Like An Arrow

That internal state where the world disappears, and it feels like every conceivable part of your consciousness is working towards a singular goal. Entering into this state was often accompanied by the feeling that time was flying, it was not unusual for hours to pass without notice in this state. Flow they called it, and because people in this state were incredibly productive, late stage capitalism became obsessed with achieving it.

At first the flow industry was just blog posts, fakesci books, and business school seminars. But as the pharma revolution kicked in, a series of breakthroughs led to Flowz, a family of drugs that could induce flow. When population growth stopped, and then began to retract, the economy could continue to grow, first with the uptake of Flowz use, and then with the series of drug improvements to induce higher states of flow.

And this is how the aliens found us. It turns out, that feeling of time flying was real. The local time induced by flow did indeed cause time to run slower. When the wave of distortion caused by a hyper optimized society of Flowz users finally propagated to the nearest interstellar civilization, the aliens detected the effect. It is easy to understand see why they invaded.

Sideways in time

When you shine a flashlight at a wall, you aren’t surprised when the light beam gets absorbed by the wall, and the light does not emerge from the other side.

This obvious statement only needed a small extrapolation for the first tachyon scientists to become successful.

For the slow moving world, that of the bradyons, and the light speed moving world, that of the luxons, you can see your past light cone and predict whether there is going to be a wall in front of the flashlight or not. Sure there is a chance a fast moving braydon wall may get in front of your flashlight beam just after you turn it on, but you could see that coming. Similarly we know the luxons world, that of photons, cannot themselves make walls, so we might not know you are about to get zapped by a light beam outside your past light cone, but that isn’t a wall, an obstruction to bradyons or luxons.

And thus it was for the tachyons, to send them, you simply needed to make sure there isn’t a wall in the way. I say simply because it turns out that when you look in every spacelike direction here on Earth, there are quite a few other tachyonic structures. And so it was that for many years tachyonic scientists spent their time sending tachyon beams into tachyonic walls. It was only with the construction of tachyonic machines, the plow, the saw, the spade, that one could make sure that the tachyons you were sending were not just slamming into a tachyonic wall.

And so now we are gathered here to embark on a next step, beyond building simple tachyonic machines, with our new endeavor to build a tachyonic computer. What new use will we dream up for computers that compute sideways in time?

Rock, paper, lines of force

It wasn’t until the machines that they noticed it was like Faraday had said.

As always, what we want is to have our cake and eat it to. We want that when we push a rock, the rock moves. The rock, pour soul, faces no choice, it’s just gotta move. Because we pushed it. But we also want that we can choose not to push that pour soul, the rock. And that choice, our choice, we don’t want it to have been chosen for us. We’re not rocks, damn it, and by golly it’s a wonderful problem because it doesn’t look so easy.

This problem, the problem of free will (which our pour rock does not have) has consumed philosophers (both natural and unnatural), preachers, and college kids smoking weed in their dorm room probably since the dawn of our consciousness. I will not dare to tread on such hallowed ground as the reasoning from conclusions to assumptions that these scholars had developed.

What happened was we got stuck.

No one could figure out how to make the computers exhibit free will. They’re run an experiment, say with a computer hooked to a robot arm and a rock, and see if they could get the computer to choose to push or not push our rock (who is now quite irritated at being the target of all this fuss.) But when we would look to try to understand what the computer had chosen, there was always a history that seems to show the causes for each of the actions that led the computer to its decision.

We’re not sure who it was who decided to press his head up against the laptop during the experiment. Maybe one of those free will explorers after too much weed.

But when they did, when they placed their head in close proximity to the chip running the computation, suddenly the computer began to make choices that could not be explained by the logs.

It turns out that free will, like electricity and magnetism, is a field. Every point in space is endowed with a value of this field. And our brains are big sources of the lines of free will force (which, of course some folks like to just call “the force”).

Which might explain why you see all these folks these days with their heads up against rocks asking them to “please move”.


Where do they go?

I ask them.

They tell me it is another universe. They describe how in that other universe the rules are different. How sometimes they don’t even know the rules but have to find them. They spend hours learning these rules and applying them.

