This One Time, 50

This one time was actually thousands of times, tens of thousands of times, simultaneous only when seen through a perspective granted by one eye ninety degrees out of joint. A historian’s perspective. A futurist’s perspective. But simultaneous nonetheless.

A pebble tossed into a pond makes a splash. The splash makes a ring. The ring makes a series of concentric ripples. The ripples repeat and spread out, weakening, away from the center of impact.

Time is goofy and asymmetrical when we unspool it the way we do. Play it backwards and the ripples zoom inwards, strengthening, building to form a ring of spikes and a crown and then … and then forces conspire to eject the pebble. At that instant the water instantly smooths over on top, a placid mirror. A perfect mirror.

That never happens.

Imagine an apple made of water, with the impact sparking in the core, dead center. A confusion of cavitation occurs, a shock throughout, and then spherical ripples radiate outwards, core to rind, weakening, randomizing.

Now imagine only being able to see those ripples in slices a millimeter thick, one slice at a time. One tiny slice by the rind, barely as large around as it is thick. What happens there is discontinuous, weak, barely noticeable. The next slice is larger, but not thicker. The ripples are weak, but make a detectable pattern. But what is missing is the cause, the sense of the direction from which the disturbance came.

In the next series of slices, we see more ripples, more patterns, but nothing to resolve the mystery. Until you get to the center slice. There is the shock that changes the past and the future in spreading, echoing, and because of our habit of viewing time in thin little sequential slices, retroactive and proactive ripples that stack and cancel and reinforce and, as we continue into future slices, re-weaken and re-randomize.

Understand that the spherical apple of water, viewed in slices, is missing at least one dimension to be a useful metaphor for what has happened, is happening, will happen. Also keep in mind nothing is perfectly spherical, of a uniform material and density, except an approximation in a physicist’s equations to keep him or her from having to do more complicated math. The earth is involved, with all of its mud and rock and water and air and liquid core and twisting magnetic fields, plus the shadow in spacetime that the sun casts with its own gravity well and constant blowing storms. And more.

But the earth takes a direct hit. And it does it some time from now, maybe months, maybe a year, maybe a bit more than a year, and this impact causes — sorry, will have caused and will continue to cause disturbances radiating backward and forward into time that change and unchange and rechange events at the quantum level in ways I doubt we’ll be able to appropriately comprehend for a hundred years.

As this hit hasn’t happened yet from our point of view, I can’t at all predict whether we survive it. Or whether we all get completely, retroactively unwritten. Or if human history simply reappears, retroactively rewritten to have had a consistent existence throughout the duration of the trauma, like the surface of the pool after the pebble has settled to the bottom and lain there for hours, decades after the discontinuity, whenever and wherever that actually occurs.

I have the early part of the graph, which is, I hope, symmetrical with the late half — if not perfectly symmetrical, then possibly at least consistent with some sort of frame-dragging hysteresis that eventually resolves to smooth water. But I don’t know how high or traumatic the central peak is. Or more disturbingly, whether we are a child, causally speaking, of the impact itself that will resolve away with the decay of the ripples or whether we are part of the smooth surface that once was, and eventually shall return and remain.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is the conclusion of the past three years of my research. I have made available not just bound paper copies of my team’s paper as is customary, but also made available for download the gigabytes of raw data and huge amounts of intermediary analyses and even copies of the software we wrote to help compile and run our tests on the data. I beg, we beg, each and every one of you to try to find the flaws in our processes and artifacts in our analyses that would show that the phenomenon we’ve detected doesn’t really exist, and that there is no impending crisis, and that I have scared myself silly over nothing.

In advance I tender my resignation from any and all positions of authority and advisory boards and academic responsibilities the moment it turns out I have caused undue concern and embarrassed myself, my team, and my institution with a specter born of my imagination and unfounded fears. Please, I beg you again, prove me wrong. Disgrace is, personally, the best case scenario. And I have a lot of fishing to catch up on.

Thank you for your time and attention.


February 19, 2011 · by xalieri · Posted in This One Time  


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