We had to destroy the future in order to save it


It's March 2017, two hours after Mitch Calrus left, not that he was ever really there, and John Zhang is sitting on a park bench in a deserted Moscow backstreet, building an Alcubierre drive.

It would be difficult to tell just by looking at him. Most of the drive's components are software; intangible machines built from structured patterns of information interlocking and whirring inside the confines of his brain. A sufficiently detailed model of reality is indistinguishable from reality. The only physical manifestation of the drive is a cubical gold box, two centimetres on a side, which is suspended in the air in front of him, gently rotating on one vertex. There's nobody around. It's freezing cold, as it has been all day, and the Sun's going down and the street lamps are turning on. The world is concrete grey, deep blue and brilliant orange. Oul's approaching trail of destruction is plainly visible in the darkening sky. He's due to arrive in ninety-four hours.

It is known that matter and energy warp the shape of spacetime. This is why, for example, objects in space fall into curved orbits rather than straight lines. The Alcubierre metric is a highly unconventional shape into which spacetime could, hypothetically, be warped. All it would take is a suitable arrangement of matter and energy, but there are two obstacles. For one, the matter must be exotic "un-matter", a substance which, while perfectly consistent with the laws of physics, only even exists hypothetically-- except, of course, for within the fertile and dangerous imagination of Eka Script savant John Zhang. The other is that the amount of energy must be enough to literally bring the farthest stars closer together; more energy than the entire observable universe has output in its lifetime; more energy than the Big Bang itself brought into existence. This second obstacle has been the more difficult to overcome.

But not substantially.

Zhang's information-energy exchanger is the third-simplest of the four dozen or so virtual components in his brain; a simple pipe with some control structures attached to it. He hooks one end up to the processor which will weave the exotic matter into the geodesic bubble he needs. And into the other end he simply feeds the tail end of the Script itself, a maximally dense information resource which in its full, incomprehensible length describes the entire Structure and everything in it.

And before the universe can pull Zhang back from the edge of self-destruction, he wraps himself in the bubble, causally disconnects himself from the rest of spacetime and begins accelerating towards Beta Virginis at three, twelve, fifty-one times the speed of light--


"We got her."

"I hear you--"

"No, Kcko, we got her! Yes!"

It's thirty-six hours after the coup, and Anne Nicola Poole, heretic, is being dragged out of the building by two tall, heavily-armed male Adherents to the Trail of the Indivisible Soul. The rest of the squadron creates a perimeter. They all have thick, dark hair in the same copycat style and neat uniforms with small, memorable, brightly chromatic insignia and, if they didn't know that it was impossible, they would have shot Anne dead right there in the Hall and they'd be dragging her corpse. Anne, now that she has been pulled out of the wreckage, is diminutive, silent and unassuming. Her hair is disarrayed and her clothes are torn, but she is not dazed, injured or frightened. She has done this, or rather, had this done to her, so many times that she has lost count.

There are thousands of protesting people waiting outside behind the cordon, but when they see her brought out they surge forward and scream as one, nearly breaking through. There is absolutely no reason to protect Anne Poole from mob justice, so the Adherents carry her to a high place and hurl her into the crowd. They fall on her like wolves. She's kicked, beaten, knifed and shot. The melee is so intense that the rioters are soon injuring each other quite badly in the futile attempt to hurt her. After a bullet ricochets off her forehead and kills a sixteen-year-old fanatic bystander, the Trail's Adherents decide to step in again. They drive the crowd back with warning shots and reclaim her.

There are eight launch sites within an hour's drive of Science City. Three of the platforms are hosting rockets undergoing preparatory procedures for space launch. Two of those are scheduled to launch to geostationary orbit in the next six hours. The Adherents - a religious order Anne Poole founded herself sixty years ago - wrap her in manacles and stuff her in the back of an armoured truck and set off for the further of the two.

A black bug-like aircraft lifts off from the roof of the Hall. For a moment it hovers, as if considering its options, then it accelerates to the west.


Mitch gains height as quickly as he can because what little he can see of the City looks like a warzone. The rioters in the streets are one thing - this far up in the air he is out of their reach. But he also sees big dust-brown military vehicles built like bulldozers, and squat crab-like things with four giant wheels and tank turrets, crawling down the wider thoroughfares spitting gunfire and shells seemingly indiscriminately into the nearby scenery. Yes, it's hot, that's mainly because it's noon and it's equatorial Africa, but much of the city is also on fire.

