Some of you know that I’m writing a novel. The fun thing about writing a novel is the asking of questions and then figuring out the answers. What if hand-guns could shoot pulses of sound? What if a person’s skin and eye color were direct reflections of the exact location in which they were born? Can you imagine what all those babies born in hospitals would look like? That could have an impact on a society that cares about exterior color or maybe they’d just adapt and pregnant women would go on an exodus hoping that the eye color would match this sea or that sky. Except maybe it didn’t always work that way and maybe it was the hair that turned blue. Or the skin. All kinds of things could go crazily wrong with this, which is great!
I think because of all the fun question and answer scenarios I’ve been involved in, it exploded over into my subconscious. My dreams last night kept being interrupted by math foibles. Really. I’d be having an awesome dream about a high-school crush moving next door to my grandparents house… and then I’d be interrupted with One plus One Equals Three.
For those who know me, you know I hate math. Really, really, really hate math. I did pass my college algebra and statistics classes, but only because I had to, and I promptly let all the formulae and figures fly away free once I was done. I do not understand why people love it. I have several engineers in my family, some who literally are rocket scientists working for NASA. And the one great thing that they all love about math is its purity. One plus one always equals two. It’s the reason engineers can do what they do and build massive yet delicate bridges, flying buttresses and crazily high sky scrapers. It’s the reasons planes fly, guns shoot, and that lights turn on when we flick a switch.
But what if one plus one equaled three? Oh, I can hear the uproars now: "You can’t do that!" The math lovers and physicists are going to get all snarky, their feathers all ruffled, and their noses will twitch because I’ve messed with the solid foundations of the universe. Well, the universe as they understand it, perhaps. But for someone like me who wants to run screaming from the very idea of factoring a polynomial... well, it's easier to see around, under, or even through the “laws” that are touted so very much. It then becomes so very easy break Newtons first, second or even third law because it just doesn’t apply. Oh let the fury begin now. "Gravity? How can you say gravity doesn’t apply?!?"
Well, obviously a mathematician might not appreciate my snubbery of the laws. But seriously, what if? What if there were a world out there where one or more of whatever object you were adding underwent mitosis or decided to clone itself? What if the very act of thinking a sum caused the mitosis or cloning? For example, you’re adding apples. Billy has two apples, and Sally has one. How many apples do you have? Four. Because while you were adding, Sally’s apple decided to split and create a clone of itself and you now have four apples. Albeit two large and two small due to conservation of mass. Which means counting fingers could be tricky. You might end up with more fingers than you started with. And why am I worrying about conservation of mass when I’m messing with math, anyway? Baby steps, for one. And because I hold a dear love for chemistry, for two -- even though I’m messing around with its math, too.
So perhaps this can only happen in a shape-shifty kind of world where engineering and physics are unreliable at best; because even at a cellular level things would be adding or dividing every time someone looked at them and tried to figure a sum. “I wonder how many tons of marble it would take to create a monument?” or “I will need x amount of gravel to cover the driveway, find x” – and then X can’t be found because it’s run off to join the circus while the gravel has decided to multiply or divide itself.
The work of fiction? Yes. Fun fiction, though! And oddly enough, also proof that when you’re a mother of six, lack of sleep becomes evident when you’re dreaming about math instead of escaping off into a restful never-never land. But it definitely does spur on the questions of “what if?” And it keeps a smile on my face as I consider all of the fun possibilities that are out there. As Neil Gaimon said, “Anything is possible when you don’t know it’s impossible.”