my back, beneath my shirt.

I smell semen and blood on the empty, unmade bed, and I detect the scent of two females, one human, the other

The doorbell rings.

It

s Raffy.


P

re, ba

t ang tagal mo?

Bro, what

s keeping you?

He speaks Tagalog, wears dreadlocks, and is deeply tanned.

We need to go.


I had to put some clothes on,

I answer in the same language.

This was all I could find.


It smells bad,

he says.

We need to get you a better shirt, especially where you

re going. I know where you can get the best bargain. You have money?


Lots.


Good. I want to buy some clothes, too.

We take the stairs down, walk past the reception area, and step into the sand. It

s off peak in Boracay, but the foreign tourists are still up and about, trying to get a tan under an overcast sky. I see some rain clouds in the horizon, bare breasts bouncing along the shore, and a
sorbetero
standing beside his ice cream cart. It

s mid-afternoon.


This will just take a minute,

I say. I order a few scoops of
ube
and cheese, while Raffy orders mango. We walk briskly along the beach.


What

s the lowdown?

I say finally.


I discovered the mark by surfing the Web, believe it or not, when I came across a blog entry about
a work in progress called the
God Equation. Ever since Da Vinci, it seems everybody

s writing something about religion and science. The Michelangelo Cipher, The Bernini Puzzle, The Fra Lippo Lippi Paradox
...
I made that last one up



Maybe he just wants the book to get attention.


But the God Equation isn

t a novel. It

s a project. The author makes the remarkable claim that he has found a mathematical equation that proves the existence of God.


Men have been trying to do that for centuries. Anselm, Descartes, Pascal. All have failed.


You

re a traditionalist, Az. Though you

re practical, you still cling to the old ways. You don

t even like using firearms, instead preferring swords and knives and plagues and natural causes, and the rest to human folly. That

s why all the jobs that you did involving guns aren

t very clean. How can anyone compare JFK and the Vatican murders to the Passover? The latter was your masterpiece. The others, just mysteries.


Your point?


Computers. None of the people you mentioned used them. This guy does.


So?


It isn

t finished. He still needs computers to help him generate the proof. I was intrigued enough to do a background check on him, starting with his date of birth and his date of death. And guess what: he

s not in your section

s records. The guy doesn

t have an expiration date.


Hence the anomaly.


We know he can

t be immortal, because he

s still human, but we haven

t got a clue on how long he

ll be alive. So that

s where we

re at. On one hand, we have machines that can compute extremely fast, and on the other, a man who might live an extremely long life. Awkward, isn

t it?

We pause by a stall and Raffy inspects some beach shirts. He begins dictating the pertinent facts.

Matthew Cheng, twenty-four years old, single, studied physics and computer engineering in Manila, and mathematics in the U.S. His family owns considerable tracts of land across the Philippines, and significant petroleum interests abroad. Not just rich, they

re filthy. He doesn

t even need to hold a real job but won

t get involved in the family business. Instead, he occasionally lectures at his alma mater, pursues personal research in higher mathematics, and spends most of his time sailing solo around the world on board his 60-foot state-of-the art yacht, the Lionheart Oil.


Sounds like a pun on Leonhard Euler.


He idolizes him. Maybe he wants to prove that Euler is God. He made a business pitch to several alumni a few days ago, on this island, and he mentioned

Euler

s Identity

in one of his spiels.


You were there?


I pretended to be journalist and interviewed him. How do you think I got all my intel? I

ve arranged for a colleague of mine to interview him today, for a feature story in Scientific American, and he

s invited him over to his yacht. It

s anchored off the opposite shore.


Your colleague?

I ask.

Raffy hands me a photographer

s vest that he pulls off the rack.

You need to meet him in twenty minutes. We

ll use my jet ski.

* *
*


Mathematicians have tried in vain to this day to discover some order in the sequence of prime numbers, and we have reason to believe that it is a mystery into which the human mind will never penetrate.


Leonhard Euler

 

We reached the Lionheart Oil just as Matthew Cheng was weighing anchor. The sloop-rigged yacht had mainsail and jib already hoisted. Raffy introduces me to Matthew, who helps me board. He looks like Bruce Lee, only darker and larger. We exchange pleasantries and settle down on the deck. Raffy speeds off.


I thought you might have forgotten my invitation,

he says, handing me a cold can of beer. A laptop computer rests on the table beside a bowl of potato chips.


I wouldn

t miss this for the world,

I say, with an American accent.

Boats fascinate me, although I never learned how to sail.


It

s a cinch if you have an autopilot,

he says, and we both laugh, knowing full well that it still takes a lot of manual skill to circumnavigate the world solo. Physically, we

re near the same age, but he has the manners of an older gentleman, not condescending, but definitely arrogant. He shows me his laptop.

I customized the software for this rugged little model, so I can monitor every activity on the ship. It not only tracks weather information and GPS coordinates, but the status of every line and tackle through a network of sensors. I can trim the sails from anywhere. It

s my remote control. And best of all,

he toggles to a different screen,

I can connect to the Internet.

He asks me to wait while he checks the status of an upload and scans a few email messages. Meanwhile, I prepare the mp3 voice recorder that Raffy lent me, and take snapshots with a digital camera.

Matthew turns his computer around and shows me an online chess game in progress.

What do you think the best move is? White to play.

I examine the virtual board. It was the middle game, both sides showing remarkable symmetry, a clear example of grandmaster play.


Pawn takes pawn,

I say.


Excellent call,

he says, and enters the algebraic equivalent.

It

s wonderful that I can always find strong players online. My opponent is from St. Petersburg. Of course, I

m not always sure that I

m playing against a male, female, or human being. I believe chess programs were the first to pass the Turing test. You like chess?


I hold my own.


Well, we should play someday.


Certainly.


So Diego

can I call you Diego?

what shall we talk about?


I

m writing an article about the groundbreaking work by theoretical physicists and pure mathematicians from around Asia. I

ve already spoken to some folks in India and China. I was surprised when Raffy told me that there

s actually serious work being done in the Philippines. I hear you

re writing a book.


Not yet finished, but I

ve found a publisher. We Filipinos can accomplish miracles if we apply ourselves. Do you have a math background?


I

m a science journalist,

I reply.

Stanford.


Quick quiz then: how many sides does a circle have?


That

s a trick question.


Good answer. A circle can have zero, one, two, or infinitely many sides, depending on how you define a

side,

correct? It

s also a shape that exists only in our heads, a perfect shape. The term

perfect circle

is redundant. No object in nature comes close to being a circle, but you see it everywhere, the moon, the sun, all are crude approximations of a concept. But what a concept! All circles, regardless of size, have the same ratio between its circumference and its diameter.


Pi,

I say.

BOOK: The God Equation and Other Stories
9.39Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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