Something white-hot zooms in from a battleship way below the eastern horizon and hits another nearby waiting launch vehicle, about halfway up its external solid fuel booster. The entire thing goes up like a firework, total destruction in a fraction of a second - fragments of fuel tank and support gantry are hurled a mile into the air or a mile across the city. Once the fireball fades the shattered remains of the rocketship collapse in on themselves in that horrifying slow-motion way that only truly gigantic structures can manage. The shockwave rocks Mitch's aircraft. He fights it, and wins.

There are other aircraft here and there on the skyline, all of them moving like helicopters, mostly clustered in flocks. Mitch sees them from the cockpit and he sees them on the shrilly-beeping radar. They're lit up green, but Mitch doesn't know if green still means "friend" in the space year 22985 so he avoids attracting their attention and plots a course west away from the gunboats, hopefully out of their range.

All that and no hospitals. It's 22985. Mitch doesn't even know how to pronounce that number. Half an hour ago he was succumbing to the anaesthesia in a hospital in the south of France and he thought he was ready for anything.

Fifteen minutes and perhaps thirty kilometres later, Mitch manages to find what he has been looking for. The temple is difficult to miss because of the enormous gap it cuts into the network of artificial canyons. While impressively tall, with an attendant forest of towers and minarets, it is surrounded and overshadowed by vastly taller skyscrapers and decrepit launch towers. Its grounds are half a kilometre wide, walled off and paved with polished red and black tiles. The tiles make up an octopoidal Julia set fractal with the temple at its core, a steep and roughly octagonal pyramid built of reddish stone.

The chopper is powerful but the controls are clunky and imprecise. Mitch has to fight to keep it under control as he guides it into a landing. He lands in the square, in front of what he assumes is the main entrance. He pulls the chunky black plastic key out of the dashboard, which cuts power to the rotors. He climbs out of the cockpit as they wind down and runs around the front of the aircraft to collect Linisd, still unconscious, from the passenger seat. While vast, the square is deserted.

He hurries across the shimmering marble as fast as he can with Linisd in his arms. The archway leading into the dome is tall and wide enough that with some skill he could have flown right inside.

The interior is like a Stone Age cathedral. It has the recognisable features of a religious establishment: seating, a stage, a sizeable balcony with more seating, raised speaking platforms, altars, iconography, certain acoustic qualities. The roof's supporting columns, five metres thick at the base, are not Gothic or Roman, but crude round blobs of red rock, bloated at the bottom and tapering as they rise, as if made of slowly melting wax. The walls are decorated with murals which resemble cave paintings elevated to the scale and scope of Renaissance art without any improvement in artistic materials, tools or technique: while vast in size and fantastically detailed, they are simultaneously scratchy, angular, stylised and pointillistic and use a very narrow range of pigments outside of red-brown, black and white. Where Mitch would expect to see decorative masonry and intricate gold detailing, there are wooden sculptures of people and creatures, all elongated and exaggerated in proportion, as if sculpted by some alien who had only ever heard them described, and never seen one. Mitch sees feathers, leopard pelts, spears. Natural light pours in from a few dozen vertical slots carved towards the ceiling of the hall.

Even in the main auditorium there is nobody around. "Is anyone here?" Mitch shouts, his arms beginning to wear out. "I need help!" His appeal echoes out, unanswered. The temple, too is deserted.

In fact, this entire district of Science City has been evacuated. Mitch hasn't pieced it together yet, but he's standing in the quiet wake of an invasion. Miles to the west, there's a column of refugees streaming out of the city on foot and in motor vehicles and aircraft, while to the east, the invading forces of the Indivisible have already conquered more than half of Anne Poole's core network of vast Halls and Laboratories; her Science Citadel.

The temple's "hospital" continues the theme-- it looks like a Stone Age facsimile of a modern hospital ward. It is simply a long, low room full of haphazardly-arranged lumpy straw-filled mattresses covered with thick black blankets. The beds are empty. As Mitch crosses the room the unpleasantly biological smell of the room becomes drowned out by an even stronger chemical stink, something like ammonia. At the far end of the room he finds sinks, cupboards, an extinguished fire with a tripod poised over it, and even some refrigerated storage.

He lays Linisd on the nearest bed.

This is the pharmacy, then, but Mitch finds almost nothing resembling medicine or medical equipment. What he does find, in a few pots and refrigerated bottles and tubs, is pungent, labelled with inscrutable symbols rather than conventional chemical names, and therefore as good as poison from Mitch's perspective. Still, there are bandages, and water. He winds Linisd's arm in a sling of sorts, and then sits heavily on the bed opposite. He drinks, and allows himself one long blink. He feels exhausted, and he feels homeless.


Linisd eventually wakes up. Mitch asks her, "What's wrong with the sky?"

She replies, "The Sun is being consumed by a black hole."

Mitch looks up out of the window behind him, and the swollen, unhealthy Sun stares back. The black hole, invisibly small from this distance, is obviously well inside Mercury's orbit, angrily raiding the solar corona for plasma and linear momentum. He digests this information rationally, and does not panic. It was going to be his first guess. "Is the Earth falling in as well?"

"Yes. We have about six months before the planet becomes uninhabitable.

"Our universe contains two stars. The Sun, you see right above us. The other is Noct, the Far Star, which rises when the Sun sets and sets when the Sun rises, which follows us around the Sun in a way which defies the laws of gravitation. Other than the Moon and the planets, Noct is the only thing in our night sky. The planets orbit the Sun and the Moon orbits the Earth but Noct is always opposite the Sun from us in space. Which is impossible.

"It took us hundreds of years to realise what the Far Star actually is. It took us that long to build radio transmitters powerful enough to broadcast all the way around the universe and back and receive our own signals on a four-day echo.

"Noct is also the Sun."

Mitch Calrus doesn't know what that means.

"It means that if you go far enough in any direction you will come back to where you started. It means that this universe is a closed hypersphere with a circumference of just under seven hundred astronomical units. There is the Sun and there are the planets and moons and asteroids. The Sun is Heaven, from which all good things come. And the only other thing in the universe, Umbra, is a black hole, which is Hell, into which all evil will ultimately fall."

"That's how they'll kill her," Mitch says. "They're going to throw Anne into Umbra. Even though she's indestructible. Completely immobile in time."

"An immovable rock, and Umbra is an irresistible force," Linisd summarises.

"So what's going to happen when she hits the event horizon?"

"That very much depends on who is more powerful; the mysterious force which protects Anne Poole, or the mysterious force which created this universe and all its fundamental physical laws."


And what forces would those be?

In the time he has at his disposal, John Zhang knows that there is no way that he can save the world. Not alone. But the greatest discovery that anybody ever made was that even the Imprisoning God obeys laws.

So he manipulates God into doing it for him; he performs an act so abhorrent and dangerous to the underlying structure of nature that the universe itself has no choice but to step in, like a terrified parent removing a loaded firearm from the hands of a toddler. He plugs the entire infinite Structure into his brain, and as punishment, and precisely as planned, planet Earth and everything else within a 48 light-hour radius of Sol are placed into solitary confinement; dropped into a pocket universe of such infinitesimal relative size that there is no SI prefix to describe it. Alef is physically divided in two, with Umbra as the junction point where the two parts meet, a bottleneck in spacetime. The sudden disconnection from earth stings Oul to the quick, and the wavefront of an outbound gravitational wave alarms him, in as much as he is capable of any emotion other than raw hunger for destruction. When he arrives, just seconds behind the sterilising light of several dozen dangerously local gravitationally-induced supernovae, all there is left of his adversary's home system is a three-mile-wide event horizon. And after the brief delay while the Imprisoner rearranges the Solar System just the way humanity likes it, the Earth continues its path around the Sun, and the Moon continues its path around the Earth, and life goes on.

John Zhang is enveloped and then annihilated by impossible lightning somewhere beyond the orbit of Jupiter. The New Cosmology investigation never finds him, but does, after some years, confirm that it was he and he alone who saved the world. The information, along with a great deal more besides, does not survive Hot War I. And as for the rest of humanity? Yes, there were known terracompatible planets out there, but nobody realistically expected to reach them. From a pragmatic viewpoint, the universe never amounted to much more than scenery and nothing of value to anyone but astronomers was lost. Besides, Earth has always had enough problems of its own. What good are pie-in-the-sky dreams? Flying cars and jetpacks and cities on the Moon? We should fix our home planet before we can start thinking about that kind of thing. It's the only one we have, and it goes on. Why won't you get some perspective? Life goes on...

Next: Last Ergs

Discussion (46)

2009-10-29 00:18:06 by ScottM:

A few months ago it occurred to me that a black hole probably would kill anne pool because black holes destroy information... And that is hugely relevent to these stories.

2009-10-29 00:28:25 by kabu:

@ScottM - Hawking as of 2005 would agree with you. I believe the current consensus is that information is preserved in Hawking radiation, but there are tons of problems with that theory. And besides, it looks like the singularity at the center of Umbra is actually, in some way, Alef. The junction point of Alef and Alef Prime. Which means... well, I have no idea what's going to happen. "And after the brief delay while the Imprisoner rearranges the Solar System just the way humanity likes it, the Earth continues its path around the Sun, and the Moon continues its path around the Earth, and life goes on." Ha! So the Astronomer's Loss wasn't so total -- we got the Moon back (which I'm sure the fish will appreciate), and some of the planets. I wonder if He left us Pluto, which is now and always will be, to my mind, a planet. And I wonder if we have abandoned installations on Mars and the Moon by the twenty-second millennium. Excellent chapter.

