Re: When something impossible happens

From: justin corwin (
Date: Tue Jan 22 2008 - 12:42:17 MST

I hate to rain on a story, but given the proposed forum I wanted to
point out that there are much more more likely explanations than
suddenly jumping to 'the whole world is fake'.

On Jan 22, 2008 9:47 AM, Gordon Worley <> wrote:
> I wrote the following thinking it might be a post for Overcoming
> Bias. Instead, I think it's more appropriate for SL4.
> What would you do if something impossible happened? Not "impossible"
> like when something unlikely happens and you say "Wow, that was
> impossible!" but something that has so little chance of happening that
> it shouldn't happen. The following story presents one possible
> scenario.
> Ideally most readers here won't need the epilogue, but I wrote it
> after I finished the story since I thought someone, especially the
> average OB reader, might need it. Comments and suggestions welcome.
> by Gordon Worley
> John shifted one inch to his left. Naturally, he was surprised since
> he hadn't meant to, and was sure he hadn't taken a step, been pushed,
> or otherwise had any expected reason to find himself an inch to the
> left of where he had been just seconds ago.
> He was standing in the candy aisle of a deserted SuperGas convenience
> store, looking for something high in sugar and fat to keep him on the
> road. Tired, he thought maybe he imagined the spontaneous shift, a
> product of too many hours staring at an endless stream of white
> stripes. But no, that would be lying to himself. He was sure he had
> moved one inch to the left.
> He grabbed a candy bar full of carmel and nuts and walked up to the
> cashier. She looked like a college student, working nights to pay her
> way. At first she didn't notice him because her dark brown hair
> shielded her eyes as she studied a tabloid article about which
> celebrities had the best and worst swimsuit bodies of the summer. He
> cleared his throat and she looked up.
> "Find everything you need?"
> "Yes," John replied.
> He hesitated for a moment and then said "Did you see what just
> happened?"
> "What do you mean?"
> "Did you see what I just did? How I spontaneously shifted one inch to
> the left?"
> Her confusion, and a little fear, showed on her face. John knew he
> must sound like a nut job, but she was his only possible witness.
> "No, sorry," she said. "I was busy reading. Did you want to buy that?"
> "Oh, yes," said John, having forgotten the candy bar in his left hand.
> "That'll be one oh five."
> John dug in his right pocket for cash. He found a crumpled dollar
> bill quickly, but it took him a few seconds to find a nickel.
> "Here you go," he said.
> "Thanks," she said, not looking up from the register.
> John turned to leave but then stopped. He knew it was crazy, but he
> was sure he had shifted one inch to the left. He turned back to the
> cashier, who he now noticed had a name tag with "Beth" written on it,
> and asked "do you have a surveillance system in the store?"
> Her fear growing, she sputtered out a "yes".
> "No no, I don't mean it like that. I don't want to rob the store or
> anything. But it's important; do you have one?"
> "Yes," she said, agitation tinging her voice.
> "Can I see the tape of myself standing in the candy aisle?"
> "No, you can't," she replied coldly. "I don't have access to the
> tapes, and even if I did, I wouldn't show them to you. Look, I'm sure
> you think it's funny to mess with a gas clerk, but I'm really not in
> the mood for it."
> "Sorry, I didn't mean to upset you. It's just... I think something
> impossible just happened to me and I'm very confused and a little
> scared and I just wanted to see the tape so I could reassure myself
> that nothing unusually had happened."
> "Why does it matter," Beth inquired.
> "I don't know, it just does. Some people like to go through life
> accepting mystery, but I don't. I like to know the truth. I need to
> know it. And if I don't find out what really just happened to me, I'm
> going to spend the rest of my life haunted by the idea that something
> impossible happened."
> John could see her softening. Maybe she was taking pity on him.
> "Fine," she said, "I lied. I do have access to the tapes. We can
> watch it in the back office."
> John breathed a sigh of relief. "Thanks," he said. "I'm John, by the
> way."
> "Beth."
> He started to extend his hand, but his startled her and he pulled his
> hand back quickly.
