Solving the Stealth Problem

Author : Patricia Stewart, featured writer

“Hey boss, can you come down to the lab? Ah, the prototype has disappeared.”

“It’s supposed to, you idiot. That’s what stealth technology does.”

“Sorry, sir, I didn’t mean to say it disappeared. I meant to say it’s gone, as in, we can’t find it. Hello? You there, Boss?” All he heard after that was the sound of the phone bouncing onto a desk, followed by footsteps quickly fading away.

Two minutes later, Drake Griffin burst into the lab. “All right, Kemp, where’s my ship? Start from the beginning.”

“Well, sir, as you know, this was the first manned test. Tom Marvel, the test pilot, entered the prototype 45 minutes ago. He activated the start sequence in accordance with the test plan. The ship disappeared as expected. Then, Tom used the antigrav system to elevate from Alfa Stand. We know this happened because the weight sensors dropped to zero. He was supposed to hover for 30 minutes, then fly to Bravo Stand. But according to the sensors, he never made it.”

“Maybe the sensors are defective? Have you checked them?”

“We tested them prior to securing the hangar. But we cannot enter the hangar again until the ship reappears, or we get approval from an S-Level Director. That would be you, sir.”

“What are the risks?”

“Well, for one thing, the ship could be hovering directly above your head when it lands.”

“Can’t you radio Tom, or instruct the aircraft to decloak?”

“No, sir. Visible light and radio transmissions are the same thing, except for wavelength. All electromagnetic radiation curves around the ship. That’s how the cloak works.”

“OK, Kemp. Here’s my plan. You’re going into the hangar with a hard wired camera mounted onto a 20 foot pole. Then you poke around in there until the camera disappears. If you’re killed, I’ll make sure you get a big fat raise. Now, go find my ship.”

After 40 minutes of very tentative “poking,” Kemp located the ship on the floor, approximately 100 feet from Alfa Stand. The camera revealed that the area inside the stealth bubble was pitch black, except for the feeble glow of the instrument panel. Marvel was on the cockpit floor, curled up into a fetal position. Kemp hastily jury rigged a transmitter onto the end of his pole, and pushed it through the cloak. He then instructed the ship to power down. The ship materialized, and instantly frosted over. Kemp sheepishly touched the hull. “It’s ice cold, sir. I wasn’t very good in thermodynamics, but my guess is that the cloak is endothermic somehow, and it sucked all the heat from inside the bubble. It looks like poor Tom froze to death.”

“Why didn’t the earlier test reveal this endo-thingy?”

“We never engaged the cloak for more the 15 minutes. And those tests were run by the onboard computers. The electronics are not sensitive to the cold. I guess Tom’s core body temperature dropped so fast he didn’t have time to abort. What should we do, sir?”

“Well, the first thing is to get Tom’s body out of there. Then, I’m going back to my office and write a directive to the effect that after the research boys say they’ve solved this problem, they all get to ride in the next test flight.”

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Failed Mission

Author : Francesco Navarro

The air scrubbers were failing. Generators were running at less than fifteen percent. Only one large bio dome and four of the sixty life support shelters remained of the mission complex.

Father Nandres died a week ago and there was no one left who could operate a harvester or any of the larger terraforming machines.

This field was the only one remaining and it was slowly dying.

Still, there were twenty six other souls whose bodies needed the nourishment the field could provide. Most of the survivors were acolytes with only a class three technical training, just like him.

There were no clouds anymore. Only a baleful yellow sun glared down at him from a fiery orange sky. The seminary had not prepared him for the magnitude of the impossible.

The recirculated air in the containment suit was stale and dry. Thick gloves made pulling up the low tubers clumsy. The words of a four thousand year old prayer formed on his parched lips as he worked.

”Teach me to be generous,

Teach me to serve you as I should,

To give and not to count the cost,

To fight and not to heed the wounds,

To toil and not to seek for rest,

To labor and ask not for reward,

Save that of knowing that I do your most holy will…”

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37 Hands

Author : Joe Carter/Kyle French

37 hands. Zed shook his head. The 84 candidates running for President were asked if they believed in Sixism, and only 37 raised their hands.

He couldn’t believe this debate was still going on. For years they had assumed that the Manhattan Inflation Trial in 4838 had put the lid on the silly notion that the universe contained billions of galaxies. Billions! Zed looked out the window at the smooth black plane of the night sky. One-two-three-four-five-six. Six galaxies. There they were. It was so basic, so obvious. Any kid with a neutron telescope could make the observation for themselves!

The moderator turned to Governor Tembke of South Africa. “Madam, are you a Big Banger?” There were dampened giggles at the pejorative. Everyone knew what a ‘banger” was.

Rev. Tembke sniffed. “I’m running for the office of president, not planning on writing a 5th-grade textbook on astrophysics.”

