Meeting of The Minds by David Macfie
Stephen Hawking thought it would be really cool to have a face-to-face meeting with the two scientists whose work provided the main underpinnings of his own contributions to science. A slight impediment to this was that both had been dead for many years. Hawking applied himself to the problem of time travel and, using wormholes and wrinkles in the fabric of time, he worked out how he could transport the two gentlemen from their time to the present and back again. Helped by some of his colleagues, he set up the Fantastically Intuitive Time Transport Invention for Noncurrent Gentlemen. (FITTING for short)
When all the equipment was ready he organized dinner and entertainment, then, using voice recognition in the device and a WIFI connection, he dialed July 1687 on the chronometer of his device and Isaac Newton’s physical address at that time on the location control. Since the chosen date coincided with the first publication of Newton’s laws of motion and universal gravitation, Hawking figured this was a good time to catch his first guest at the height of his intellectual powers.
When a slightly disheveled Newton materialized in Hawking’s lounge, the butler handed him a large, extremely stiff drink. Distracted by the alcohol, Newton took a large gulp, spluttered a bit and, only then, took stock of his surroundings. His eyes went big at the décor in the room, but then he noticed the wheelchair containing a rumpled, crumpled gnomish figure with his head twisted impossibly to the right.
Newton’s jaw dropped and then fell even further, when Hawking’s eerie voice welcomed him and promised an explanation after the next guest arrived.
The wheelchair moved to Newton’s side then ushered him, like a sheepdog herding a flock, to the FITTING device. Hawking explained that he had to fetch the other guest. Newton watched in open-mouthed astonishment as Hawking said 1916 and Berlin and he saw the date and the location appear on the screen of the device. Then a curt message scrolled over the display – ‘Transfer in progress.’
In seconds, Albert Einstein appeared in the room. He was less flustered than Newton until he saw the first guest and then noticed Hawking. Now both guests were speechless. Hawking filled the silence.
“Isaac, may I call you by your first name?” he asked, and got a dumbfounded nod in return.
“Isaac, I’d like to formally introduce you to Albert Einstein. You and he are considered the foremost scientists of your eras. You were the man, who, in the seventeenth century, created the underpinning of modern mechanics and also explained much of the foundations of cosmology. Albert will know all about you, as I do. He, in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, built on your foundation and explained many things that were hitherto not understood. Many of these things had not even been conceived in your day.”
Einstein regained his voice.
“Hold on a minute, I am confused. If the date you mentioned is true, I’ve been dead for over fifty years and Isaac died nearly three centuries ago. Who are you, what are you and how are we here?”
“Your statement is true,” replied Hawking, with a smile. “First, I am, so-to-speak, your successor just as you were Isaac’s. I have built on your work as you did on his. And I have extended your ideas into areas that were inconceivable in your day.”
“That makes me feel better,” he commented, with a wry smile. “My work lasted two and a half centuries before improvement, while Albert’s only a little over fifty years.”
All three men laughed, but the point was well made.
“True again,” admitted Hawking. “As to what I am, I suffer from a wasting disease that has left me as you see me with my mind fully functional. I speak through a processor in my chair. Now to your final question. The rate of advancement is accelerating and has been for years. I have done much work on the nature of time and, as a result, I have built the device that brought you here from the time when your careers were at their peaks. I thought it would be fun for the three of us to discuss where we are now in terms of knowledge and speculate a little on where we might go from here. To bring you up to date I have compiled a short movie.”
Using his artificial voice, he started the movie. Both guests were transfixed for about fifteen minutes as the current states of physics and cosmology were summarized. Over dinner, Hawking answered the inevitable questions and one in particular.
“The current knowledge has advanced far from what Isaac and I developed. How did that happen in so short a time?” asked Einstein.
“You personally are reputed to have said, ‘No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.’ I think those words answer your question. Our consciousness has advanced and so, therefore, has our knowledge,” answered Hawking.
“I must have been in one of my wiser moments,” commented Albert wryly.
“You are also reputed to have said that ‘the difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has its limits’,” remarked Hawking.
The three men laughed and continued.
The meal was long and varied, but the eminent gentlemen didn’t notice the passage of time. The conversation was so stimulating and challenging that all three were immune to fatigue. Only the butler started to feel the strain. Finally, as dawn started to break, the discourse came to a natural break-point.
“I think it is time for me to send you home,” said Hawking. “Unfortunately, you will not remember the specifics of your visit tonight, once you are back in your own time, but I must say that I enjoyed our time together immensely. We must do this again soon.”
Einstein and Newton heartily agreed.