A Möbius Twist Please

 

Hariod Brawn, a fellow I follow regularly on WordPress, recently posted “What is it like for nothing to happen.” Many, including myself, have found great mill for grist there. Please consider spending a moment or five there.

gahan-wilson-nothing-happens-next-this-is-it-new-yorker-cartoon_a-g-9172121-8419447

Such thoughts as these intrigue me.

What is the science behind the abrupt discontinuity and surprising continuity of a Möbius strip? You are on one side and simultaneously on the other, or is it the other way around. Or is there just one side? A simple twist of the two-dimensional surface is radical and beautiful to ilk like me.

moebius-strip

 

Calculus allows us to keep begging the questions on a seeming, and actual, infinity:

“Are we there yet? When are we going to be there?”

Meanwhile we march on asymptotically toward an axis or several axes, or three-dimensional, four-dimensional axes.

asymptote

I say “dare to divide by zero.” But thank me not —thank the unknown scholars who introduced the zero. Roman numerals are hard-headed and in-your-face hard-nosed to math fans.

But back to nothing (or zero or zed). Consider the weight of the universe. Then consider its opposite: absolutely absolutely nothing.

“But, but the big-ass weight of the universe is a whole lot of something. Or something.”

Some time ago a science fiction author (name unknown to me) imagined a planet with never dissipating cloud cover. At no time of the day or night could an inhabitant see anything but the underside of endlessly butting together clouds. The sun was a hazy bright spot visible during the day. At night, of course, no stars. What could the inhabitants know of the universe?

Thanks for reading.

 

Living Backward in Time with 20/20 Vision

Fifty years ago I learned about having a wizard for a tutor.

once.and.future.king

A touchstone work is one you return to throughout your life for the simple reason that its ring is ever true, it illuminates your contrived and contorted life rather than darkening it.

Merlyn had a skill that made him a profoundly wise teacher: the ability to live life from the future into the past. When you live life backward in time you meet the people who live lives forward into the future: you and I. People look to the past for better choices, being raised in different families in different schools.

going.back.to.a.simplier.time

Were that Franklin Roosevelt had died from his polio in childhood. Reconnect the dots: fractals snap that way, but if you proceed from the future-as-history into the past-as-future?

Alternate histories in science fiction are fractals of life, roads not taken in a panorama of maybes. Setting out one way, becoming derailed or re-railed. Hindsight might be gift or torture.

Henry_II,_Plantagenet_Empire
Randall Garret’s “Lord Darcy” series:

The Angevin Empire in 1172, before the point of divergence of Randall Garrett‘s “Lord Darcy” series.

Let me live my life backward. Let me celebrate my first birthday one year in the past. It would take me from 1947 to 1946. I would become an adult in 1926, the present moment would be in the year 1879.

And the best thing for  being sad?

“The best thing for being sad,” replied Merlyn, beginning to puff and blow, “is to learn something. That is the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then–to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting.  Learning is the thing for you. Look at what a lot of things there are to learn–pure science, the only purity there is.  You can learn astronomy in a lifetime, natural history in three, literature in six. And then, after you have exhausted a milliard lifetimes in biology and medicine and theocriticism and geography and history and economics–why, you can start to make a cartwheel out of the appropriate wood, or spend fifty years learning to begin to learn to beat your adversary at fencing. After that you can start again on mathematics, until it  is time to learn to plough.”

(Merlyn, advising the young King Arthur in T. H. White’s The Once and Future King, Berkeley Medallion Edition, July, 1966, page 183.)

