Vetra’s lab was wildly futuristic.
Stark white and bounded on all sides by computers and specialized electronic equipment, it looked like some sort of operating room. Langdon wondered what secrets this place could possibly hold to justify cutting out someone’s eye to gain entrance.
Kohler looked uneasy as they entered, his eyes seeming to dart about for signs of an intruder. But the lab was deserted. Vittoria moved slowly too . . . as if the lab felt unknown without her father there.
Langdon’s gaze landed immediately in the center of the room, where a series of short pillars rose from the floor. Like a miniature Stonehenge, a dozen or so columns of polished steel stood in a circle in the middle of the room. The pillars were about three feet tall, reminding Langdon of museum displays for valuable gems. These pillars, however, were clearly not for precious stones. Each supported a thick, transparent canister about the size of a tennis ball can. They appeared empty.
Kohler eyed the canisters, looking puzzled. He apparently decided to ignore them for the time being. He turned to Vittoria. “Has anything been stolen?”
“Stolen? How? “she argued. “The retina scan only allows entry to us.”
“Just look around.”
Vittoria sighed and surveyed the room for a few moments. She shrugged. “Everything looks as my father always leaves it. Ordered chaos.”
Langdon sensed Kohler weighing his options, as if wondering how far to push Vittoria . . . how much to tell her. Apparently he decided to leave it for the moment. Moving his wheelchair toward the center of the room, he surveyed the mysterious cluster of seemingly empty canisters.
“Secrets,” Kohler finally said, “are a luxury we can no longer afford.”
Vittoria nodded in acquiescence, looking suddenly emotional, as if being here brought with it a torrent of memories.
Give her a minute, Langdon thought.
As though preparing for what she was about to reveal, Vittoria closed her eyes and breathed. Then she breathed again. And again. And again . . .
Langdon watched her, suddenly concerned. Is she okay? He glanced at Kohler, who appeared unfazed, apparently having seen this ritual before. Ten seconds passed before Vittoria opened her eyes.
Langdon could not believe the metamorphosis. Vittoria Vetra had been transformed. Her full lips were lax, her shoulders down, and her eyes soft and assenting. It was as though she had realigned every muscle in her body to accept the situation. The resentful fire and personal anguish had been quelled somehow beneath a deeper, watery cool.
“Where to begin . . .” she said, her accent unruffled.
“At the beginning,” Kohler said. “Tell us about your father’s experiment.”
“Rectifying science with religion has been my father’s life dream,” Vittoria said. “He hoped to prove that science and religion are two totally compatible fields—two different approaches to finding the same truth.” She paused as if unable to believe what she was about to say. “And recently . . . he conceived of a way to do that.”
Kohler said nothing.
“He devised an experiment, one he hoped would settle one of the most bitter conflicts in the history of science and religion.”
Langdon wondered which conflict she could mean. There were so many.
“Creationism,” Vittoria declared. “The battle over how the universe came to be.”
Oh, Langdon thought. The debate.
“The Bible, of course, states that God created the universe,” she explained. “God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and everything we see appeared out of a vast emptiness. Unfortunately, one of the fundamental laws of physics states that matter cannot be created out of nothing.”
Langdon had read about this stalemate. The idea that God allegedly created “something from nothing” was totally contrary to accepted laws of modern physics and therefore, scientists claimed, Genesis was scientifically absurd.
“Mr. Langdon,” Vittoria said, turning, “I assume you are familiar with the Big Bang Theory?”
Langdon shrugged. “More or less.” The Big Bang, he knew, was the scientifically accepted model for the creation of the universe. He didn’t really understand it, but according to the theory, a single point of intensely focused energy erupted in a cataclysmic explosion, expanding outward to form the universe. Or something like that.
Vittoria continued. “When the Catholic Church first proposed the Big Bang Theory in 1927, the—”
“I’m sorry?” Langdon interrupted, before he could stop himself. “You say the Big Bang was a Catholic idea?”
Vittoria looked surprised by his question “Of course. Proposed by a Catholic monk, Georges Lemaоtre in 1927.”
“But, I thought . . .” he hesitated. “Wasn’t the Big Bang proposed by Harvard astronomer Edwin Hubble?”
Kohler glowered. “Again, American scientific arrogance. Hubble published in 1929, two years after Lemaоtre.”
Langdon scowled. It’s called the Hubble Telescope, sir—I’ve never heard of any Lemaоtre Telescope!
“Mr. Kohler is right,” Vittoria said, “the idea belonged to Lemaоtre. Hubble only confirmed it by gathering the hard evidence that proved the Big Bang was scientifically probable.”
“Oh,” Langdon said, wondering if the Hubble‑fanatics in the Harvard Astronomy Department ever mentioned Lemaоtre in their lectures.
“When Lemaоtre first proposed the Big Bang Theory,” Vittoria continued, “scientists claimed it was utterly ridiculous. Matter, science said, could not be created out of nothing. So, when Hubble shocked the world by scientifically proving the Big Bang was accurate, the church claimed victory, heralding this as proof that the Bible was scientifically accurate. The divine truth.”
Langdon nodded, focusing intently now.
