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Crank Unified Theories (Author: Unknown)
Quite recently the Institute of Fuzzy Science has announced the discovery of several bold new theories, providing a unified explanation, or at least excuse, for a broad range of natural phenomena. These theories are both extremely ambitious in their scope and modest in their assumptions. Their main trait is that they deduce a great deal from practically nothing.
The creation of Crank Unified Theories is an old and honorable tradition, dating back to prehistoric times, when our ancient ancestors looked around them and asked, "How the heck did *this* all get here?" The process was lent considerable prestige by such luminaries as Aristotle and Ptolemy, in the classical age, and continues up to this day. One recent idea by a worker outside the Institute was Photon Mechanics, which postulated that all fundamental particles were composed of photons. In an attempt to prove this, he tried to synthesize a meal from gamma rays. Unfortunately, the food immediately propagated away at 299,000 kilometers per second, leaving critics of the light lunch unsatisfied.
"Terrible," one physicist commented. "Much too bland." Others seemed to agree.
The CUTs produced at the Institute of Fuzzy Science are notable in that they all contradict each other, and sometimes themselves. Thus, few would argue that all, or even most, are correct. The most successful theory to date is that of Dr. Isaac M. Woozy, commonly known as Woozy Theory. Woozy Theory has proven capable of predicting practically anything you put to it.
What is Woozy Theory? In its simplest outlines, it is an attempt to describe nature by unifying three separate realms of observation: General Relativity, Quantum Mechanics, and Scrabble. By adopting a three pronged approach the theory is able to resolve the apparent contradictions between each of the sub-theories.
"I believe that the problems of earlier researchers," stated Dr. Woozy, "arose from treating the subjects piecemeal. A unified approach is required." He cites difficulties with Superstring Theory, Quantum Scrabble, and Scrabble in Curved Spacetime. In each case, he maintains, difficulties arose from neglecting a broad class of other phenomena. "My discovery was serendipitous," he recalls. "I'd been wrestling with various theories for weeks without getting anywhere. Finally, in my office, I picked up Merzbacher's Quantum Mechanics in one hand and Misner, Thorne and Wheeler's Gravitation in the other -- well, I touched it, anyway, it's too heavy to lift. Just as I was staring at both of them, my Scrabble set fell from the top shelf and hit me on the head."
With the blow came illumination. If one merely assumes that Scrabble must exist, the rest of nature follows. Gravity, for example, is necessary to keep the pieces on the board. Electromagnetism provides light, to see the letters with. One critic pointed out the possibility of magnetized pieces; Woozy pondered for hours until he had resolved the conflict to his satisfaction.
"One not only needs gravity to keep the pieces on the board," he explained, "but also to provide an atmosphere, so the players can breathe." When the critic began to suggest pressure suits and space colonies, Woozy silenced him with a skillfully thrown paperweight.
"I take my work seriously," he declared.
Most exciting of all, Woozy theory provides the first coherent explanation for the universe as a whole. If Scrabble is necessary, then so are players, and a universe to play in. Woozy calls this the "Really Strong" or "Scrabble" Anthropic Principle. Humans (or at least intelligent beings) are necessary, providing an order to biological evolution which has been lacking since the failure of the Chain of Being. This also suggests that if aliens exist, they may well play Scrabble.
"That doesn't mean that they will speak English, necessarily," Woozy added cautiously. "There are foreign language versions, after all. And the point values may differ, somewhat." He suggested to SETI that they listen for very long range Play By Mail games. At present, his suggestion has not been acted on. "They're just miffed that they didn't think of it," Woozy sniffed.
Rival theories include unifying QFT and GR with chess or checkers, or even tic-tac-toe. While the originators of these theories remain hopeful, Woozy is pessimistic.
"Those games are extremely difficult to unify with Quantum Mechanics," Woozy explained, "since they lack an element of chance. And tic-tac-toe doesn't even have pieces, so gravity is pretty shaky as well. Plus it's a drawn game (no pun intended). Who'd want to live in a universe that boring?" Woozy also recalled an early game of quantum chess: "After about thirty moves, black was both mated and not mated. It made for terrible arguments."
Are these, or similar theories, the answer to the riddle of the universe? Most observers doubt it. Still, as Dr. Woozy himself points out, "What the heck, it keeps us off the streets."