 

 

 

The Jailer Mentality and Alternate Histories

One of the oldest entries in my “Commonplace Book” is from an article titled simply “Science Fiction” in the small but wonderful book Of Other Worlds by C.S. Lewis. I still own that book, but have decided to quote a passage via internet; I originally typed it on an Underwood manual typewriter in 1974 (it’s one reason for my deformed fingers).

people are so ready with the charge of ‘escape.’ I never fully understood it till my friend Professor Tolkien asked me the very simple question, ‘What class of men would you expect to be most preoccupied with, and most hostile to, the idea of escape?’ and gave the obvious answer: jailers. The charge of Fascism is, to be sure, mere mud-flinging. Fascists, as well as Communists, are jailers; both would assure us that the proper study of prisoners is prison. But there is perhaps this truth behind it: that those who brood much on the remote past or future, or stare long at the night sky, are less likely than others to be ardent or orthodox partisans.

A Pilgrim in Narnia reflects my own lifelong role as pilgrim and longer for other worlds. It feels like that “visit to the deck” when I go there. Science Fiction brought me instantaneous wonder one summer in Northern Michigan: 1963. In the checkout aisle next to the Snickers was this:

case.of.identity
Looking at the calendar to discover that it is the present year. Modern telephone on the wall.

It turned out to fit right in with Davide Mana’s Karavansa. Certainly recommended for those who have read this far.

Alternate histories locked in as a theme the moment I saw the calendar on that seemingly medieval wall. May 1964.

H. Beam Piper’s Gunpowder God provided precise detail on combining sulphur, charcoal and sodium nitrate. I was already combining every household chemical available to discover what the periodic table let me know about free ions, so I was among kindred.

gunpowder_god-schoenherr
Looking at the calendar to discover that it is the present year. Modern telephone on the wall.

Within the next month I had found a brown-paper wrapped Analog and the first printing in magazine form of Frank Herbert’s Prophet of Dune series.

It was in this mailbox on 315 Glenroy for firsthand accounts from the 50’s and 60’s. I still have the large-format magazines in mylar sleeves. They’re over there in the dining room. Make yourself comfortable.

Language, geography, literature and wonder.

And a recognition that our record-breaking incarceration economy and military armament madness destroys far more souls far more innocent than me.

An alternate history that does not press world armament manufacture and mega prison complexes loom in my mind 53 years hence.

Synchronicity Gone Wild: Karavansara and Me

It has been some time since I’ve engaged in a conversation that simultaneously included Clutch Cargo, Pat Novak for Hire and Frank Herbert’s Dune series but the Déjà Vu may conjoin: much as a solar eclipse occurring concurrently with a lunar variety.

Carefully tear the brown paper wrapper, such that you do not also tear the cover. Most fortunately I did not tear it and it's still here.
Carefully tear the brown paper wrapper, such that you do not also tear the cover. Most fortunately I did not tear it and it’s still here.

Yes, billziegler1947 is referring to the latest of waking hours in a longish sized day, when a last second neuron fires a memory segment while reading Karavansara. There you may find coverage on the deservedly famous Sand Worm cover by John Schoenherr on a March 1965  Analog Science Fact – Science Fiction.

As noted by Davide Mana this is a first printing. Mine arrived at 315 Glenroy in a brown paper wrapper. Now it’s preserved in a mylar sleeve. Yellow hues on a stone-like sand swirl. Too close even for discomfort. I can’t imagine it took that behemothic beast much time to scare its way out of arid surface and into a more than unforgiving Arrakis’ afternoon.

To make a short description yet shorter, I tuned in to Karavansara on the WordPress dial and submitted “Frank Herbert.” Frequenters of the Karavan and its Sara will know now that a non-ending journey into the possibilities of Herbert’s inimitable mind wash over into the impact of an introduction to Frank. Dune spice. 17 year-old self discovering that no one could better spark a science fiction journey

That trek began in 1964, while I gazed at another famous Analog cover (Schoenherr of course) for Randall Garrett’s alternate history series, another Sherlockian look at roads taken this time/not this time in the same year on the calendar: 1964 modern times. Not like the other magazines, it was not.

Looking at the calendar to discover that it is the present year. Modern telephone on the wall.
Looking at the calendar to discover that it is the present year. Modern telephone on the wall.

Back to 2015.