They tell you it’s like a flutter in your gut when your feet expect a regular step and miss. Or when you catch yourself on a step that shouldn’t be there. But it’s not. It’s world shattering.

It’s a strange thing to be confronted by reality.

I was happily married to my wife for almost two decades before we divorced. She was a mathematician and I was a physicist. We met in university during a shared lecture on applied maths. It was a small theatre and she caught me staring multiple times. We spoke afterwards, clumsily. She invited me out to a bar crawl and I declined. Instead we spent all night bickering in her common room – what was more fundamental in nature, maths or physics? She was wrong: it’s physics. Our worlds collided that day.

Until near the end, our marriage was largely of little note. We had no children and enjoyed working in each other’s company when we could. There were few arguments. We flirted over playfought existential philosophy – was maths discovered or invented? Would physics ever end?

Then came QMind. It was the most powerful computer ever built and it was built only for one thing: mathematics. QMind was no mere tool: it was a mathematician in its own right. It would conceptualise, connect, prove and journal its billions of findings. It was the atomic bomb to mankind’s pistol and it didn’t take long for it to outproduce our species’ collective contributions in the field.

I suppose QMind shattered my wife’s world. Boom. No more maths. Picture that.

I didn’t understand it then. In fact, I dreamed of living to see the day we fully understood the physical world. I tried to reassure my wife, told her that as we uncovered more of the universe’s fundamental nature, we would have to create more maths. But she knew there was no beating QMind. It broke her.

My wife began to spend long hours at work. It was only then that reality confronted me for the first time.

We live in such a narrow slice of existence and know so very little. We go about our daily lives, not knowing all the pieces in our phones or the human cogs within our institutions. So many trains kept on the tracks, kept on time by so many invisible conductors. And all of them stay invisible so long as it all goes according to plan.

My wife was cheating on me with a colleague of hers. Boom. Her world had shattered and so she’d chosen to shatter mine.

A thing like that sounds trivial when overheard in a pub. So what? Find someone better and move on. But the reality of reality is complicated. Had she changed so much to want to hurt me so? Had she always been this person? How could one act ripple out and disturb so much? I didn’t just question her, but our past, the past itself, and then myself. She wasn’t whom she’d claimed and vowed to be. Our relationship was false, built on unsound foundations. What we had between us was false. All the words and actions shared meant different things now. And who was I that could be so lacking in my judgement? Not the same I I had presumed to be all this time.

We separated quickly and quietly. And then QMind struck again.

The thing about science is it isn’t about the body of knowledge – that list of whats and facts. It’s about the process. You guess at a thing and plug away at disproving what you can. You rule out the ideas one by one, over and over again, clipping off the branches of possibility. And then over a long enough timeline, the approximation of the truth within your model or body of knowledge hopefully approaches the actual Truth. But it’s never the Truth itself. Only the Truth is the Truth. It’s just a giant simulated model.

I wish I could’ve explained that clearly to my wife. Maybe it might have changed things. If she understood that the maths was not the reality but a heuristic – only reality was reality. Most likely it would’ve made no difference.

Even understanding it myself, I shudder at the chaos of unburnished Truth. Beyond our man-made rules and laws is the real thing. It hides during everyday life. A physicist revels in the intellectual thought of approaching Truth. But drop him in the midst of it, and he falls apart. All it takes is one late train.

QMind released its latest findings. Its AI network had been linked to a supercollider around Jupiter. As it processed the data, it reached a consensus. QMind had concluded there were no more fundamental particles to be found beyond what it had discovered. It had unified general relativity and quantum mechanics to build a Theory of Everything. There were no alternative interpretations of the universe left.

And yet there were still some physical anomalies. Anomalies with no higher level explanation available to them now. They simply existed, unaccounted for. Boom.

It drove me mad, again. QMind had divided the universe into something understandable and come up with some truly indivisible parts. I emailed these anomalous remainders to my wife, hoping my despair might be her hope.

It’s a strange thing to be confronted by reality.