“Aargh!” Zed threw his shoe at the screen, but it flew through the image of the Senator from Zimbabwe instead. He stood up and began to pace. He tried to breathe deeply, as if that would lower his blood pressure.

He used to be patient with relativists. He really did. But at a debate at ultra-conservative Harvard University, he’d made the mistake of asking one to explain how this galactic disappearing act occurred. The answer the nut had given him had been so ridiculous, he’d written it down:

“As the universe expanded, the force pushed the galaxies outward faster and faster. As they surpassed the speed of light, their light shifted to infinitely long wavelengths and dimmed. A similar “cloak of invisibility” befell the afterglow of the Big Bang, a faint bath of cosmic microwaves, whose wavelengths shifted so that they are now buried by the radio noise in our own galaxy. There was also an element called deuterium, but it is in deep space now. To be seen it needs to be backlit from distant quasars, and quasars, of course, have also disappeared.”

Totally unqualified. Unprovable! Billions of galaxies–similar in size and shape to the six observable galaxies – simply sped up and – poof! – became invisible. “Yeah, that happened,” Zed chuckled to himself, turning back to the debate.

Zed was particularly frustrated that the relativists were able to prop up their beliefs with… ancient texts! The silly belief was dying out until an archaeological dig in New Atlantis produced evidence of near universal belief in relativism by ancient world civilizations. Einstein, Hubble, Hawking… proto-scientists believed in an inflationary universe, so why shouldn’t we?

“Science is based on observation,” he grumbled, “not faith in theories about a Big Bang, cosmic radiation, and an expanding universe in which galaxies go missing.” Why couldn’t they just embrace the facts? Why did they insist on clinging to mythical beliefs? Were they just stupid?

Zed collapsed back into his recliner. Fortunately, time was on the side of science. Eventually, the old beliefs would finally fade away. After all, everyone knew the modern system would collapse if the rules could ever change.

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Author : Steve Smith, Staff Writer

Consciousness seeped back slowly; recognizable sounds gradually replacing static; blackness giving way to a dull aching in his head. He resisted the urge to open his eyes.

“How are you feeling?” The voice reminded him of someone, a woman he knew? He couldn’t quite put a finger on it.

“What happened? Where…” Memory of the moment started leaking back in, vaporously thin and with apparent gaps. “My experiment, my lab… did something go wrong?” He risked a look, blinking back against the light.

“No Rick, everything went pretty much the way I’m sure you envisioned it would.” Blue eyes smiled at him from beneath blond bangs, she looked not unlike like his assistant, and yet subtly different. “This will just take some adjusting.” She studied his face for a moment, thrusting her hands deep in her lab coat pockets before turning away.

The walls seemed to vibrate with light, crisp luminescent tile covering the room floor to ceiling. “Is this the past?” He half whispered to himself. “Or is this some other part of the complex? I don’t know this place.” From the corner of his eye, he could swear her hair was darkening, shortening, but when he looked at her, it was the same shoulder length mahogany cut as before. Was it brown before?.

“No, you haven’t been to this place, and this isn’t the past, not yet.” She turned to face him, her voice almost reproving. “You can’t simply wander backwards in time Richard, I’m afraid your concepts and equations are interesting, but flawed.” He found himself captivated by her eyes, chestnut flecked with amber. “Time is all about absolutes Richard. Moving forward. Displacement equations were what you should have been looking for, but I think they’re a little beyond your comprehension. No matter though, ideas like yours are precisely why we’re here.”

“I don’t understand.” The room seemed to be fading in and out of focus, he could barely make out the books on his bookcases. “Here? In my study? Why are you here?”

“You’ll make a fine teacher Richard, you’ve got so much of the future in you, I’m sure you’ll do wonderful things.” Her glasses glimmered in the pale firelight, hands stuffed into the pockets of her cardigan.

Richard stared down at the tome open upon his desk, following the same lines of text over and over several times without reading it.

“Santayana?” A woman’s voice. He met the gaze of his teaching assistant, wrapped in her cardigan in the corner chair on the other side of his desk.

“What was that?” Had he said something just then? He felt a sense of unease, as though something was about to happen, but he couldn’t quite put his finger on what.

“You said ‘Those who do not learn from history’…” She began to repeat the phrase.

“Are doomed to repeat it.” He finished it reflexively, then paused, the words familiar on his tongue, but with no idea where the thought had come from.

“Santayana isn’t it?” She regarded him quizzically. “Are you ok? You look a little lost.”

“No, I’m fine, I think I’m fine. Santayana, yes, yes you’re right.” He pushed back in his chair, rubbing tired eyes and feeling suddenly so very old. “We should pack up for the night though, I’m tired, and I’ve got a class to teach tomorrow.” Class to teach. Why did that seem so foreign a concept? He must be tired, he would sleep, and everything would be better tomorrow, he was somehow sure of that.