2009-10-29 00:30:01 by Vitronus:

It finally happened! I wonder why the Imprisoning God bothers keeping Earth suitable for life (at least for the time being). It has never shied away from causing catastrophe to humans before.

2009-10-29 01:08:38 by YarKramer:

Ahaaaa. So THAT'S how The Astronomer's Loss ties into this. It's interesting to take some previously-unconnected stories and see how you can make a structure that connects them. Or perhaps I should say ... *puts on sunglasses* ... a fine structure. (YEAAHHHHHHH)

2009-10-29 03:07:56 by Kevin:

Neat stuff. I didn't know this website existed until today. Imagine my surprise in finding that there were two chapters of Fine Structure I hadn't read yet. I wonder why "The Last Copy Of You" is still only a nodeshell on Everything2? Maybe the submission fell into a black hole? ;-)

2009-10-29 09:16:43 by qntm:

I haven't noded The Last Copy Of You yet because I still need to add suitable hard links to it.

2009-10-29 12:18:27 by Alex:

@ScottM - There's a pretty good theory going around that information can't be destroyed. Here's a short video on the basis of the theory, narrated a leading expert on the study of information & blackholes. :)

2009-10-29 12:18:48 by Alex:

@ScottM - There's a pretty good theory going around that information can't be destroyed. Here's a short video on the basis of the theory, narrated a leading expert on the study of information & blackholes. :) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GYKyt3C0oT4&feature=SeriesPlayList&p=0A8AD22AB78081D5

2009-10-29 23:07:36 by Ben:

Good stuff. I wondered why none of the people Anne had said tried to kill her ever thought of shooting her into space. With such a featureless celestial sphere, new civilizations probably wouldn't relate to the sky in the same way as we do. I have a question about Noct, though. Since light spreads out as it travels, why don't viewers on Earth see sunlight coming from every direction? (Also: "They have all have thick, dark hair..." seems to have an extra 'have.')

2009-10-30 03:12:53 by Mick:

Refering to black holes, while there is a strong possiblility that they do truely destroy information, Umbra is not a 'true' black hole, at least not to my knowlege. 'True' black holes are extremely dense corpses of stars that have an escape velocity greater than the speed of light. Umbra appears to be more of a dimensional gate, or as Sam called it, a bottleneck. So, it may function in the same way, but fundimentally, it isn't really a black hole.

2009-10-30 04:10:28 by Ian:

@Mick: A black hole is any amount of matter sufficiently compressed to create a gravitational pull greater than the speed of light. It doesn't need to be a star. If one could compress the Earth to a certain diameter, about 16 millimeters, it would become a black hole. R_s=2GM/c^2 is the equation to determine the Schwarzschild radius where G is the gravitational constant, M is the mass of the object in question, and c is the speed of light. So Umbra can very well be a "true" black hole if the mass of whatever object made it was merely compressed down to its Schwarzschild radius.

2009-10-30 10:10:13 by Overmind:

@Ian Actually, according to your own calculations and Google (literally, type this into Google: (2 * (gravitational constant) * (mass of earth))/((speed of light)^2)), then it is 8.87134507 millimeters. Although Google says the gravitational constant is 6.67300 × 10^-11 m^3 kg^-1 s^-2 Where Wikipedia says that 2006 CODATA-recommended value is (6.67428+-0.00067) × 10^-11 m^3 kg^-1 s^-2 And Google says the mass of the earth is 5.9742 × 10^24 kilograms Where Wikipedia agrees. So using the CODATA recommended value from Wikipedia, then it might actually be 8.87304675 millimeters instead. Wikipedia is not as exact, just saying that "Earth's is only about 9 mm". I am curious, how did you calculate ~16 millimeters, what was your math?

2009-10-30 10:46:07 by qntm:

Overmind, you do know the difference between a radius and a diameter, don't you?

2009-10-30 16:20:07 by scratskinner:

On the link to "Astronomer's Loss": Certainly, the bit about the stars and such vanishing is explained by Zhang's exploits, but what about the mysterious voice, and why it seems to be taking credit for this incident? Is that coming up later? Also, I've been meaning to ask, what was the ultimate fate of the uplifted Berliners from "Die"? Was there any reaction from the inhabitants of higher dimensions?

