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Home > The Lost Symbol (Robert Langdon #3)(19)

The Lost Symbol (Robert Langdon #3)(19)
Author: Dan Brown

"I'm sorry?"

Trish laughed. "Yeah, sounds crazy, I know. What I mean is that it quantified the nation's emotional state. It offered a kind of cosmic consciousness barometer, if you will." Trish explained how, using a data field of the nation's communications, one could assess the nation's mood based on the "occurrence density" of certain keywords and emotional indicators in the data field. Happier times had happier language, and stressful times vice versa. In the event, for example, of a terrorist attack, the government could use data fields to measure the shift in America's psyche and better advise the president on the emotional impact of the event.

"Fascinating," Katherine said, stroking her chin. "So essentially you're examining a population of individuals . . . as if it were a single organism."

"Exactly. A metasystem. A single entity defined by the sum of its parts. The human body, for example, consists of millions of individual cells, each with different attributes and different purposes, but it functions as a single entity."

Katherine nodded enthusiastically. "Like a flock of birds or a school of fish moving as one. We call it convergence or entanglement."

Trish sensed her famous guest was starting to see the potential of metasystem programming in her own field of Noetics. "My software," Trish explained, "was designed to help government agencies better evaluate and respond appropriately to wide-scale crises--pandemic diseases, national tragedies, terrorism, that sort of thing." She paused. "Of course, there's always the potential that it could be used in other directions . . . perhaps to take a snapshot of the national mind-set and predict the outcome of a national election or the direction the stock market will move at the opening bell."

"Sounds powerful."

Trish motioned to her big house. "The government thought so." Katherine's gray eyes focused in on her now. "Trish, might I ask about the ethical dilemma posed by your work?"

"What do you mean?"

"I mean you created a piece of software that can easily be abused. Those who possess it have access to powerful information not available to everyone. You didn't feel any hesitation creating it?"

Trish didn't blink. "Absolutely not. My software is no different than say . . . a flight simulator program. Some users will practice flying first-aid missions into underdeveloped countries. Some users will practice flying passenger jets into skyscrapers. Knowledge is a tool, and like all tools, its impact is in the hands of the user."

Katherine sat back, looking impressed. "So let me ask you a hypothetical question."

Trish suddenly sensed their conversation had just turned into a job interview.

Katherine reached down and picked up a tiny speck of sand off the deck, holding it up for Trish to see. "It occurs to me," she said, "that your metasystems work essentially lets you calculate the weight of an entire sandy beach . . . by weighing one grain at a time."

"Yes, basically that's right."

"As you know, this little grain of sand has mass. A very small mass, but mass nonetheless."

Trish nodded.

"And because this grain of sand has mass, it therefore exerts gravity. Again, too small to feel, but there."

"Right."

"Now," Katherine said, "if we take trillions of these sand grains and let them attract one another to form . . . say, the moon, then their combined gravity is enough to move entire oceans and drag the tides back and forth across our planet."

Trish had no idea where this was headed, but she liked what she was hearing.

"So let's take a hypothetical," Katherine said, discarding the sand grain. "What if I told you that a thought . . . any tiny idea that forms in your mind . . . actually has mass? What if I told you that a thought is an actual thing, a measurable entity, with a measurable mass? A minuscule mass, of course, but mass nonetheless. What are the implications?"

"Hypothetically speaking? Well, the obvious implications are . . . if a thought has mass, then a thought exerts gravity and can pull things toward it." Katherine smiled. "You're good. Now take it a step further. What happens if many people start focusing on the same thought? All the occurrences of that same thought begin to merge into one, and the cumulative mass of this thought begins to grow. And therefore, its gravity grows."

"Okay."

"Meaning . . . if enough people begin thinking the same thing, then the gravitational force of that thought becomes tangible . . . and it exerts actual force." Katherine winked. "And it can have a measurable effect in our physical world."

CHAPTER 19

Director Inoue Sato stood with her arms folded, her eyes locked skeptically on Langdon as she processed what he had just told her. "He said he wants you to unlock an ancient portal? What am I supposed to do with that, Professor?"

Langdon shrugged weakly. He was feeling ill again and tried not to look down at his friend's severed hand. "That's exactly what he told me. An ancient portal . . . hidden somewhere in this building. I told him I knew of no portal."

"Then why does he think you can find it?"

"Obviously, he's insane." He said Peter would point the way. Langdon looked down at Peter's upstretched finger, again feeling repulsed by his captor's sadistic play on words. Peter will point the way. Langdon had already permitted his eyes to follow the pointing finger up to the dome overhead. A portal? Up there? Insane.

"This man who called me," Langdon told Sato, "was the only one who knew I was coming to the Capitol tonight, so whoever informed you I was here tonight, that's your man. I recommend--"

"Where I got my information is not your concern," Sato interrupted, voice sharpening. "My top priority at the moment is to cooperate with this man, and I have information suggesting you are the only one who can give him what he wants."

"And my top priority is to find my friend," Langdon replied, frustrated.

Sato inhaled deeply, her patience clearly being tested. "If we want to find Mr. Solomon, we have one course of action, Professor--to start cooperating with the one person who seems to know where he is." Sato checked her watch. "Our time is limited. I can assure you it is imperative we comply with this man's demands quickly."

"How?" Langdon asked, incredulous. "By locating and unlocking an ancient portal? There is no portal, Director Sato. This guy's a lunatic."

Sato stepped close, less than a foot from Langdon. "If I may point this out . . . your lunatic deftly manipulated two fairly smart individuals already this morning." She stared directly at Langdon and then glanced at Anderson. "In my business, one learns there is a fine line between insanity and genius. We would be wise to give this man a little respect."

"He cut off a man's hand!"

"My point exactly. That is hardly the act of an uncommitted or uncertain individual. More important, Professor, this man obviously believes you can help him. He brought you all the way to Washington--and he must have done it for a reason."

"He said the only reason he thinks I can unlock this `portal' is that Peter told him I can unlock it," Langdon countered.

"And why would Peter Solomon say that if it weren't true?"

"I'm sure Peter said no such thing. And if he did, then he did so under duress. He was confused . . . or frightened."

"Yes. It's called interrogational torture, and it's quite effective. All the more reason Mr. Solomon would tell the truth." Sato spoke as if she'd had personal experience with this technique. "Did he explain why Peter thinks you alone can unlock the portal?"

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