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Crumpled Space

Author : Patricia Stewart, featured writer

“How’s this thing work?” asked Dean O’Banion, the man Alan Mitchell had reluctantly asked to come to Seattle to bankroll his invention that could provide the world with unlimited, cheap, green energy. Although O’Banion was not the most reputable businessman on the planet, he was the only one that didn’t laugh in Mitchell’s face after reading his abstract on the Potential Benefits of Crumpled Space.

“Well, Mister O’Banion, it’s simple really. With nonscientists, I usually demonstrate the principle with piece of paper and a 2-D analogy. I’ll draw circles on this paper representing the galaxies in our local group. This circle represents the Milky Way, this one Andromeda, and Triangulum, both Magellanic Clouds, and so on…OK, that should be enough. Now, as you can see, there are about two inches between each galaxy. But, if I crumble the paper into a tight ball, some of the galaxies actually touch each other. My theory predicts that space is actually crumbled this way in the fifth dimension, although we can’t see it. Now, if we create a wormhole in this fifth dimension, between our galaxy and the one that is practically touching us, we can travel there in a few years, rather than millions. Unfortunately, there are two limiting factors: I cannot change the shape of crumpled-space, so we can only travel to the galaxy that happens to be folded over us; and creating a wormhole that large requires more energy than our entire galaxy emits.

“Mister Mitchell, I don’t see how any of this is going to make me rich, as you said, beyond the dreams of avarice.”

“Yes, unlimited energy. OK, on the grand scale, let’s assume the entire universe is crumpled as I’ve suggested. Now, we can take my analogy one step further, into the realm of micro-crumpling, so to speak. On this much smaller sub-scale, Earth-space is crumpled within itself. And it takes much less energy to create a wormhole between two places on Earth. As it turns out, just a few meters from this lab, in the fifth dimension, is the bottom of the Marianas Trench. With this device,” he pointed to a contraption sitting on the floor, “I can open a wormhole between the Marianas Trench and here. As water rushes through the wormhole at 15,000 psi, that’s 1,000 times atmospheric pressure, it can turn a turbine with 100 times the power of Niagara Falls. I’ll demonstrate the concept with a real pinhole size wormhole.” Mitchell adjusted the controls of his wormhole generator, aimed the focus straight up, and activated the instrument. It shot a thin column of super-high-pressure water through the ceiling and upward into the sky for several miles.

“Well, I’m impressed, Mister Mitchell. How easy is it to control?”

“Child’s play. I have all the instructions written in this manual.”

“Fantastic.” O’Banion promptly pulled a gun from his coat pocket and shot Mitchell between the eyes. Then, he nonchalantly packed up Mitchell’s equipment and returned to his home outside Chicago.

Two days later, the lead story in the Chicago Sun-Times read: “Dean O’Banion, a prominent Chicago businessman, was mysteriously killed last night when a volcano erupted on his estate, creating a 2000 foot lava dome. Scientist cannot explain the eruption, since there are no known magma chambers in the Chicago area. Scientists are also baffled by the fact that this particular type of basaltic lava is only known to exist in Iceland. The damage was so extensive…”

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Author : Mark Lindquist

“I’d like to order an arm, please. Left, if you have them. I’ve always liked left arms.”

“Certainly, sir. Have a seat while — oh, my apologies, that was quite rude of me.”

“Think nothing of it. It’s by choice, not by circumstance; sitting has always been highly overrated.”

“So I’ve heard, so I’ve heard. I wouldn’t wish to do without it myself, you understand, but I can see how … ah, here we are. Did you need it coloured to match?”

“I don’t suppose you have green…”

“No, sir, only the natural colours. There’s a dyist some of our patrons use that we can highly recommend, if you’re interested.”

“No matter, I have my own. Did my ears.”

“Remarkable work. Modified?”

“Not much. Standard frequencies and AM/FM radio. Decent quality, but I pick up a bit of static when I get too near a microwave.”

“Common problem, or so I’ve heard. Now, if you’ll take a look at the monitor, you can see what we have in stock.”

“The, ah, black one…”

“An excellent specimen. Professional ball player, or so I’m told. A pitcher.”

“The cost seems low in that case.”

“Well, he was right handed. But it’s still a very high quality arm. Do you play?”

“I must say — never quite got the game. I mean, I understand it … but why?”

“Quite, sir. I was never very good at it myself. Would you like to see another, then?”

“Ah… one moment. Hm. 3X23.”

“I am compelled to tell you, sir, that that is in fact a female arm. We certainly don’t oppose such things, but we’ve had some complaints from customers who weren’t aware when ordering.”

“What’s the motor control like?”

“Rated at 73%, sir. Very good for a left hand.”

“Not a primary hand, then?”

“We get very few of those, I’m afraid. Not for lefts.”

“Understandable. I’ll take it. Put it on my account.”

“Certainly, sir. Will you need that installed here or delivered?”

“Neither, thank you. I’ll eat it here.”

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