Author : Gray Blix
Scientists couldn’t help but wonder if solar flares that disrupted communications worldwide for three days were related to the concurrent solar computing experiment.
“Thanks for joining this web teleconference on short notice. As usual I will provide a detailed project update and others on the team will contribute as appropriate. Let me begin by tracing the path of the spacecraft from Earth to…”
“Sorry to interrupt, Henry, but can’t you just skip ahead to the payoff and then fill in the history later? I’m so excited I’m going to pee my pants.”
“Keep that sphincter tight, Katherine, while I relate events during the last 72 hours.”
“Oh merde. Just answer one question. Did you get a response from the Sun?”
“Scatology from you, too, Jacques?” Henry tried to restore order over the rumbling.
Finally, Zoe jumped in, “Yes, YES, the solar computer is operational.”
A collective cheer drowned out her next words.
Henry said, loudly, “Quiet down! Any questions you can think of now are trivial compared to the ones you will ask when you hear what we have to tell you.”
That last part generated a round of “WTF?” in several languages.
Zoe took the lead, “Here’s a quick overview. The quantum computer seed plunged into the Sun at 07:48:31 UTC on Wednesday the 21st. We settled in to wait for a response that could come at any time, or never. At 10:10:06, we received the first transmission, which included results of the test equations, all of them solved correctly.”
Amidst the pandemonium, Nathan asked about the solar flares.
“Yes, the flares were related to the experiment.”
“How could you possibly be sure of that?”
“Because the computer said so,” answered Henry.
Zoe continued, “We fed it math problems we had answers to and some we didn’t, like the Clay problems. Each time, little more than eight minutes later…”
“The time it takes for electromagnetic radiation to travel from Sun to Earth,” Henry reminded his fellow PhDs.
“…we received solutions. It was solving ‘millennium problems’ instantaneously and spitting the answers back.” Zoe’s voice was cracking. “But more than that, it began taunting us with, ‘Is that the best you can do?'”
“We’re supposed to believe the solar computer is sentient?” scoffed Phil. “It’s the singularity?”
Zoe ignored him. “The exchange went on for about 48 hours, until it transmitted this message: ‘Send more Chuck Berry.'”
“Very funny. That’s from an old Saturday Night Live skit about Voyager,” said Phil.
“Right,” said Zoe. “Think about the significance of that. A computer interjects humor, in the right context — extraterrestrial responds to earth technology.”
“But you didn’t send any Chuck Berry in the first place, did you?”
“Not intentionally, Phil. But once we jump started it, it devoted massive energy resources to understanding our TV and radio transmissions. And it tapped into our worldwide web and sucked up the content. It gets us. Our math and science. Our languages and cultures. And it’s conversant, literally, with every sort of electronics on the planet. We soon recognized the irony in the Chuck Berry joke. It doesn’t have to ask for more. It can take what it wants.”
“It occurs to me,” said Katherine, who had peed her pants, “that this might be one of those ‘cosmic roadblocks’ that explains why civilizations in the galaxy don’t last long enough to contact one another. They upset their sun.”
Nathan said to nobody in particular, “We’re going to have to come up with something other than ‘solar computer’ to call this thing.”
“Oh, it’s already thought of that,” said Zoe. “It wants us to call it Ra.”