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So we're walking down the fairway, a fun foursome consisting of yours truly, my brothers Jack and Tom, and Albert Einstein.

That's my brother Jack, the Computer Whiz, my brother Tom, the physics Phi Beta Kappa, and myself, the King of Trivial Pursuit. Albert is in fast company.

Jack: "Einstein's theory of relativity is very good at describing huge objects, like gravity produced by galaxies, and quantum mechanics is very good at describing very small objects, like electrons and photons."

Tom: "But they're contradictory with each other. Now string theory works on the very large scale and very small scale. It works for galaxies, and it works for quarks."

String theory instead of swing theory? Quantum mechanics instead of swing mechanics?

I just shrug my shoulders and sigh.

Golf is an impossible sport, but at least I can follow the conversation.

When I'm out with my usual golfing buddies, the talk turns predictably to sports. Why NASCAR needs more Super Lube/Beer Gut 400s. Why the Philadelphia Phillies can't possibly win the pennant with that banjo hitting lineup of theirs. Why Tiger Woods is the second coming of Buddha.

With my brothers, it's a whole 'nother, uh, universe. Hang with them long enough, and you're bound to learn something.

Not that I'm ignorant when it comes to certain aspects of physics. Heck, I've invested 30 years of research, discovering what I call the "Rial Variation," which states: The distance a golf ball will travel is proportional to the mass of the clubhead and square of its speed, except when there is water on the right.

The Nobel Prize awaits.

Meanwhile, as I struggle to hit the small ball (white, dimpled) before hitting the big ball (planet Earth), Jack and Tom continue to swing with laser-like precision and hit drives enormous distances, defying the fundamental principles of the game.

Me: "OK, I'll bite. What is string theory?" (THWAP. My ball describes a weak parabola that would've made Einstein wince.)

Jack: "It consists of 10 dimensions. The three dimensions of height, length and width, along with time, and six crumpled dimensions." (BAM. His drive splits the heart of the fairway with a tight, right-to-left draw.)

Tom: "Imagine two ants meeting from opposite directions on a kite string. They can't get around each other." (WHAM. His drive takes off, long and low, like a Boeing 747, and disappears toward the far horizon.)

Jack: "Now think of a grid laid out on a green, with all the strings crossing each other. Now, the ants can't get stuck, they can always walk around another part of the grid."

Tom: "And, where each of the strings cross, let's place a golf ball. The strings are close enough so that all the golf balls are touching each other."

Jack: "So if the ants meet, they can walk around the sides of the golf ball, and get around each other. That's how the crumpled dimensions work in string theory. They let particles go past each other, while still staying within the same space."

Tom: "Basically, what we have is a four-dimensional world. The two-dimensional surface, the green, with two crumpled dimensions, the golf balls."

Having found my ball at last, behind a tree, I attempt a heroic recovery. But at the last second I flinch, certain that ants have escaped the fourth dimension. Predictably, the ball hits the tree with a THWOCK, and caroms out of bounds.

Three shots later, I finally trudge up to the green, where my brothers are plumb-bobbing their birdie putts, still in earnest conversation.

Jack: "… so that's how you'd extrapolate the deceleration if Einstein was hitting a golf ball off a moving car. You know, he didn't like mathematical tricks to describe physics. He felt there should be this truth, and you look at it, and say, sure, that makes sense."

Tom: "Sure, it's like golf. If you're in doubt, there's a rule that covers it. There's not a preferred vantage point in the universe, they're all equal."

Jack: "But also like golf, you'll never master it. Remember, after relativity, Einstein was stumped. He couldn't come up with the grand unified theory."

Me: "Hey, guys."

They turn in my direction, calm and curious.

Me: "Wanna know why Einstein was such a %$#@& genius? He never tried to play this %#$@*&%# game!"

And, with that, I hurl my bag to the ground and stomp off into a fifth dimension. Einstein had a name for it: the 19th hole.

Rial Cummings can be reached at 523-5255 or rcummings@missoulian.com.

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