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Resonance: Chapter Twenty Six

       Last updated: Saturday, December 10, 2005 14:19 EST



    They stopped running at the end of the mews.

    “We’ve gotta get back to Redfern Street,” Annalise said, in between breaths, “check for Schenck’s Law on the net.”

    Graham led the way, selecting a route parallel to the way they’d come, not wanting to risk being seen by whoever might be parked outside the new ParaDim offices.

    They reached Redfern Street, Graham hung back by the entrance to the cafe and let Annalise go in first. He followed her inside, scanning the faces of all the customers, looking for that young man - the one who’d been so helpful, the one with the ready smile. He was relieved not to find him and ashamed that he’d taken the time to look.

    They took the same station as before. Annalise took the keyboard and started to type.

    “How do you spell Schenck? S-C-H-E-N-C-K?”

    Graham shrugged. “Can you try various spellings?”

    She tried Schenck first, tapping in Schenck’s Law. Most of the hits were to do with legal matters. She sampled a few before giving up and trying other spellings.

    Fewer hits but the same legal bias and a dearth of anything remotely relevant.

    “Could it be lore as in folk lore?” asked Graham.

    Annalise reframed the query, paging through screen after screen of folk tales and sites that seemed to bear no relation to either Schenck or lore.

    She added resonance to the search, tried every combination of resonance and wave, Schenck and Shenck, law and lore. She found hit after hit on medical scanners and legal actions and genealogical sites. She persevered, clicking on every reference that offered even the slightest hope.

    None provided the answer they were looking for.

    What was a resonance wave? What had Schenck’s Law got to do with it. Who or what was Schenck?

    And had Kevin Alexander thrown them a red herring? Anything to get them out of the building?

    “Perhaps we should try Schenck and ParaDim? Maybe he works for them?” asked Graham.

    Annalise waded through another series of matches. There were passing mentions of ParaDim in articles written by people called Schenck. There were college track scholarships provided by money from ParaDim to students called Schenck - so many tenuous links that could be vitally important or nothing more than the vaguest coincidence. 

    Graham’s attention started to wander. He was feeling hungry and thirty minutes of disappointment and furious scrolling were making his eyes hurt. Annalise hit the back button and started a new search. She typed in Schenck and parallel worlds, a new screen popped up, she started scrolling and stopped.

    Halfway down the screen, there it was.

    The Search for Parallel Worlds, by Jacob Schenck.

    Annalise let out a scream and clicked on the link.

    A new page appeared. It was a book review. Graham flicked through the details, looking for any mention of resonance wave. There wasn’t any. He went back to the top and started to read more thoroughly. It was the second in a series of popular science books by philosopher, Jacob Schenck. 


    Schenck’s ability to make complex subjects easy to digest remains his greatest asset. If only there was more substance to his writing. By the end of the book I was left with more questions than I had at the beginning. Schenck, as usual, is more interested in discussing why people need to believe in the existence of parallel worlds than in the science itself.

    If you’re looking for a book with hard facts, this is not the one for you. But if you’re looking for an entertaining introduction, and occasional unsupported tangential leaps of imagination, then Schenck is always good value.


    “Do we have to buy the book?” asked Graham.

    “Not yet. Let’s see what else we can find on him.”

    Annalise tapped in a new search on Jacob Schenck. The first page didn’t look promising - several Jacob Schencks but no author philosopher. The next page came up. Annalise clicked on the third entry - University of North London, Philosophy Department.

    They both waited for the screen to load. There was a list of faculty staff - professors, fellows, readers and lecturers - their specialities and publications. At the bottom was Jacob Schenck, a lecturer specialising in the Philosophy of Mathematics, Free Will and Personal Identity. His publications included The Search for Parallel Worlds.

    They’d found him.

    “Where’s … “ she scrolled back to the top of the page, “Russell Square? Is it far?”

    It wasn’t - one change and six stops on the tube. They stopped for a couple of hot dogs at a stall in Victoria and shared a bar of chocolate while changing trains at Green Park.

    “What if he’s not there?” asked Graham as they left Russell Square station.

    “Then we search his rooms.”

    Graham looked hard at Annalise, was she serious?

    “You don’t have to look at me like that, Graham. This is the day we solve everything.”




    The Department of Philosophy was situated off Russell Square in a Georgian terrace - white-painted stone this time, though otherwise very similar to ParaDim’s new office.

    They followed a small group of students inside. A few people looked enquiringly at Annalise - probably more to do with her bright orange hair than questioning her right to be inside. Graham followed in Annalise’s wake. No one gave him a second look.

    They found Jacob Schenck’s name on the fourth floor notice board. He was in room 410. Graham hesitated by the door. What if Schenck wasn’t in? He could be on holiday or at a lecture. Graham checked his watch - 1:30 - he might be at lunch. Or worse, what if he wasn’t alone? What if he had people with him, a class?

    Annalise didn’t seem to have such thoughts, she sailed up to the door and knocked. There was a delay of a second or two.


    They went in. Jacob Schenck was in his fifties, with greying hair that looked as though it hadn’t seen a brush for a week and an eclectic choice in clothes. A gravy-stained plate sat on a pile of papers on his desk and books filled every available surface in the room. Five chairs were randomly placed around the room that, but for the clutter, could have been called spacious.

    “We’ve come to ask you about Schenck’s Law?” said Annalise.

    Schenck looked surprised. “Are you from the publishers? I thought we’d agreed to delay publication.”

