Feeling Feyn

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I didn’t know which way was up, or which way was down, or even if those terms had any meaning out here really. I didn’t know how fast I was going, where I was, or where I was headed. All I did know is that I was spinning, but I wasn’t dizzy. It’s a funny thing about the human body; for all the amazing senses it contains, it doesn’t come with any sort of speedometer. I mean, when you’re in a 747 at cruising speed, you could just as easily be sitting on your couch at home, or on the road travelling at 80km/h instead of in the air travelling at 800km/h. Our body is actually pretty good at measuring acceleration though, especially when we’re already under the force of gravity. Fortunately for me (or unfortunately, depending on your point of view) I was neither accelerating, nor under the force of gravity, so while I was spinning, I wasn’t dizzy.

Now I thought I remembered something about Newton and a bucket from High School Physics that meant I should be dizzy, but it could just as easily have been a half-forgotten limerick. In any case, if I closed my eyes I felt as though I could be lying in bed. But when I opened my eyes, the field of stars before me would slide by and then every 8.2 seconds or so a purplish-green planet would fly by. But I wasn’t dizzy – maybe that had something to do with Einstein, or Mach, or some other old dead German guy. Heck maybe it was Feynman, I didn’t know, I was a biologist! I remembered Dr. Nonebuna on the long trip out here always coming up with some ribald saying she would attribute to Feynman for a laugh. I had no idea what had happened to my colleagues or our ship. In fact, all I knew was that I was spinning.

“This is Dr. Steven Ownsward of the Matthew, is there anybody out there?” I had no reason to believe there was anyone within range of my suit’s very limited communications but I’ll be damned if I wasn’t going to try. “Hello! Anybody! Mayday mayday! I need help!” I don’t know if you’re really supposed to say “Mayday” but I’m sure I’ve seen it movies. I launched into a stream of obscenities punctuated by cries for help and maybe some sobs that I’d rather not admit to.

“Dr. Ownsward this is JSC in Houston, do you copy?” I was sure I had lost my mind. The voice sounded metallic and digital and had a bit of static, but the words were clear. I couldn’t speak.

“Dr. Steven Ownsward, this is Houston, can you hear us?” the message sounded somehow clearer this time. I was finally able to respond.

“Yes! Yes! I don’t believe it! Yes I can hear you! I can hear you!!“ I let out some involuntary laughter that might have been joy, or relief, or the sound of me losing my mind, I really wasn’t sure. “How in Hades can I hear you? I’ve gotta be 4 light-years from Earth.” I was pretty sure I was just talking to voices in my head, but I kept on with it anyway.

“Dr. Ownsward, this is Pam Stanley, remember me?” Now I was sure I was losing it. Pam was an intern at NASA that was assigned to be my assistant during my time at Johnson, but with the speed and length of our flight, she’d have to be in her 60s now.

“Wait a second, I know this drill; they get a friendly voice on the line to tell me that I’m going to die, but hopefully I’ll do whatever it is you need me to do before I kick. Is that about right?” I still wasn’t sure if this was all just a dream or not.

“I always loved telling you when you were wrong!” she let out another chuckle, and even though her voice was aged, I knew it was her. “I’ll spare you most of the details because smart as you are, you were always an idiot when it came to physics.” She had me there, and Pam was never one to pull punches. “You may or may not have been aware but before you left Earth orbit, we, well that is NASA, conducted some subatomic scans of your ship and everything on it that were, at the time, experimental. We actually didn’t know what we could do with the data, but the theory had reached the point where we thought we might be able to make use of it by the time you reached ACAB.” For someone sparing me the details, she sure went on. “We’re now able to use a form of quantum entanglement to interact with the comm system on your suit and we think we can do even better. The main problem is getting an accurate read on your position while you’re still spinning.“

It took some doing but by venting some of my O2, I was able to slow and eventually halt my rotation. I was now staring at the purplish-green disk of Alpha Centauri ab.
“Okay, I’ve stopped spinning, now wh…” I didn’t finish my sentence because out of the vacuum an oddly shaped white capsule suddenly just popped into existence. It vaguely resembled a cartoon ghost. Stenciled on the side was the name “SPOOKY” I’m sure it must have been an acronym for something; NASA loved acronyms.

A robotic arm grabbed me and pulled me into a hatch on the side of Spooky. I felt the familiar “whoosh” of repressurization, and when I saw the green light go on, I took off my helmet. The interior hatch opened and I was shocked to see Dr. Nonebuna waiting for me. She handed me what looked like a bottle of beer and said “You know what Feynman would say about this don’t you?” All of a sudden, I felt dizzy.

About the Author: 
Terry Hogan has had many jobs including chicken catcher, swimming coach, and molecular biologist. Unfortunately he has never worked on quantum physics, but has been known to use "Higgs-boson" as a punchline. He's currently a husband, dad, and Vice Principal in Northern Alberta.