2009-10-30 19:06:43 by qntm:

Firstly a confession. The Astronomer's Loss was written a very long time before I had fully worked out the full ending to Fine Structure (which I still haven't). I knew I wanted to shut off the Sun and Earth from the rest of the universe, and I wanted an astronomer to take this as punishment for failing take the proferred opportunities of the Moon, planets and stars. However, the conversation in The Astronomer's Loss is entirely figurative, and it's taking place mostly - mostly - between the astronomer and his own psyche. This was always the intention and I apologise that I can't make it clearer in the text of Fine Structure itself. I deliberately avoided giving a mechanism for how, exactly, the connection between the solar system and the rest of the universe had been shut off. I intended to fill this detail in later. It was some time later that I realised that 1) the Moon is actually very important for the continuation of life on Earth and 2) it is much easier to take the entire solar system in a chunk than it is to select the Sun and Earth alone, leaving the Moon etc. behind. Eventually I decided that the best way to achieve this would be to effectively cast a "net" of microscopic singularities around the solar system, and then join up their event horizons creating a spherical shell of black holes. This would collapse together through extra dimensions (imagine drawing a circle on a balloon, and then pinching it off with a twist, to make what is effectively two balloons). The result is two universes with a junction point of a black hole. The black hole is a black hole because it has an event horizon, i.e. a surface from which not even light can escape. That is, it is a severe distortion in spacetime. For the record, it has an equivalent mass of about the same as the Sun, and a diameter of roughly 6 kilometres. I realised that there would be a problem with the tiny universe heating up due to the energy output by the Sun, so I put the black hole and Sun at opposite ends of the universe so that the former could absorb all the energy from the latter. Later, I decided that this wasn't so much of a problem and changed my mind, and also that that situation might be gravitationally unstable. Then I thought that possibly there would still be thousands of years before the instability accumulated significantly. I'm still not sure exactly how it should work. The New Cosmology has given me some serious headaches. Anyway, the existence of the black hole inside and outside the pocket universe became an extremely useful plot point and I always planned for Anne Poole to be dropped into it. It was only while writing this chapter that I actually got around to reading up on Alcubierre drives and realised that surrounding the solar system in a 4-light-day-wide Alcubierre bubble would have been a much smarter idea, as this would causally disconnect the system from the rest of the universe without requiring ridiculous radical restructuring of spacetime. Anyway, I'm committed now. * The various opinions regarding the fates of the uplifted Berliners from "Die" are there in the story. Whether you want to accept them is entirely a matter of opinion. I can give no real answer.

2009-10-30 19:24:28 by Ian:

@Overmind: Yes, the Schwarzschild RADIUS is ~8 millimeters. I said that the diameter that you would need to compress the Earth to would be about 16 millimeters. Diameter = 2*radius. I rounded down and then multiplied by 2.

2009-10-31 15:51:39 by Vincent:

This chapter made me go ''whoa''. Incredibly good story. A question 'though: if the crashes have been taking place from on after The New Cosmology, then information has been striped away. How did they rediscover the law of gravity if Noct doesn't obey it? I imagine the books are still around, and so's Anne Pool. A few planets and a moon might still be enough to formulate something that ''accounts for everything but that one thing''. I'll have to reread and see if the information on books is still around.

2009-10-31 19:44:49 by Daniel:

"a 4-light-day-wide Alcubierre bubble would have been a much smarter idea, as this would causally disconnect the system from the rest of the universe without requiring ridiculous radical restructuring of spacetime." Since when is an Alcubierre bubble not a ridiculous radical restructuring of spacetime? You talk about what will happen if Anna Poole falls into a black hole. Isn't that supposed to take forever? It's an event horizon. Nothing can cross it. In any case, I know you'll never see what happens.

2009-10-31 21:39:44 by Fjord:

Vincent: I'm assuming that the principle behind the crashes is similar to the principle behind the Warden declaring certain information contraband, like when it wiped Seph, or when the Russian facility lost an entire month of memories and data because of Oul's egg. Perhaps the crashes are even the exact same mechanism - somehow, when Anne and Mitch determine that the inhabitants of Alef are about to endanger themselves they provoke the Warden into wiping the information slate clean. If that is how it works then books would also be affected, because when the Warden declares information to be contraband, it's totally gone. But since the Warden doesn't restrict the ability of the inhabitants of Alef to learn, we start over and rebuild. As to how they learn things like the theory of gravity: there's a black hole eating the sun. You might spend some time figuring out what that's all about, if you lived in this sort of situation. The real question is, Anne and Mitch seem to be unaffected by the Warden's interventions. Why? So, if I understand this correctly, the black hole in Alef Prime (Noct?) is actually the rest of Alef, or at least the doorway to Alef, compressed to the size of a singularity; and in Alef, what was once the Sol system is now an identical singularity/gateway. Right? So once Alef Prime completely collapses into the singularity, will it come out undamaged again in Alef? Or do they only have until the planet breaks up under the gravitational pressure to figure out how to deal with Oul? And, assuming that they can and do deal with Oul, what happens to Alef? Does someone hit the reset button and send everything back to 1969 or something? Or is our 'verse going to be forced to live with the scars that Oul has left upon it?