They dissociate. It’s not unusual for them to spend hours fully engrossed. Wave your hand in front of their face and they might eventually see you. They describe time as just disappearing, and the next thing they know it is past midnight.

These days they can take it with them. Wherever they go it’s with them. You’ll see them lost in their world. At a ballgame, on the subway, whenever there is a spare moment they could be there.

There is debate, is it healthy? Is it okay that they spend so much time in these other worlds? Can they tell the difference from the real world?

Yep, these mathematicians, physicists, and computer scientists doing theory research are a real worry. Won’t someone think of the children?


A favorite quote from van Gogh, “For my part I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of the stars makes me dream.” Humility when faced by the realization of vastness that is the universe. A noble insight.

But read further, it was a letter to his brother, “but the sight of the stars makes me dream, in the same simple way as I dream about the black dots representing towns and villages on a map. Why, I ask myself, should the shining dots in the sky be any less accessible to us than the black dots on the map of France?” So a star explorer, that van Gogh. Looking up and thinking of travel to the stars. To boldly go.

But this is 1888, how do you get to the stars? A decade later a Russian schoolteacher would propose rockets for space travel, but this is 1888, getting there seemed impossible. “If we take the train to get to Tarascon or Rouen, then we take death to go to a star. What is certainly true in this reasoning is that while we are alive we cannot go to a star, any more than, once dead, we could catch a train.”

Take death to the stars. It’s always a journey, that death, always elsewhere. Internal journey, Resurrection, is reserved for the gods, or put off to the end of time. Or hoped for by the last electrical signals of brains in liquid nitrogen vats. But death, death takes you to the stars.

“It seems possible to me that cholera, gravel, phthisis, and cancer could be the means of celestial transportation, just as steam-boats, omnibuses, and railways serve that function on earth. To die peacefully of old age would be to go there on foot.” A vast galactic network of aliens star jumping around the universe. And we slow souls, trying not to get the phthisis, stuck here on Earth.

“Is the whole of life visible to us, or do we in fact know only the one hemisphere before we die?” Dear Vincent, I wish I knew.

Trigonometric identity

Probably it was the book “Astronomy Made Simple”. It was a plot of radial velocity of stars versus distance from the galactic center. And it was flat. At far distances the velocity curve flattened out. And this was not as it should be, the astronomers said.

One idea was this meant that there was more matter than one would guess from just counting visible stars at a far distance from the galactic center. But why couldn’t it be a different law of gravity?

When you go on r/physics these days, you see lots of questions like this. But this was back in the days of information underload. A kid, in his upstairs bedroom, on the floor could sit and wonder how one would have to modify Newtons one over distance squared law to get this curve.

Certainly I knew of Newton’s gravitational force, but I’m not sure why I wanted to do a numerical simulation. Probably this came from reading the back pages of Scientific American’s “Computer Recreations” column. But certainly there was no Runge and no Kutta. There wasn’t even trigonometry.

So what do you do when you want to make a simulation of two stars in orbit around each other but you don’t know how to resolve vectors or trig.

You would guess. Instead of sine being opposite over hypotenuse, you might think that maybe it is something like opposite over opposite plus adjacent?

The orbits were not elliptical.

Halcyon days. May you strive to be Aeolus and give others the space to safe from storms. That’s how you start down the path towards learning trig.

It from noisy bit

You should really write something.

I mean why?

Well, it would keep your writing skills sharp.

I remember back to a large humanities professor’s office. Books, no sign of the shelfs. Probably there was Melville on the desk.

“Your thesis. You actually write quite clearly now.”

Wondering how bad I had started from. I guess that’s why I added the literature major. And now how this story must be told through the dullness of atrophied skills.

Maybe start with something you are thinking about?

As if my ideas make any sense, even to me.


I’m thinking lots about encoding.

Quantum error correction?

No, not really. More existential. Deep down there is a churning broiling sea of noise and stochastic evolution. None of those lower bits last long, their transient, barely deserving the moniker of bit.

And yet I, me, this someday stable collection of memories, computations, behaviors, something that looks like the cold hardness of digital, of one state, seems to emerge.

It can be quite disorienting.

See you wrote something.

Well it was a try.