“Of course scientists did not appreciate having their discoveries used by the church to promote religion, so they immediately mathematicized the Big Bang Theory, removed all religious overtones, and claimed it as their own. Unfortunately for science, however, their equations, even today, have one serious deficiency that the church likes to point out.”
Kohler grunted. “The singularity.” He spoke the word as if it were the bane of his existence.
“Yes, the singularity,” Vittoria said. “The exact moment of creation. Time zero.” She looked at Langdon. “Even today, science cannot grasp the initial moment of creation. Our equations explain the early universe quite effectively, but as we move back in time, approaching time zero, suddenly our mathematics disintegrates, and everything becomes meaningless.”
“Correct,” Kohler said, his voice edgy, “and the church holds up this deficiency as proof of God’s miraculous involvement. Come to your point.”
Vittoria’s expression became distant. “My point is that my father had always believed in God’s involvement in the Big Bang. Even though science was unable to comprehend the divine moment of creation, he believed someday it would.” She motioned sadly to a laser‑printed memo tacked over her father’s work area. “My dad used to wave that in my face every time I had doubts.”
Langdon read the message:
Science and religion are not at odds.
Science is simply too young to understand.
“My dad wanted to bring science to a higher level,” Vittoria said, “where science supported the concept of God.” She ran a hand through her long hair, looking melancholy. “He set out to do something no scientist had ever thought to do. Something that no one has ever had the technology to do.” She paused, as though uncertain how to speak the next words. “He designed an experiment to prove Genesis was possible.”
Prove Genesis? Langdon wondered. Let there be light? Matter from nothing?
Kohler’s dead gaze bore across the room. “I beg your pardon?”
“My father created a universe . . . from nothing at all.”
Kohler snapped his head around. “What!”
“Better said, he recreated the Big Bang.”
Kohler looked ready to jump to his feet.
Langdon was officially lost. Creating a universe? Recreating the Big Bang?
“It was done on a much smaller scale, of course,” Vittoria said, talking faster now. “The process was remarkably simple. He accelerated two ultrathin particle beams in opposite directions around the accelerator tube. The two beams collided head‑on at enormous speeds, driving into one another and compressing all their energy into a single pinpoint. He achieved extreme energy densities.” She started rattling off a stream of units, and the director’s eyes grew wider.
Langdon tried to keep up. So Leonardo Vetra was simulating the compressed point of energy from which the universe supposedly sprang.
“The result,” Vittoria said, “was nothing short of wondrous. When it is published, it will shake the very foundation of modern physics.” She spoke slowly now, as though savoring the immensity of her news. “Without warning, inside the accelerator tube, at this point of highly focused energy, particles of matter began appearing out of nowhere.”
Kohler made no reaction. He simply stared.
“Matter,” Vittoria repeated. “Blossoming out of nothing. An incredible display of subatomic fireworks. A miniature universe springing to life. He proved not only that matter can be created from nothing, but that the Big Bang and Genesis can be explained simply by accepting the presence of an enormous source of energy.”
“You mean God ?” Kohler demanded.
“God, Buddha, The Force, Yahweh, the singularity, the unicity point—call it whatever you like—the result is the same. Science and religion support the same truth—pure energy is the father of creation.”
When Kohler finally spoke, his voice was somber. “Vittoria, you have me at a loss. It sounds like you’re telling me your father created matter . . . out of nothing?”
“Yes.” Vittoria motioned to the canisters. “And there is the proof. In those canisters are specimens of the matter he created.”
Kohler coughed and moved toward the canisters like a wary animal circling something he instinctively sensed was wrong. “I’ve obviously missed something,” he said. “How do you expect anyone to believe these canisters contain particles of matter your father actually created ? They could be particles from anywhere at all.”
“Actually,” Vittoria said, sounding confident, “they couldn’t. These particles are unique. They are a type of matter that does not exist anywhere on earth . . . hence they had to be created.”
Kohler’s expression darkened. “Vittoria, what do you mean a certain type of matter? There is only one type of matter, and it—” Kohler stopped short.
Vittoria’s expression was triumphant. “You’ve lectured on it yourself, director. The universe contains two kinds of matter. Scientific fact.” Vittoria turned to Langdon. “Mr. Langdon, what does the Bible say about the Creation? What did God create?”
Langdon felt awkward, not sure what this had to do with anything. “Um, God created . . . light and dark, heaven and hell—”
“Exactly,” Vittoria said. “He created everything in opposites. Symmetry. Perfect balance.” She turned back to Kohler. “Director, science claims the same thing as religion, that the Big Bang created everything in the universe with an opposite.”
“Including matter itself,” Kohler whispered, as if to himself.
Vittoria nodded. “And when my father ran his experiment, sure enough, two kinds of matter appeared.”
Langdon wondered what this meant. Leonardo Vetra created matter’s opposite?
Kohler looked angry. “The substance you’re referring to only exists elsewhere in the universe. Certainly not on earth. And possibly not even in our galaxy!”
“Exactly,” Vittoria replied, “which is proof that the particles in these canisters had to be created.”
Kohler’s face hardened. “Vittoria, surely you can’t be saying those canisters contain actual specimens?”
“I am.” She gazed proudly at the canisters. “Director, you are looking at the world’s first specimens of antimatter.”