291 words – 2 min.
By Jerry A. Boggs
It powered on and uploaded its dedicated magnification software. One of the physicists positioned a plain, ordinary clothing button under the single objective lens. He hurried back to join his colleague at the large viewing screen in the shielded control room.
They looked at each other and nodded. They zoomed in. They saw the flat field of lumps that represented the first layer of atoms. They zeroed in on one of the lumps. Tweaking the magnifier, they expanded the atom until it filled the screen. Its electrons were ghosts. The physicists plunged past them into the atom’s tiny nucleus and exposed its protons and neutrons. They stared in awe at the fuzzy, globular energy fields that were the quarks making up these components.
They pushed on, deeper and deeper into the black void of nothingness.
After four hours of continuous hyper-magnifying, the view screen showed them the universe’s smallest objects, superstrings. A superstring, they knew, is to the atom as a tree is to our solar system.
The physicists’ jaws dropped. The older of the two men swore softly. Still, they were not satisfied. They wanted more. They tweaked and tweaked, pushing the microscope to its limits. Many hours later, they were tiring. They were convinced they had attained the ultimate.
One of them reached to toggle off the magnification. He paused. Something small, like a speckle of dust on the screen, had appeared in the center. He wiped at it with his fingertip. It was still there.
They fast-dialed up the magnification until the object filled the screen.
They gasped and withdrew sharply. They staggered back, trying to comprehend. It was lettering — three words, sparkling and shimmering — that said: