On Teleportation

August 8th, 2008 | shivering sands

Years ago, back when I was prone to laying down for many hours in conditions of significantly altered consciousness, I had an Idea. Following the pattern of behavior that makes such people so unpleasant and scary to decent folks, I spent the next several weeks explaining my Idea to everything that moved, and a few things that didn’t. Because you know what it’s like when you’re pretty sure your brain has exceeded the speed of light and your heart sounds like a badly abused motorcycle engine and you think that maybe other people can hear it so you need to stick eggboxes to the walls and tape rubbish bags to the windows and play Diamanda Galas very very loud at 4am to drown out the sound and paint special pictures on the door with your own blood and semen to keep the police and the Upside Down People away and anyway. Idea.

Teleportation should be a matter of simply proving you’re somewhere else.

A teleportation device would be a little computer set up to run a single equation. And this equation would prove that you’re somewhere else entirely. You’d plug in the coordinates of where you want to be and press Enter. The machine would run, the equation would solve, proving to the entire spacetime continuum that you are in fact in the other place, and suddenly you’d be in the location relating to the provided coordinates. You wouldn’t appear inside another object, because the universe doesn’t like that. The only tricky bit, I figured, would be that the Earth moves through space around the sun and the sun moves through space with the Milky Way and the Milky Way is subject to the expansion of the universe. But people are clever and would find ways to allow for spacetime drift. I think that if you’ve cracked the mathematics to convince the universe that you’re somewhere else entirely, these small details would be easily attended to.

And the best bit is that it wouldn’t require the power demanded by "classical" teleportation — which, some say, demands the energy output of the sun in order to briefly render the teleportee into a controlled Hiroshima-scale nuclear explosion. I figure you could run my teleport device on a couple of AA batteries.

This is, of course, why I don’t really take drugs anymore.


The Final Solution

June 17th, 2008 | shivering sands

Did you know that only two species can be removed from the biosphere with no knock-on effects whatsoever? Wasps and dogs. Seriously. I have no reason to lie about this.* Delete either of those two from life on earth, and there’s no effect on the foodchain, planetary ecology, nothing. They are surplus to requirements. The wasp exists to just bug people, and the dog is the planet’s way of reminding us that pure, genetic Evil exists in the universe.

Which makes me wonder why no-one thought of this before:

A street-sweeping truck has sucked a dog up through its bristles on a New York street, leaving its horrified owner holding nothing but the lead.

How did this act of stark, shining genius have to happen by accident? This is the ultimate Eureka moment for the human race. Send sweeper trucks through the streets every six hours to denude our roads of dogs. No more of their plotting on street corners, their shitting under human feet, their watching, their constant awful watching for signs of weakness. Oh, yes, a human’s best friend. Until you show a sign of weakness. And then they eat you. Cats eat dead bodies because they get hungry, and, let’s face it, they made it clear they couldn’t give a shit about you from the start. Dogs lure you with that masquerade of unconditional affection. But they’ve been thinking about eating you the whole time.

My friend Zo lost her dog Moo some weeks ago. What do you think happened to that little dog, now no-one’s keeping their eye on it? That’s right. That dog is now living on the fucking moon, collaborating with Nazis. Prove me wrong.

Yeah, you can laugh. But I can hear you. It’s that shaky, uncertain kind of laugh. Deep down, you know I’m right. You fear the Dog, but I Hate it, and that’s why I can say these things out loud. The Dog is the natural enemy of the Human. We should all have street-sweeping trucks. Packs of us should be trundling up and down the streets every day, sucking the yappy bastards up for the good of our children and our children’s children.

Find that street sweeper guy and give him a medal. He has shown us the way of the future.


* I might actually be lying about this.


Inviting Death From Space

June 14th, 2008 | shivering sands

Given the choice, how would you prefer to announce the presence of your species in local space? Imagine all the ways you could describe the emergence of a digital-age society on this planet. All the ways you could explain our species and our environment and biosphere, and explain that, no, we’re not perfect, we’re still fighting, we still haven’t resolved our relationship with nature, there are still hungry people and sick people. But we’re trying, and in some places we’re winning, and although we can’t reach you, we could really use a friend. All the ways in which you could hope to open up a conversation with the Other, wherever it may lie.

Or you could just send them a Doritos ad.

Because, yes, on the morning of June 12 2008, the EISCAT high-powered space transmitter station on Svalbard used its array of radars to beam a Doritos ad at a solar system 42 light years from here.

For six hours, the MPEG video file was repeatedly pulsed at system 47 UMa, in the Ursa Minor constellation, which was chosen because it seems to have a circumstellar habitable zone. 47 UMa does have two Jupiter-class planets outside the HZ, although one of them is so massive that it very probably does weird gravity things to the outside edge of the HZ. This means that, if there are Earth-like rocky planets inside the habitable zone that we just can’t see yet, there’s a fair chance they’ll be small, lumpy, thirsty and ugly. Like a man in a Foster’s commercial. Or, presumably, a Doritos one.

EISCAT, which has had funding problems, has received an undisclosed but presumably substantial donation from Doritos in return for the broadcast, which will help them meet their actual aims of performing radar astronomy experiments. The director of EISCAT is quoted as saying: ""Some years in the future, the money that comes from this kind of commercial service could be used to fund pure research."

This would seem to open the door to polluting local space with the grottiest capitalistic artifacts conceivable in return for being able to do a bit of science. That’s a pretty high cost — of a piece with the recurring nightmare in fiction of the Coca-Cola logo being permanently sprayed on the surface of the moon. Others will champion this as private enterprise giving science the boost it needs, which is usually where I’m told to wave my hands in glee that Richard Branson and his mates have created a zippy goshwow 21st Century space business on the same kind of suborbital lob Alan Shepherd managed in 1961 (and a fair distance short of the full orbital flight Yuri Gagarin made).

