Bovine savants are an unrecognised
phenomenon - in particular amongst bovine savants. So it was with
Ermintrude as she stood with the herd of ten other Jerseys in her
field, thirty-two gate widths long by ninety-seven-and-a-quarter
gate widths wide. She munched on two-hundred-and-forty-one (or
was it forty-two? - she recounted with her tongue - definitely
forty-one) blades of grass, and looked at the sun as it slowly
set towards the far horizon.
She had long since concluded that the earth
must be spherical, and had deduced its approximate diameter in
gate-widths, although these discoveries had given her no joy. Nor
had she felt any inclination to communicate the facts to her
fellows, nor to the humans she encountered, nor to any other
member of her personal classification of species. It was neither
curiosity nor fame that motivated her - the thoughts just came.
Such routine disinterest had also
accompanied the conclusions she had drawn from viewing the night
sky: The structure of the solar system, the multiplicity of
galaxies, the inevitability of black holes
Such thoughts occupied her mind while
chewing the cud or walking to and from the milking parlour. The
parlour had introduced her to milking machines and, hence, to
electricity, which posed questions about matter at an atomic
level. After a while, however, the nature of sub-atomic particles
and forces had seemed obvious.
But something was wrong. It did not in any
way bother her, but clearly the force which held her to her
field, when considered with the properties of matter and her
cosmology, was inconsistant with a three dimensional universe.
Her mind had returned to the problem day
after day, although, during the past week, her concentration had
not been good. The sore mouth and aching hooves had been a
The gate opened for a landrover to enter
the field. Ermintrude gazed through the gateway and along the
lane. There was something about the appearance of the lane,
segmented by long shadows of trees cast by the late evening
light, which sponsored her thought of extra dimensions. A glance
at the narrow rifle bore, as the man removed the weapon from the
rear of the vehicle, seemed to imply the possibility that these
dimensions could be so tightly rolled as to be imperceptible.
Part of her mind undertook the calculations
while part obsessively counted the shots. Mirabel fell, then
Daisy, then Florence . . . four, five, six, seven, eight, nine .
. . ten - there had to be ten dimensions, and the nature of
matter had to be something akin, metaphorically, to vibrating
strings . . . and that was the only way reality could be, and,
furthermore, the universe had to exist rather than not exist
because . . . eleven.