Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Think Tank


Things had calmed down a little after the stressful meeting with the President, given the almost complete lack of facts the science team had presented.  Adam Lindsay was one of those typical eggheads that managed to get all the grants, all the headlines, and all the glory, but even he had been extremely backwards in coming forwards with a story.  My team, who I would put up against any other in the world, had one huge advantage.  Super Queen drove a mean chip, even bigger than the one that perpetually sat on her shoulder.  We had computing power, and we had young, fearless Minds who lived in the 3.0 world, having dissed 2.0 as boring and so “yesterday”.
We took data from every telescope, every satellite, every collimator, accelerator, university, and experimental laboratory that was willing to share their data with us and in turn take the analysis we provided and develop our ideas, sharing the IP proportionately.
We had a few big wins in the last three years, enough to get us on the radar of Big Industry, and even the Military was now sniffing around.
That’s why the witch Queen had been called to the White House to give her views on the object.  I leant back in my chair, scanning all the screens, not quite believing what I was seeing.
The figures were impossible by any standard or rule I wanted to apply.  The object had been “snapped” three times by the French telescopes, twice by a German one, three times by the Russians, all within a millisecond of each other as it magically appeared across the face of Jupiter.
From the images, the speed of the object had been calculated at one hundred and four million, one hundred sixty thousand miles per second, or five hundred and sixty six times the speed of light – which was impossible.  Then we had an image taken from a satellite in geostationary orbit over Europe, which had an image of the object with a time code one millionth of a second later, when it obscured light reflected off the Earth.
Which meant that it had decelerated to zero in around – well, nothing, it was such a small number as to be almost unrecognizable.
But my recently drugged Mind was telling me about something else, a nagging thought at the corner of one eyelid, a scratch behind my nose, that sort of thing.
“Karen, turn the screen off please.”  She looked at me, her green eyes wide with surprise, then she shrugged her shoulders, setting her more than adequate bust bouncing up and down.  She killed the screens.  All twenty something people in the room relaxed in their chairs, and swiveled around to look at me.  I waved imperiously, the temporary emperor with no clothes.
“Guys, I want to explore something.  Forget the math.  Forget the science.  If we didn’t know what we think we know, how would you describe the event?”  The room went still, as the brainiacs fought years of rigorous training, and natural peer-group pressure to conform or be very sure of their facts before opening their mouths.
One tentative hand rose slowly, from a very young looking woman with pink hair.  Genius she may be, conservative dresser absolutely not.
“Ah, Jonathon, if you mean what does this thing remind me of, it’s a big bubblegum wrapper”.  The room broke out into laughter, as the tension suddenly eased.
“Ok guys, that’s exactly what I want.  Thanks, Sylvia, why do you say that?”
“Well, it’s wrinkled like someone screwed it up and trashed it, it looks like it has surface detail, yet we can’t resolve any dimension to it, yet, and all the bumps and curves appear – or are resolved by the computers - as rounded, nothing straight or conformal.”
“How can you have bumps and curves if it hasn’t any dimension?” asked Petrie Whyte, a little overcome with the whole conversation.  She was an astrophysicists, one of the best in the world, and she really felt uncomfortable with a wide ranging, free flowing, unstructured discussion that left out all the comfortable elements like logic and rational observation.
“Every image we have is a computer reconstruction or a computer generated picture, provided by digital and electromagnetic telescopes and detection devices.  The computers are literal to their programming, and we have only tried to enhance the focal plane in an attempt to get a better resolution – or definition.  In this instance, what you see is very much what you get.”
“Could it be a projection of some type?” asked one of the physicists, flicking through a stack of printed images.  “Maybe a laser projection bouncing of our atmosphere?”  Heads shook in unison, there was no atmosphere at 24,600 nautical miles out in space.  But the idea of a projected image of some type was a possibility. Jonathon looked around the room again, seeing the abject confusion of almost every face.  The object defied logic, defied all the rules of mathematics, broke all the accepted laws of Newtonian physics, and all four laws of thermodynamics.
Yes it existed, had a definable shape, but no mass.  It could only be seen by the light it occluded, in both directions.  Observers on Earth could make out its approximate shape by the light from stars, the Sun, and the Moon, and satellites could capture an image from the light reflected and refracted by the Earth and the atmosphere around the planet.
“Maybe it’s Dirac particle, or something made up from Dirac particles,” a lone voice chipped in.
“What the hell is a Dirac particle?” someone else asked, echoing the feelings of most of the scientists and mathematicians in the room.
“In 1971 Dirac postulated a new positive-energy relativistic wave equation, which allowed only positive values for the energy.  And what you might well have here with our object is something similar – two dimensional, possibly made of 1 particle matter”.  The silence in the room was palpable, as every Mind in the room went into overdrive, extrapolating the theory, trying to make it make sense. I vaguely remembered Dirac’s work, and the extreme lack of scientific support it had received, even in literature thirty years after the original work.
I had to find a way to get everyone thinking outside the box, outside their comfort zone.
“Okay, everyone, we have a most unusual problem, one that seems to defy all our science, all our math.  Why don’t we contact Thinkbox, and set them the problem?”  Thinkbox was a non-scientific organization that attracted the world’s best Gamers.  It had been used successfully back in 2011 to crack an enzyme code for AIDS research.  The Gamers had done in 3 weeks what the scientific community had failed to do in ten years.  Maybe this time they could solve our problem for us if we wrote it the right way.
“Okay guys, let’s work on the story, and then let’s set the problem.  Any ideas?”