2009-11-01 11:06:07 by qntm:

Fjord is making some pretty accurate deductions. Yes, although you haven't been officially told yet, the mechanism behind the Crashes is NOT just Mitch and Anne using the ignobombs you saw mentioned in "The Chaotician". In fact they are deliberately exploiting a range of similar "forbidden technologies" in order to cause the Imprisoning God to wipe the minds of the world. This is an extension of the new idea introduced in this story: instead of making something happen, dupe God into doing it for you. I want to emphasise that while Umbra is the junction point between the two universes, it's not in any sense a gateway. It's an event horizon, nothing can cross it. As for the increasing list of lost technologies... well, that's the question, isn't it?

2009-11-01 12:39:07 by Raphfrk:

Wait, on naming, isn't Nock the "Far-star"/Sun and "Umbra" the black hole/junction? Anyway, would there be distortion caused by the weird configuration. For example, Nock might look larger than the Sun (or smaller maybe?) as if viewed through a magnifying glass. If they sent a probe out so that it was at the exact opposite side of the universe to the Sun (i.e. max possible distance away), then no matter what direction it looked, they would see a point on the Sun. The effect would be that the Sun would completely fill the Sky. It is kind of like where if you are at the North pole, then no matter what direction you look, you will be looking South. Thus, there would be a 'virtual' Sun at the other side of the universe from the Sun and Earth would be almost at the opposite side of the universe from that virtual Sun. This would mean that Nock would fill a large portion of the sky. Also, I think it will be of equal total brightness to the Sun itself. Normally brightness of a star decreases the further away the star is, but not when you are on a hypersphere.

2009-11-02 01:18:00 by Thrack:

So Mitch and Anne are using the prison warden rather than specialized ignobombs.... I wonder how they make the Warden make that specific action? Why, when confronted with the usage of a forbidden technology, would the Warden wipe out all knowledge of it and much more besides while leaving the humans with the capability to keep themselves alive? It did not leave Seph that ability, nor any of the passengers of that plane. Why not kill the creators of that technology like the Warden had been doing? Does it have something to do with that fact that is it Mitch/Xio and Anne who are doing it? That is, maybe the Warden has orders not to allow Xio or the body he inhabits to die. Might not explain Anne's survival though. Hmnn... has anyone suggested the possibility of Anne being another hyper-dimensional creature? Oh, and on a side note, this latest story explains how Anne could have set foot on the moon. The moon is still there. Hot War I? So there are at least two Hot Wars, potentially many more. I wonder if the Powers are involved significantly. Probably.

2009-11-02 08:25:39 by Fjord:

Sam: "Fjord is making some pretty accurate deductions." Good to know. And you have no idea how pleased I am that you say that. I'm going to quote you every time I'm losing an argument, now: "But -Sam Hughes- thinks that I make accurate deductions!" ^_~ Thrack: The purpose of the Warden is to contain Oul. Nothing more. Those who acquire information that could potentially allow Oul to escape are dealt with with extreme prejudice. But I think that the multiverse at large is sympathetic - nay, supportive of - individual consciousnesses. Evidence: Xia, in "Unbelievable scenes," saving what he can in Oul's wake; and Xia/Mitch's character in general. It's likely that the Warden was programmed to preserve individuals if at all possible. In fact, it probably was, otherwise it would have simply outlawed everything from the start, altered the laws of physics such that our 'verse was nothing more than a prison cell designed specifically to contain Oul, instead of playing the part of the bars in a cage match. Hence, Seph was permanently crippled, as she had proven ability to find ways through the bars; whereas the population in general merely go amnesiac in the Crashes, as they have somehow been given dangerous information, but they wouldn't be able to deduce it for themselves. Either that, or the Warden respects human consciousness too much to cause a genocide and is willing to dial down its weaponry when the entire population of our 'verse is in danger.

2009-11-02 13:57:21 by Thrack:

To Fjord: Then why would the Warden have killed the minds of an entire plane full of people when it killed Mike Murphy? And the entire Michaelson building when it killed Adrian Ashmore? Most of the people in that building were just personnel who knew nothing about the physics of teleportation technology. I think Seph was more than permanently crippled, I think she was made brain dead.

2009-11-02 22:54:30 by Daniel:

The event horizon only makes it possible for light (or anything slower) to cross between universes. If they can build an Alcubierre drive, they should have no trouble escaping the event horizon. Of course, if Oul is waiting for them on the other side, that wouldn't be a good idea. Are they in a 3-sphere or a 3-hemisphere (like with elliptic geometry, where modeling it on a sphere requires using pairs of antipodes as "points")

2009-11-03 00:28:57 by Fjord:

Thrack: I'm thinking more of a scale thing. I mean, in those instances, a few people knew something that they shouldn't have and the Warden took it out on everyone in the area. In the Crashes, it's more likely that the restricted information is broadcast worldwide. On a small scale, the Warden obviously doesn't have a problem with death, but we're talking genocide here. It may also have something to do with the fact that by the time of the Crashes, the Warden is well-versed in information removal, whereas earlier in the story It was less so. The Warden is, after all, a construct created solely to trap Oul. It's not like the higher 'verses sent someone with experience to watch this cage fight - Xia's already there and they trust him. They gave him -permission-. So the Warden's sole duty is to determine if something going on in Alef could potentially be used to allow Oul to escape, and if so, cut it off. It's new at this info-removal thing. Practice makes perfect, and all that. Of course, it could be any number of things. I just don't think that the higher 'verses would approve of unnecessary genocide.

2009-11-03 20:05:47 by ratherdashing:

Well, the way I understand it, humanity is crucial to the existence of life in higher planes

2009-11-04 02:45:48 by Isaac:

It's already been confirmed that the greater structure don't care about our universe, like how humans don't care about a single bacterium.

2009-11-04 02:45:50 by Isaac:

It's already been confirmed that the greater structure don't care about our universe, like how humans don't care about a single bacterium.

2009-11-04 02:46:51 by Isaac:

Um, how do you get rid of double posts? :(

2009-11-07 00:09:50 by Raphfrk:

Posts cannot be removed by normal users (and may require a lot of effort for admins to do it). Anyway, was thinking more about the hypersphere and I think that Nock would look like an exact copy of the Sun (probably as a mirror image). It would have the same angular size even though it is much further away. From a given point any ray that hits the Sun will also hit the Sun if traced in the opposite direction. Likewise, any ray which misses the Sun will miss the Sun if traced in the opposite direction. Thus if your eye is at that point, it should see the same circle in both directions. On the heat thing, every photon that is emitted by the Sun will circle the universe and strike the Sun again. The Sun would act like a blackbody and absorb the photon. Thus the only heating will be due to the Sun heating up any gas and planets in the System. Also photons that are emitted nearly perpendicular to the surface might miss after looping and enter a "Sun-free" loop. Also, on heating, the point exactly opposite the Sun would be massively hot as all the power of the Sun's output will be focussed on a point. The virtual Sun would appear like a real Sun if you were near the other point. These assume that the sphere is a perfect sphere. For people who are more up to date on general relativity, would gravity also work the same? Could a probe orbit the virtual Sun? Hmm, maybe it would count as a negative mass Star.

2009-11-09 13:53:36 by Thrack:

Is Ashmore's hypothesis in Paper Universe correct about Anne Poole moving at close to the speed of light? I was thinking that, since Anne Poole is moving at relativistic speeds, she should also have gained a substantial amount of mass. Just how much mass depends on just how fast she is traveling. I suppose it does not really matter much, since she is clearly capable of walking normally even on snow without simply falling through. (At least, if she is wearing snow shoes.) If would make space flight more expensive for her though. Is this correct or is there some factor that negates this relativistic effect?

2009-11-10 17:15:21 by Cory:

Thrack: slowing back down would reverse the effect... The deceleration to 0 would act exactly like the acceleration to fast.

2009-11-10 21:55:23 by Cory:

Oh. I'm just an idiot... My thought is: No, she's not actually experiencing relativistic effects, and Ashmore was just fishing for something that would make some kind of sense... On another note, I predict we will shortly see that Anne Poole's transportation into the coal seam, and her immortality are much deeper than we think.

2009-11-29 23:09:19 by kabu:

As for Anne, I like Ashmore's idea - that she was already immortal before the twleportarion experiment. I would guess that the Imprisoning God wanted a way to contain her, and given the lack of a convenient black hole took the first possible opportunity to bury her. So did Anne do this to herself? We know the Russians and Americans had the Script since possibly the turn of the millinium, and I wouldn't be surprised if another few countries did as well. Or she could have sone it on her own -- after all, FTLC and teleportation were done with no knowledge of the script. Or, I could be wrong and the Imprisoner made her immortal the instant before her teleportation. Either way.