    Graham glanced at Annalise, trying to read her face. What was she going to do? Bluff it out?

    Annalise blinked - just the one hint of uncertainty before the confident smile returned.

    “No, we’re not from the publishers. Kevin Alexander gave us your name.”

    “Kevin Alexander?” Schenck stroked his chin. “The name’s familiar.”

    He picked up a book from his desk and flicked through the index.

    “He wrote a book on the search for parallel dimensions,” said Annalise. “We’re working in the same field and he suggested we talk to you.”

    Schenck looked up from his book. “The Canadian? I think I met him once. Didn’t like the man.”

    “Well he sure liked you.”

    “He did?”

    “You bet.” Annalise darted a look towards Graham, who quickly nodded in agreement.

    “I’d have thought my work was too insubstantial for his type.”

    “No, not at all. ‘Go and see Schenck,’ he told us. ‘Ask him about his law.’”

    “I’m surprised he knew about it. I’ve only discussed it with a handful of people.” He stopped, a sudden look of worry etched in his face. “The publishers didn’t give him a copy of my manuscript to review did they? They said they wouldn’t. We agreed to keep everything under wraps until a more suitable time.”

    “No, I’m sure they didn’t. He meets a lot of people. Conventions, you know. I expect someone mentioned your work in passing.”

    Schenck looked relieved. Annalise continued before he could think any further on the matter.

    “Only we really need to know about your law. We really do.”

    Annalise smiled pleadingly, tilting her head slightly to one side, her eyes widening like a little girl’s.

    Graham watched in awe. She could threaten, she could cajole, she could plead. How could anyone refuse her?

    “And you would be?” Schenck asked Annalise.

    “Oh, sorry.“ Annalise held out her hand. “I’m Annalise, Annalise Svenson and this is my colleague Graham, er …” she hesitated, “Graham Smithsonian.”

    Schenck got up and leaned over the desk to shake hands, nodding to each of them in turn. “Pleased to meet you Miss Svenson, Mr Smithsonian. You realise my ‘law’ is purely hypothetical, there can be no proof - at least, not for many years.”

    “Sure, we understand. We just wanted to hear you explain it to us. In your own words.”

    He leant back in his chair, lifting the front legs slightly.

    “Well, simply put, it states that once an event occurs on one world then the probability of the same event occurring on a parallel world increases.”

    Graham waited for Annalise to say ‘that’s it?’ and threaten Schenck with the phone. But she wasn’t given the opportunity - Schenck’s eyes took on a faraway look and away he went.

    “It’s an idea that came to me years ago. I was attending a lecture on Free Will and wondering if I should exercise it by leaving the room.“ He shook his head. “God awful speaker, we were all bored to tears.

    “And then it came to me - out of the blue - all these infinite worlds, overlaid one upon another, how could they not impact upon each other?”

    “So you’re saying that what happens on one parallel world affects all the others?” asked Annalise.

    “In a nutshell, yes. Of course, there’s no proof. How can there be? But it fits so well. Take evolution for example. We know that random mutation and natural selection alone cannot account for the entire evolutionary process. There hasn’t been enough time for the process to develop. One would need billions of years to account for all the changes. There has to be another mechanism at work and my theorem provides that external influence, without the need to invoke divine intervention.”

    He let his chair drop back onto all four legs and leant forward, resting his elbows on his desk until his enthusiasm for his subject wafted them back into the air.

    “You see, evolution is not a process confined to a single world. It’s a parallel process with each world influencing and being influenced by countless others. Once a mutation occurs on one world the chances of that same mutation occurring elsewhere increases. And as more worlds evolve the pressure on laggard worlds becomes all the greater, the capacity for evolutionary jumps becomes all the greater.”

    He held his arms out as though they supported a world of their own - an invisible globe, one metre in diameter. 

    “The last Earth to evolve - if there is such a planet - would find itself pulled into an evolutionary spiral. Life would feel compelled to leave the oceans. Even if land didn’t exist, creatures with legs would evolve, they might die off due to natural selection but they’d keep appearing, waiting for the day when that first island pushes up from the deep.”

    Graham was mesmerised. He’d rarely seen anyone talk with real passion. He’d seen arguments, he’d seen heated debates but there was no anger in this man’s words. It was all passion - passion for a subject, passion for an idea that you couldn’t even touch.

    “But, even more interesting is that it doesn’t apply only to mutations. It applies to behavioural modification too. You see, in evolutionary terms, a change in behaviour always precedes adaptation. The fish, with the exception of my Last Earth example, will move to the shore before it develops legs. It doesn’t develop legs and then search for a place to use them. It finds its niche first and then adapts. But why search for a niche in the first place? Why change a pattern of behaviour that has succeeded for millions of years?”

    “Competition? Climate change? Looking for a safer environment?” suggested Annalise.

      “Sometimes, perhaps, but, take the development of the amphibians, why leave an ocean teeming with food to eke out an existence on a shore line ravaged by waves, where food’s practically non-existent and one can’t even breathe?

    “There has to be an impetus. An overriding influence that impels that organism to change it’s behaviour.“

    “So, your law is about evolution?”

    “No, it’s about everything. I postulate that the law holds for any action or event, from the mutation of a fish to you deciding to visit me today. If I raise my hand now, then the chances that my counterpart on another world will raise his hand too is increased - infinitesimally, without doubt - but if enough of my counterparts raised their hands then a critical mass would be achieved.

    “And then what?”

    “And then we would have a resonance wave.”

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