> "Sorry, force of habit, I guess. I shake hands all day at work."
> "It's okay, but watch yourself," she said. "I've got mace and a
> taser, so don't try anything funny."
> John was going to apologize again, but before he could she gave him a
> "come on" hand motion and walked toward the back of the store. John
> followed and they met at the end of the counter. She led the way,
> taking him to an unmarked door just past the beer freezer. She held
> up a key she must have kept behind the counter and unlocked the door.
> She opened it, turned on the lights, and didn't look back as she went
> in. John caught the door as the spring-loaded hinge swung it shut and
> followed her in.
> The office wasn't more than a closet with a desk and two chairs. The
> desk was covered with a mess of paperwork. On the corner of the desk
> was a small TV that was displaying in black and white the surveillance
> video of the store. They each took a seat.
> Beth dug through the papers and eventually found a remote. She aimed
> it at the TV and rewound the video. They wanted John walked backwards
> to the candy aisle, stand there for a while, and then walk backwards
> out of it. She hit the play button and John leaned in to make sure he
> soaked in every detail.
> He only had to wait a few seconds. Sure enough, at time mark 4:15:86,
> he could be seen to spontaneously shift one inch to the left.
> "Holy shit!"
> John turned to look at Beth.
> "I didn't really believe you," she said, "but it actually happened.
> You were in one spot and then just popped over an inch."
> "Yeah, it did," John said flatly.
> "What? Why do you seem so troubled? When I took freshman physics we
> learned that just this sort of thing can happen. It's called quantum
> tunneling, I believe."
> "Yes," said John, "but do you remember what the odds of that happening
> are?"
> "Sure. Our teacher said that the chances were small, but that it was
> an observed effect."
> "On the particle level. The chances of a single particle tunneling
> are small, but not so small that it never happens. But a larger
> object, even something as small as a sugar cube, is made up of so many
> particles that even if one particle tunnels away the sugar cube
> appears unaffected. In order for the entire sugar cube to tunnel,
> every particle must simultaneously tunnel exactly the same distance in
> exactly the same direction."
> "Right, but it's still possible."
> "Not really. With millions of particles, such an event is already so
> unlikely that we may as well say that it will never happen. The
> chance of a human tunneling even one inch is so remote that you would
> sooner expect to win the lottery and then be struck by an asteroid
> being ridden by a rubber chicken on your way to collect the prize."
> "Yeah, but it could happen."
> "You don't get it, do you. The great 'mystery' of the universe is
> that not one unusual thing has ever happened...ever!"
> "So," said Beth, "I guess that makes what happened to you a miracle."
> "But miracles don't happen. At least, they shouldn't. Not unless..."
> "What?"
> "Not unless we're living in a simulation."
> ****
> Beth made a copy of the tape and sold it to the local TV station. The
> network took interest, and soon the entire country was watching John
> shift one inch to the left, late at night, in a SuperGas convenience
> store. John appeared on national talk shows where he explained what
> happened. Soon, he was getting calls from foreign stations asking him
> for interviews. Each time he appeared he told the same story, about
> how something impossible happened. And each time, when asked why he
> thought it happened, he explained how it implied that we were living
> in a simulation.
> Religious groups claimed it was a miracle. Some scientists admitted
> it was possible and chalked it up to chance. Other scientists took it
> to mean that their theories were wrong and set to work trying to
> discover a better model for the universe. And a very few people
> realized that John was right.
> ****
> Meanwhile, at Glork's workstation, an amber light flashed, indicating
> that Simulation 19,845,658,304 had a bug, causing its inhabitants to
> realize that they were in a simulation. Glork sighed. This would
> mean the loss of billions of years of computer time, but he had no
> choice, and flipped the reset switch.
> -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --
> Gordon Worley
> e-mail: PGP: 0xBBD3B003
> Web:

Justin Corwin

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