I’m really sorry about this break in the usual service. This came to me as I was walking to work and I had to get it down.
Wilson spotted House and ran up to him. “Doctor, I have an interesting one for you!”
House looked up from his TV. “How long?”
“How long have you been seeing Clare?”
“A week. Wait, how did you know??”
“Your sleeve. There’s a faint red smudge on it. That says lipstick to me. The fact that it’s on your uniform means it is someone at the hospital. The nurses and doctors do not wear cosmetics in case they interfere chemically with the patients, which leaves secretaries or janitors. We have no female janitors, and none of the janitors wear lipstick anyway, which leaves Janine, Clare, Rose and Sarah. Only Rose and Clare have been on-duty for the last few hours, and Rose is over 50.”
Before Wilson could reply, House added “You should probably break up with her. Clare has an incurable disease and will be dead within a month.”
“How do you know that?” asked Wilson.
“I’ll explain later. Now, what have you got for me?”
They walked in to look at some X-rays.
“The patient was brought in an hour ago. He’s wheezing, complained of diarrhoea and double vision and collapsed. We thought it was food poisoning until we took these photos. That’s when we knew you’d be interested.”
“These photos are backwards.” said House, instantly.
“No – I checked; they’re actually the right way around. I’ve ordered an MRI for him.”
“Don’t bother. I can see what the problem is. It’s food poisoning. Bring me to him.”
They entered the patient’s room, where he was getting undressed. House looked at his shoes, and then his chart.
“Professor Grant? What is it that you do?”
“Physics. Specifically working on teleportation.”
“I’ve heard that only works for small elements. You need to link them together somehow?”
“Yes. Quantum entanglement. But that’s not what I do. What you’re talking about is actually the cloning of attributes between two remote particles. Not true teleportation. How mine works is that we ‘map’ one part of the underlying foam onto another, and the originator ‘snaps’ into the new position.”
“Yes. See the universe is built on a network of tiny nodes, and all points are connected to all other points through these nodes. We have come up with a way to realise teleportation by controlling those nodes. We’ve even tested it successfully with large living bodies such as dogs and monkeys. You see, …”
“You can explain on the way. We can’t treat you here. We need to get to your lab.”
“What? Then you know what’s wrong?”
“Yes. Food poisoning. But it’s more serious than that. Wilson, look at his shoes.”
Wilson looked at the professor’s shoes.
“What? Oh!” he glanced towards the X-ray room, and looked startled.
“Get your car keys, Wilson – we need to get him to his lab quickly.” House held out the professor’s coat.
They were soon in the car.
“You couldn’t resist testing it yourself, professor, and that’s what caused the problem.” said House, as they drove.
“As I understand it, your teleportation works by ‘shortcutting’ the distance between nodes in the universe. To put it in a simple way, it’s like taking a piece of paper making two dots on it, then realising the shortest way to get from point A to point B is to fold the paper in half so the dots are touching each other.”
“Yes, that’s right. But I don’t see…”
“Have you tried doing this with anything other than dots?”
“No… it’s just a thought experiment! Turn left up ahead.”
“Turn right, Wilson”, corrected House
House reached over and pulled a small notebook from Wilson’s inner chest pocket. He drew a large R on a page.
“What will this look like when the page is folded?”
“Ah. It’s so simple.”
They got to the lab, where an experiment was about to take place. A monkey was in a cage on a platform, and another platform was in a separate room, separated by a glass wall.
“Stop the experiment,” said Grant, “the good doctor’s diagnoses is correct, and his treatment involves me taking the experiment myself.”
“What? Are you insane? You can’t do that!” cried out one of the lab assistants.
“Yes I can. I did it myself last night after you’d all gone home. How could I resist? Besides, we know from all of our experiments that it works. Now, take the monkey away and start it up again.
A few minutes later, a hum gathered, and the cage was suddenly gone. In the other room, the cage and the professor reappeared.
“How did they do that?” exclaimed Wilson.
“Quantum electro-dynamically, my dear Wilson”, said House.
The professor stepped out of the cage, and strode purposefully towards to coke machine in the corner of the room. “I am famished!” he said.
“Okay,” said Wilson, “now explain what that was all about.”
House took out the page he’d been drawing on.
“See the ‘R‘? When you fold the page over, and “push” the R through to the other side, you get this:”, House drew я onto the page.
He continued, “The analogy passes into reality. When Professor Grant ‘folded’ in space from one platform to the other, what he did not realise was that he was reversing himself at the same time. He would have been immediately disoriented, and the air in the atmosphere would have started subtly poisoning him because it was now ‘backwards’ compared to what he was used to.”
Wilson said, “So, the food poisoning?”
“Life’s molecules have a certain ‘handed-ness’ to them. The proteins found in food are all oriented in a certain direction. When he ingested the food, his body was not able to handle it because all of the proteins were mirror-images of what were expected. If he had not come to us, then he would be dead within hours or days.”
Professor grant, stuffing chocolate into his mouth, came over and thanked House profusely.
“Thank you so much. It was such an obvious problem, given hind-sight, but we didn’t spot it with any of our test animals because we always did the experiment twice – teleport them from one room to the other, and then back. We’ll have to figure a way of doing this without the mirror-imaging if we’re to make this useful. I’ll have to think how to do that.”
“That’s easy! Your problem is that the particles – the protons, electrons and neutrons, are all arriving the wrong way around” said the doctor, who added “you just need to reverse the polarity of the neutron flow.”