Fuck that. I don’t care. Attempting to announce our presence to any intelligence that can get in front of the signal by sending them something made by a company that sells crunchy shit in bags is not the way to the maturity of the species.

According to the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence’s Permanent Study Group, it’s been argued that "a civilization which hopes to detect radio evidence of other civilizations in the cosmos is obligated to reveal its own presence. Others maintain that it is suicidal to shout in the jungle." There is, therefore, a San Marino Scale measuring risk in these matters. You can play with an online calculator, if you know a few specifics, to work out whether or not a signal broadcast into space will in fact bring down the alien hordes ov chewy doooom. And if it does, you know damn well that their first words will be "Sponsored by Doritos?"

Amazingly (to me), it’s not the first time we’ve fired signals at 47 UMa. Notional lifeforms in-system will also one day be privy to The 1st Theremin Concern For Aliens. They’re due to get that in the summer of 2047. The funny thing about that, of course, is that the theremin was usually used to announce the presence of spooky space aliens in 1950s science fiction films…

We’re just asking for it, really.


Bugs

June 10th, 2008 | shivering sands

The devices at Queen’s University Belfast are described as "small hockey-puck-like antennas," but they sound like bugs to me. They channel wireless data signals across human skin using a physical effect called, I swear, The Creeping Wave. The Creeping Wave Effect would allow several electronic implants to communicate with each other across the surface of your skin — essentially, a bluetoothing of the human body. Or, if you like, bugging yourself — monitoring and updating your own devices over the air. I’m not sure if New Scientist’s term "skin-tenna" will stick. Let’s face it: it’s going to be a creeping bug.

At the same time, however, a team at Rutgers has its own creeping bug problem. They thawed out a bunch of soil-based bacterias, the youngest of which went into the deep-freeze in 1974, and tried some antibiotics on them. Antibiotic resistance is an increasing problem in the medical sector, and some elements of that resistance may be found in soil, hence the experiments. No-one was happy to see these vintage soil-bugs fend off a dose of Cipro that would literally have killed a sumo wrestler.

The thing is, Cipro doesn’t occur in nature. And all of the antibiotics used in the test were developed some considerable time after the soil bacteria samples were stuffed in the icebox. Bacteria that have not been exposed to an antibiotic should not have been able to evolve resistance to it, right? I mean, Cipro used to work just fine. And these bugs had never seen Cipro, because it came after they’d been frozen and because it was generated in a lab. Speculative explanations seem to begin with the suggestion that "natural variation or prior exposure to undiscovered Cipro-like molecules could explain the bacteria’s retroactive resistance." But a different idea occurred to me.

What if bacteria update over the air in a creeping wave across the surface of the earth?


Rupture

June 9th, 2008 | shivering sands

I had a sort of infernokrusher/BRUTE! moment in July of 2005. A searing rupture in the sf paradigm: the certain knowledge that in fact what sf needed was both an upgrade and a retrograde. A science fiction dominated by obsession with penis size, an adolescent terror of sex, sickening violence and massive, random, senseless explosions. Written with the sort of ugly, naive bluntness with which a disturbed teenager might craft the self-produced pornographic material that just barely prevents him from going off the rails and fucking all the neighbourhood pets to death. Imagine, then, a lobotomised fourteen-year-old Stephen Hawking who’d been sexually abused by nuns since the age of three, turning his hand to the great game of science fiction. I felt that, somehow, this would produce the perfect science fiction, the truest response to the early pulp-magazine sf.

Luckily for everyone, I sobered up a day later because my family was coming home. The only products of that 24-hour fugue state were the following two sketches. And thank god there weren’t any more. Even my dear friend, the late Eva Lux, a sometime porn performer, looked askance at terms like “beef missile.”

But, sometimes, deep in the armpit of the night, these sketches call to me. I dream that perhaps I walked away from the purest fiction ever to have touched a screen. And then I dream that I’m being repeatedly punched in the face by everybody.

Planet Earth’s Control Room

Jesus Christ’s liver tasted of gin and semen. I gobbed it out on to the floor and looked around the control room. Somewhere out back, the Pope was still screaming. If I hadn’t punched the teeth out of the pirahna before I poured them up him, he might be dead by now. The only thing muffling his fucking noise was the mouthful of used condoms. The Virgin Mary came out of a side door with a shotgun. I bit off the end and spat it in her eye, laughing. “Virgin Mary my arse,” I said. “Any wife of mine coming home with that story would have been left out for the lepers before midnight. You like the taste of dadpaste and no mistake. I’ve chewed open your son and washed his raw meat down with a bottle of shit wine. What do you think to that?” As the Virgin Mary went down on her booted knees and skilfully guided my purple-headed battering ram past her prehensile tonsils, I looked at the control panel. There was a depression in it with a red button at the bottom with the sign DO NOT PRESS. At the last moment, I ripped my beef missile free of her vocal cords with both hands and shoved it down into the control console.

The world exploded.

And THEN I ejaculated.

The end. Fuck off.

The Insulted Lover

I grabbed a handful of my own semen out of Mother Teresa and flung it at the oncoming cops. They all got instantly pregnant and fell over. Even the men.

“I’ve had better,” said Mother Teresa, sparking a match off her nipple and lighting up a joint.

It was then I knew I had to kill everyone in the city. With my penis.

I flexed my flaming meathammer. The road cracked in half. The cops exploded. So did the buildings. Everybody died.

Except me.

Result.

The end. Fuck off.