2009-12-06 20:20:05 by Stel:

Been following for a couple of months now- brilliant, brilliant stuff. One question that I've been wondering about with this current story arc's the state of the Line in this time period. Did the restructuring of the universe shut them off from the source of their power? I suspect that there wouldn't be much of a world left otherwise.

2009-12-09 17:52:11 by LabrynianRebel:

^ Or maybe they just chuck them into the black hole before they're Born?

2009-12-16 23:14:37 by Stel:

If that's the case, wouldn't the knowledge of why (and how) to do so be lost after every Crash? Perhaps the Imprisoning God stepped in to stop them when they got out of control?

2009-12-16 23:30:57 by Xartavion:

CRAP! Have I reached the end of "that which was written" so quickly? Like Icarus straining for the sun, it appears I have burnt myself with mine own exertions! Awesome writing, Sam. You simultaneously drive me to improve my own writing and depress the hell out of me as I don't think I could ever contain such complicated, convoluted and utterly fascinating twists and story lines in my head without hopelessly screwing them all up. I hope you realize just what a ridiculously cult following your digital crack has ensnared.

2009-12-20 04:52:38 by kabu:

@Stel Oul was the source of their power, from when Zykov first tried to summon it. Now, that power is cut off, so no more Line,

2009-12-23 16:29:50 by CJ:

I don't know why people think one can't cross an event horizon in finite time. If there is someone, F, falling in to a (nonrotating, Schwarzchild) black hole, B, while eir acquaintance, A, watches from the far field, then the following happens: A sees F slow down and never cross the event horizon of B. F falls into the black hole in finite time, and then on into the central singularity in some extremely small period (something like pi*G*M/(2*c^3) seconds). These aren't inconsistent.

2009-12-25 01:15:00 by Dot:


2009-12-25 01:22:01 by Dot:

Whoops, my finger slipped. Anyways, I believe it stems from the fallacy "F never appears to cross the horizon, therefore F never crosses it". It's pretty counter-intuitive to many people (at first) to realize that observations don't necessarily match events. It's either that, or they misinterpreted some relativity equations.

2009-12-28 07:30:30 by Fjord:

Stel: "One question that I've been wondering about with this current story arc's the state of the Line in this time period." Mitch's explanation in "Endworld: Crisis on Earth" (http://qntm.org/?crisis): "Zykov didn't have enough power. He used arcane Script technology to put together what modern science would have no recourse but to describe as a magic spell and tried to summon the rest of Oul into his own body. He got it wrong, and instead Oul's fragmented power or soul or 'essential attributes', or whatever you want to call it, starting striking people at random. First in Russia, and then all over the world. The word 'summon' means 'call forth'. Specifically, it means 'call something or someone which is over there to come and appear over here'. Why did he get it wrong? Oul's power isn't locked up in some extradimensional cloud, like mine. It's here. In reality. Oul - all of him - is in this universe already. He's just not here." And, a bit later: "It's Year Twenty, [Zhang] realises. There's soon to be someone out there with the strength of a million men. What nationality? Zhang wonders. What nation will they surely choose to conquer?" So, to answer your question Stel, there are four possibilities from what I can tell: 1) The Powers kept coming automatically after Zykov's death, though it's likely that they stopped after the implementation of the New Cosmology. After all, Zhang designed the New Cosmology specifically to keep Oul -out-. 2) The Powers stopped coming after Zykov's death in "this is not over and I am not dead" because there was no one left on this end with the will and the ability to pull Oul's power through to Earth. Zhang was simply mistaken in thinking that there would soon be a Twentieth, which is totally understandable as he'd been artificially comotose for something like a decade. 3) The Powers continued to come each year even after the New Cosmology because someone was on Earth with the will and ability, etc. They stopped coming when whoever Zykov left with instructions lost those instructions in the wake of the massive infobomb that was the first Crash. 4) The Powers are still coming, even now. Zykov set up the process to be automatic. This is the least likely possibility, from what I can tell: If a new Power were to be summoned in 22985 C.E. (Endworld: Postmortal), it would be so powerful that the pocket universe created in the New Cosmology would be torn to shreds in the first femtoseconds of the fifteen-second birthing rage. Personally, I lean towards option two. But we'll see what Sam has to say about it. Speaking of which, Sam: we would all appreciate a belated Christmas present in the form of the next chapter...

2009-12-28 16:07:38 by qntm:

I've been ill, and also it's Christmas. I'm nearly there. The next chapter is supersized.

2019-12-20 17:08:59 by AGM:

Klein Bottle!

New comment by :

Plain text only. Line breaks become <br/>

The square root of minus one: