Turtles all the way down

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Turtles all the way down

Postby Tetsuwan Penguin » 1 year ago

The idea for this story came from a comment by Elon Musk about the universe. It's yet another of my original Atom stories based on the characters I created, including Isaac the computer daemon.

The American Museum of Natural History, is located across the street from Central Park, in Theodore Roosevelt Park. The street entrance on Central Park West is guarded by a statue of the 26th President of the United States on horseback, who was one of the original founders of the museum. This part of the building was completed in 1936.

During the renovation of the museum, construction of the 8th Avenue line of the Independent subway system was underway. While Central Park West was being torn up to make way for the four tracks of the new subway, a top secret government facility was being built deep under the museum. The excavation for the new underground railroad, and the building of the museum's new facade, made for a perfect cover for the construction of the secret “think tank” deep underground.

Over in Europe, war was brewing. Hitler had already begun to put his plans for conquest into operation. Albert Einstein left Germany and settled in the US, taking a position at Princeton, in the Institute for Advanced Study. The famous physicist would later urge FDR to take Germany's work in atomic research seriously, which would result in the “Manhattan Project”. Eventually, some of the mathematical calculations for that work would be performed by human computers working in the museum think tank.

After the war, the underground 'bunker' was briefly transformed into a store house for top secret data in the form of photographic negatives, type written reports, and models of weird apparatus. With the development of the electronic digital computer, the think tank's purpose was again transformed. The most powerful array of computers on the planet were installed deep under Central Park West. The facility now served as an electronic warehouse of data gathered from the top secret work being done in the American South West in Area 51, NACA and later NASA space research, and from the alphabet soup of numerous government intelligence agencies.

Throughout the late 20th century, and into the 21st, the computer equipment in the think tank was constantly being upgraded, and research laboratories were installed. Most of the “skunk work” done here was in Electronics, Robotics, and A.I. A separate laboratory section was concerned with the study of archaeological finds concerning ancient technology.



Simon Green officially served as the assistant curator of archeology at the Museum of Natural History. He had done considerable field work all over the world participating in numerous digs where various finds now under exhibit had been found. Simon sometimes fancied himself as an adventurer in the guise of the fictitious “Indiana Jones”, and could often be found wearing a similar broad rimmed hat protecting his head from the sun. He also had several leather bull whips, and was proficient in their use.

Green also held a commercial private pilot's license, and owned a Beachcraft Starship turboprop aircraft, which was hangared at a general aviation airport on Long Island. He also held license endorsements for jet-turbine aircraft, and had logbook time in various Learjet and Cessina Citation jet aircraft.

Most importantly, he was the current head of the underground think tank research complex located several hundred feet below his office in the museum itself. These days, Simon rarely made the long elevator trip downward to enter his secret domain. The think tank now primarily served its government clients on line via secure network connections. Simon rarely needed to make face to face contact with the heads of the government agencies that he worked with, he could use his secure laptop from his museum office (which was hardened against physical and electronic break in attempts). The one exception was a certain General Hayes.....



Robert Levinson didn't look like the typical computer geek, at least not anymore. Lasik eye surgery had removed his dependence on coke bottle thick glasses years ago. A 20 speed, alpine geared racing bicycle with an ultra light weight frame made with carbon nanotube technology, provided him with his local transportation through the streets of Manhattan, while he burned off hundreds of calories that had one time been excess body fat. Rock climbing and mock sword fighting at various gym centers also helped him keep his now lean body in shape.

Levinson ran the think tank computer center that occupied several floors of the underground facility. He'd personally built the mainframe monster computer from bits and pieces of technology that had originally come from IBM, Cray, and various semiconductor chip makers. The current machine had started out as an IBM Summit machine, identical to the one installed at Oak Ridge, but was now many times more powerful. Several Quantum processors had been added, along with a huge cryogenic memory store.

Bob had also written the machine's hypervisor operating system. He'd gone beyond the limitations of command line and GUI interfaces, and even the natural language interface that IBM's WATSON machine sported. While legacy graphics terminals were still interfaced to the machine through lower speed sub-nodes, Levinson primarily used a holographic terminal almost right out of Star Trek.

A cylindrical column of ionized gas filled a transparent chamber a bit more than two meters in diameter, from the floor to the ceiling. Several multicolored laser beams scanned vertically though the smoky gas, while two superconducting magnets twisted the optical fluid about. Levinson stood in front of the visual column and smiled. “Good morning Isaac,” he said.

The smoky gas inside of the column cleared, and was replaced by an elderly gentleman wearing a white lab coat. The individual had a full head of white hair, and wore wire frame glasses with square lenses. He spoke with a distinctive 17th century British accent. “Good morning Robert.”

Issac was a Daemon, a computer program running independently of other programs, supervising their operation. He, or it, served as both the monitor of the mega computer, and the primary human interface. Issac had copies of his code on other mainframes that were networked to the one in the think tank. He was a distributed entity, and could make important decisions without human intervention, via his A.I. sub processors.

“We will have a visitor today,” Issac added, “I detect that he will arrive within the hour. I also predict that his request for our help will prove rather interesting.”

“Really?”, Bob exclaimed, rhetorically. “In that case, I'd better spruce up around here.”

Robert walked around the computer lab and half heartedly began to pick up bits of scrap paper filled with doodles. He returned several tools to the toolbox, and placed various reference books back on their shelves. He then looked about the lab, satisfied that the obvious clutter was now held to a minimum.



Two boys sat in the corner of the computer laboratory, staring at a computer terminal. Reno Guzmán, the taller of the two, sported a full head of brown hair. He was dressed in clean dark slacks, a white button up shirt with the collar open, and a pair of white tennis shoes. The other boy was dressed in a pair of blue short pants, a red tee shirt, and a pair of red high top boots. His dark brown hair with two star like cowlicks was slicked with hair gel.

“So what are you doing again,” the youth in the red boots asked.

“I'm writing a simulation program,” Reno said. “I'm trying to model how the universe works.”

“That's going to be quite a big program!”

“Well Atom, it would be if I included all of the universe in it!”, Reno said, giving his friend a nuggie between his hair spikes. “I'm only going to simulate our solar system, and the stars within ten light years of so. If I'm real luck, maybe my simulation will hint at the interaction between dark matter and dark energy. Cosmologists have been trying to measure that for years.”

“But you probably don't have enough data for a good enough simulation,” Atom replied.

“I'm sure I don't,” Reno agreed. “But just getting the program working to some extent would be an achievement. If I can get more data to work with later, eventually I'll have an answer.”



The computer lab grew silent as the hum of the lift heading down attracted everyone's attention. Simon Green was the first to exit the elevator when the doors opened, followed by a slightly overweight man in a general's uniform. The military leader held an overstuffed briefcase in his right hand, which was connected via a chain to a manacle strapped around his wrist. The general's eyes made contact with Robert Levinson's and he spoke.

“The government has an urgent need of your help, Mr. Levinson,” the general demanded. He looked around the laboratory and noticed the two boys sitting in the corner of the lab. “The information I'm holding is for eyes only,” he said sternly, casting a steel gaze at Reno. “You'll have to leave.”

“Reno Guzmán is my assistant, General Hayes, Sir.” Robert said, walking towards the general. “And my contract allows me to chose my assistants.”

“Not this time,” Hayes blurted out. “The information in this case must not leak out at any cost. I have my orders. The boy doesn't have the required top secret clearance.”

“I happen to know that your rank gives you the option to override clearances when necessary,” Issac's voice said. “Besides, you know that Master Guzmán played an important part in the matter of a certain Poindexter Drake, and your X-35 prototype, not to mention the rescue of a Dr. Verostic.”

“That incident was peanuts compared to this!”, Hayes replied, pointing to the briefcase that he was shackled to.

“You know, I've always wondered about the sense of doing that,” Simon Green laughed, pointing to the brief case. “You certainly have the key or the combination to that lock, and were you to be captured an adversary could easily get that case off of your person.”

“I'd never surrender it willingly,” the general replied.

“Yet it could be removed from your person quite easily with a hack saw.”

“This chain is hardened chrome steel,” Hayes replied.

“But a hack saw would cut through your wrist quite easily!”, Simon countered.

Saying nothing else, the general reached into his vest pocket with his left hand and removed a small key. He unlocked the handcuff, and then dialed the combination to open the brief case. “You will keep what you're about to hear secret, or you'll be spending the rest of your life at Gtimo!,” Hayes ordered in Reno's direction.
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Re: Turtles all the way down

Postby Tetsuwan Penguin » 1 year ago

Here's the next part.

2.


“The reports, data, and photos in this briefcase are all classified,” General Hayes began. “The D.O.D., got hold of this info from a CIA plant inside of NASA, and we were able to clamp down on this before it went public. I've got a few of NASA's eggheads on ice to make sure that they don't spill the beans until a decision is made on how to proceed.”

“That sounds like a rather unconstitutional breach of the first amendment to me,” Simon blurt out, his hands folded across his chest.

“Please reserve judgment until you and Mr. Levinson have analyzed the data,” the General snapped back, digging into his brief case and extracting a handful of USB thumb drives, which he handed to Robert. “NASA's New Horizon probe made headlines with its amazing photos of Pluto over three years ago. The spacecraft is still functional and is returning data as it speeds through the Kuiper belt. NASA has the craft on a path to intercept several known Kuiper belt planetoids, but they were somewhat surprised at the discovery of a new, previously unknown body.” Hayes then pulled an 8x10 glossy photograph from the case and presented it to Simon.

“Looks like a common asteroid to me,” Green said, shrugging his shoulders.

“You will note that the object is quite dark,” Hayes returned. “NASA tells me that the albedo of this object is less than .05 making it quite invisible to earth based telescopes, even Hubble would have a hard time finding it. It's a bit larger than the size of Mars larger moon and it might be on a collision course with Earth.”

“Really?”, Robert Levinson asked. “New Horizon could not have collected enough orbital position data on it to accurately calculate its entire orbit. They probably extrapolated the path from the one percent positional data they got, and noticed that it crossed the orbit of our planet. That still doesn't put it at the same place at the same time as Earth. Oh I'm sure the results raised a few eyebrows, just as the discovery of 99942 Apophis did in 2004, and that one initially was given less than a 3% chance of hitting Earth. The possibility for impact is now known for certain to be zero.”

“NASA actually has more data on this new one than you think,” Hayes said, “Though that part is what we are keeping secret. They were able to extrapolate it's orbit forward and backward from the bits that New Horizon actually observed. Then they dug up thousands of images from Hubble, and some of the largest Earth based telescopes and they did spot this bad boy in many of them. I said even Hubble would have a hard time finding it, but it did image it. Nobody noticed it in those images at first, since they weren't looking for it.”

“And the more older sightings they found, the better they could extrapolate even earlier possible orbital points,” Reno blurted out. “Which led to even more sightings on even older images, rinse, spin, repeat!”

“Smart kid,” the general laughed pointing a thumb in Reno's direction.

“So what are the odds of a collision with this planetoid, and when will it happen?” Simon asked.

“I've been told that the object has an orbital period of about 50 years, give or take a decade,” the general said. “A possible collision with Earth would be in about half of that. They quote the odds at somewhere between 20 to 50 percent.”

“I suppose you want me to do a better job of calculating that, than what the NASA wonks have done,” Bob said.

“I've been told that what needs to be done, is to build a good computer model of the planetoids orbit from available data, and then throw in all possible chaos theory variants,” Hayes said. “I know you have the best computer system available for the job. Go plug those USB flash drives into your computers and see what you can do with the data they contain.”

“Hmm,” Levinson thought out loud. “The one thing that New Horizon probably was able to do was to get an accurate measure of the planetoids mass. We didn't know the mass of Apophis very well for nearly a decade, which is why the uncertainty about it lasted so long. Issac and I should be able to simulate the problem digitally and come up with a good orbital calculation within a percent or two. Mind you, depending on its track across the asteroid belt there will still be some uncertainty.”

The general handed Simon the brief case. “There are some documents and photographs in here, all labeled and cross referenced. None of this is to leave this room. I'll be in touch. I know the way out.” Hayes entered the elevator and left by himself.
Bob sighed as he stood in front of Isaac's terminal. “Well Isaac, looks like we have some work to do.”



Captain John-Luc Picard placed the black fedora hat on his head, and adjusted his tie. Now in the guise of Dixon Hill, he looked around his office. A messy pile of papers lay on the left side of his desk, all containing case notes scribbled with a #2 pencil. A candlestick style telephone stood up on to his right, next to a stub nosed 38 caliber revolver. Hill stuffed the gun into a holster located just under his jacket and walked towards the window. From his vantage point several floors above the city street, he could see a crowd of people boarding a street railroad car.
Suddenly the scene was disrupted by the sound of the ship's klaxon horn. “Computer Arch”, Picard ordered. Part of the image of 1920's Chicago melted away to reveal the control panel of the ship's computer. The captain pressed a button to activate a view screen. “What's happening, #1?”, the captain asked. The image of William Riker, the ship's second in command appeared on the comm screen. “A Romulan Vessel just uncloaked in front of us, captain.”

“On my way,” Picard replied. “Computer, freeze program.” The holodeck's image projectors shut down and the room returned to its deactivated drab appearance. The doors to the ship's corridor opened and the captain hurried to the nearest turbo lift up to the bridge.



Reno looked up from the Youtube video he'd been watching to see Robert Levinson using verbal and visual signals to communicate with the image inside of the holographic display terminal. The back side of Issac's image was visible from his vantage point. Bob seemed to be drawing equations in thin air using an imaginary pen, but from Levinson's viewpoint, the grease board and marker were real, suspended in the holographic mist projected in front of him. “Going to be a long night,” he voiced to Atom. “Want to send out for pizza?”

Several hour's later Reno felt someone's hand gently pinching his shoulder. He opened his eyes and saw Bob's face looking down on him. The boy got up from the cot that he'd be laying on and sat up.

“I thought you'd gone home,” Robert said. “Atom left hour's ago.”

“I was expecting you'd ask for my help,” Reno replied with some indignation in his voice.

“I guess the General somewhat intimidated me, and besides, you did help.”

“How?” Reno quavered.

“Isaac found the simulation program you'd been working on,” Bob laughed. “He corrected some errors in the math, but the programs structure was very good. We were able to make use of almost all of it as the heart of our computer model.”

“Really?”, Reno asked.

“If I understand what you were trying to do, you will make a good cosmologist someday. Stephen Hawking would have admired your following in his footsteps.”

“Gee thanks,” Reno said, blushing. “So, did you get any results.”

“Not yet,” Bob replied. “Isaac started running the programs a few hours ago, and he said it would take some time to compete.”

“How long, seven and a half million years?”, Reno asked, deadpan.

“No, not quite,” Robert laughed, obviously getting the Deep Thought joke reference.

The two of them stood in front of the holographic terminal and saw the image of the 17th century mathematician scribbling on a huge chalkboard. Issac turned to face them with a serious look on his face.
“The initial runs don't look very good,” Issac moaned, scratching his head.

“What do you mean?”, Bob asked.

“Unfortunately the orbital data provided by the many observations is agonizingly consistent. Assuming that New Horizon got the mass estimate for Sutekh, which is the name being given for our evil planetoid, the odds of a direct collision with either the Earth or the Moon in a twenty years is quite high. NASA's off the cuff figure of 50% is perhaps a bit on the low side.”

“Sutekh?”, Reno asked.

“Someone seems to like naming potential killer space rocks after ancient Egyptian deities,” Isaac shrugged.
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Re: Turtles all the way down

Postby Tetsuwan Penguin » 1 year ago

3.


Reno stripped down to his undershorts and plopped into bed. It was still dark outside, but it wouldn't be too long before the sun's first rays would come peeping over the skyline across the street. The loft that he lived in with his Uncle was a short bicycle ride from the Museum, and the ride though the cool night air had cleared his head.

The screen of his gaming laptop blinked as the screen saver application cycled images. He walked over to the desk to shut the computer off, when Isaac's image suddenly appeared. “Reno, we need to talk,” the daemon voiced.

“Can't it wait till tomorrow, Isaac?”, the boy replied, “I was about to try and catch some sleep before daylight.”

“You got a few hours of down time in the Lab already,” the 17th century mathematician told him.

“Who's counting,” Reno blurt back. “Never mind, the exercise riding my bicycle back here has probably given me a second wind anyway.”

“Good,” the image in the computer returned. “I wanted to thank you for the head start you gave us with your universe simulation.”

“Sure,” Reno answered, “Isn't that what the GPL is all about?”

“I think that is what Mr. Stallman had in mind,” Isaac smiled, “and you'll find corrected versions of your math routines next to the original files.

“Sure, thanks,” Reno returned. “But surly that isn't why you're keeping me awake.”

“Of course,” the daemon nodded. “I've rerun the simulation programs several times, modifying the initial conditions slightly each time. The end result is almost always the same, Sutekh either collides with the Earth, or with the moon. Depending on the exact angle of the collision there are different outcomes, but in most cases human civilization will either be wiped out, or sent back to the stone age.”

“Wouldn't a collision with the moon result in little damage to the Earth?”, The boy asked.

“You'd think so at first, but that would create a secondary shower of debris that would be just as destructive. Enough mass would strike our planet to recreate the situation of the collision 65 million years ago that wiped out the dinosaurs.”

“Oh,” Reno voiced. “But what can I do?”

“We need to see how the initial conditions of the simulations of the simulation can be modified to result in a change of Sutekh's orbit so it misses the Earth.”

“You mean sending a rocket to intercept it and somehow move it?”

“That would be one possibility,” Issac nodded. “Sutekh is still far enough away that a small change in it's path could result in a large change in it's position and time of arrival when it crosses our orbit. There are several methods that this could be done, but it must be done soon.”

“Let me catch a few hours of sleep, and I'll come back to the lab,” the boy yawned.

“Very well,” Issac replied. “I'll have everything setup when you arrive.”



Atom walked into the apartment as quietly as possible. He often came home late after fooling around with Reno at the museum computer lab. The two boys had formed a strong bond following their adventure involving the recovery the IBM computer scientist who had invented the quantum computer processor that had made Atom possible. The boy robot crept into the bedroom that he shared with his brother Cobalt. Kobaruto was lying silent in the upper bunk bed in the small bedroom, and was actually snoring. Atom undressed, carefully placing his red boots near the bed, and crawled under the covers.

While robots don't really need to sleep, they do require down time to allow their machinery to cool down. Tiny nanites, which are miniature machines perform internal maintenance on their moving parts, lubricating bearings and micowelding damaged surfaces. Atom and Cobalt's AI programs were written as analogs of human brain patterns, complete with the need for sleep. During their downtime, the boys did in fact, dream.

Atom had a built in connection with the AI of Issac. Through the internet cloud, his kokoro could be joined with the multi presence of Issac's super computer network. Several times joined to the daemon via a hard wired network connection, he was also reachable by a secure VPN wireless link, though Issac rarely used it without first warning Atom.
The boy robot closed his eyes and put himself into a sleep state. Gradually he drifted off into a cybernetic state similar to human REM sleep.

He was in a vast open area. Above him was blue sky covered with a thin white cloud layer. A fog like mist covered the ground up to his ankles, extending toward the horizon. Not very far in from him, was an elderly gentleman dressed in a white suit. The man had a full head of white hair, and his face was covered with a white mustache and beard. The man, who could have been a Kentucky Colonel in that suit, was sipping some kind of iced drink in a tall tumbler through a straw. As Atom approached him, the man set his drink down on a small table and got to his feet.
“Issac?” Atom asked.

“Yes it's me,” the daemon replied, straightening his tie.

“Where are we?”

“You are still in your bedroom, and I am wherever I want to be,” Issac laughed, “mostly in the museum computer complex at the moment.”

“We're in cyberspace?”, Atom quavered.

“Yes,” Issac agreed, “We do seem to meet here quite often. Tell me, what is this place?”

“A creation of your imagination?”, Atom asked.

“Well yes, but specifically and technically, what is it?”

“Ones and zeros?” Atom guessed again.

“Again, not incorrect, but still not the exact answer to my question.”

“Then you tell me,” Atom said, crossing his arms over his chest.

“Very well,” Issac answered. “This is a simulation. Everything you see here will look and feel real to you, yet all of it does not physically exist. Touch your chest, pinch your skin, what do you feel?”

“Myself,” Atom answered as he complied with Issac's instructions.

“Are you real?”

“Of course I am!”, Atom insisted.

“You are not,” Issac replied. Neither am I, at least not this body that you see before you.”

Atom reached out and touched his friend. “You feel real enough to me.”

“The simulated me feels real to the simulated you. But both of us don't exist. This place does not exist, at least not in the physical reality that we think is real. All of this, you, me, the sky above, the ground below, the chair I was sitting on, the lemonade I was sipping, all of this, just ones and zeros inside of computer memory chips.”

Atom let Issac's lecture echo inside of his brain for a few minutes.
“So what is reality?” he asked the daemon.

“Indeed.” Isaac replied. “Indeed.”



Reno wheeled his bicycle out of the freight elevator into the computer lab, and left it leaning against the back wall. Bob was working from one of the large screen computer terminals which could display several pages of text at once. Atom was standing inside the large holographic 'tank', getting a fully immersive connection with Issac.
Reno stood behind Robert, looking at the terminal over his shoulder. “What's going on?”, he asked.

“Oh, good morning,” Bob smiled. “Issac narrowed down the chaos parameters for Sutekh's orbit enough to give us a very accurate simulation We can now start plotting what initial conditions will result in a near miss of our planet.”

“Obviously, the farther out from Earth it's done, the less of a nudge will be required, but there is the time factor of transit from Earth to the interception point, and how soon such a mission could be prepared,” the boy spoke.

“That's what makes it tricky,” Bob agreed. “What Isaac and I have done so far is to create the basis for an iterative calculation loop that determines the amount of required nudge assuming interception points from Sutekh's current position, to points closer in. The idea is to find out just how late in its path we can intercept it and still deliver enough of a change in its path to miss the Earth.”

“Is the program completed?”, Reno asked.

“No, that's what I could use your help with,” Bob replied.

“Right, I'll log into the other workstation terminal,” Reno replied.

The boy sat down at another large screen workstation position a few feet from the one that Robert was working on and examined the work that Bob and Isaac had already started. He worked in parallel with them, running his own simulations.



Atom stood in the middle of a cloud of symbols flying all about him. Besides the arabric numerals and western alphabetic characters, there was a sea of Kanji, Hiragana and Katakana characters as well.
“What am I looking at, Isaac?,” the boy robot asked.

“Possibly nothing more than random noise,” Issac replied, “Or perhaps the fabric of the universe. Right now I’m not sure.”

“I don’t get it,” Atom voiced.

“It’s a search program I’ve been running on and off for months,” Issac replied. “Feed the output of a series of random number generators into long strings of calculations to solve random quadric equations involving irrational fractions. You know, like looking for the digits of Pi, or E past the billionth decimal point, but do the math in bases other than 10, and see what pops up.”

“Why, what’s the sense in that?”

“Because something unexpected could show up.”
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Re: Turtles all the way down

Postby Tetsuwan Penguin » 1 year ago

4

Simon Green escorted General Hayes into the computer lab in silence. He said nothing, but merely glanced at Robert Levinson and nodded. The uber computer geek stood in front of the large holographic display terminal where Issac’s image stood in front of a large grease board covered with equations. Reno Guzmán and Atom stood nearby, shifting their gaze between the two men. It was the General who spoke first.
“I assume that my being asked to come here means you don’t have any good news,” he stated in a commanding voice.

“That would be correct,” Robert spat out, after a noticeable pause. “We’ve run though various scenarios, and it appears that Sutekh is on a collision path with the Earth – Moon system. While deflection of the asteroid is possible by various means, the longer we wait, the more difficult it will be.”

“Details?”, Hayes voiced.

“I’ve run various simulations forward and backwards,” Issac started to explain, “using several different methods. Unfortunately, the required hardware for the methods with the best outcomes involve hardware or technology that we can’t develop or deploy in the required time frame.”

“The US. arsenal should contain more than enough nukes to blast that thing to bits,” the General guffawed.

“That is a common misconception,” Bob threw back. “But a large enough thermonuclear blast the right distance from the asteroid could deflect it into a harmless orbital path.”

“The problem is, none of our missiles are fast enough to get to the right point in space in time to do the job, they are not fast enough,” Issac continued. "If the SLS or the BFR were available right now, and we could launch several dozen of them at once, we could get enough nukes in the right place at the right time to do it. Using what rockets are available today, we fall a bit short.”

“I thought you said Sutekh was about twenty years away from us,” the General said.

“Twenty years from the collision, yes. However we need to deflect it within less than five years, which means launching our mission quite a bit sooner,” Bob replied.

“Well we’ll see about that,” the General answered. “Naturally, our top scientists, and weapons experts will go over your data and come up with our own plans.”

“I’ve already uploaded all of the simulation data we have to your secure servers,” Isaac stated. “However, I doubt that your experts will come up with anything that we haven’t already calculated.”

“I hope you don’t mind if we try,” Hayes answered curtly.

“Of course not,” Issac smiled. “I’d be disappointed if you didn’t.”

The General turned toward the door of the lab, “I’ll see myself out,” he announced.



Several minutes after the lift headed back to the street level, Simon remarked, “Well now what? Do we prepare for the end of the world as we know it?”

“Not immediately,” Issac replied. “We do have more that a decade to make that decision. Even if a method to deflect the asteroid isn’t found, we will know the exact path of Sutekh will be more certain before then. I’ve made my best guesses concerning the influence of Jupiter’s gravity on its orbit, but there is still a reasonable chance for some errors there either way.”

Simon headed for the elevator, “I’m going up for some coffee, anyone care to join me?”

“Wait up,” Robert sang, as he jogged from the back of the lab.

“Reno, Atom, a word?” Issac asked as the adults left the room.



The two boys walked toward the large holographic display terminal, and stepped into the active area. Issac’s image morphed into a twentieth century version of himself, dressed in a plain gray suit, much like Albert Einstein had worn. Issac removed a pair of black framed glasses from his face and wiped the lenses clean with a cloth. After replacing his spectacles, he posed a question.
“Are either of you familiar with Elon Musk’s theory of the universe?”

The blank expression on Atom’s face gave away his ignorance of the matter. Reno however showed a bewildered look before he responded. “Do you mean the statement he made in a Youtube video that he wouldn’t be surprised to learn that our universe was really a computer simulation? I don’t think he posed that as a theory though.”

“With Musk, it’s hard to know why he said that, but yes that is what I’m referring to,” Issac replied.

“Then our reality might be something like the starship Enterprise’s Holodeck?” Reno pondered.

“It’s possible,” Issac answered. “Some scientists have used this idea to explain some of the weird results obtained with physics demonstrations involving quantum theory. The double slit experiment is often used to prove that our existence is a simulation.”

“That’s a load of bull,” Reno blurt out. “Quantum theory is a bit hard to wrap your head around, but so was relativity. Now we accept the latter without question, it’s just taking a bit longer for quantum theory to be the new normal.”

“Perhaps, But ….”, Issac let his response hang in mid air for a bit.

“So” Reno thought out loud. “Are you suggesting that if we are in a simulation, we could we find some cheat codes and hack it? ”

“Wait a minute,” Atom suddenly came to life, “Do you mean change some line of code in the universe so that asteroid misses the Earth?”

“That’s a rather simple way to say it,” Issac stated, “but I have been exploring that avenue of thought for quite sometime before this little wrinkle showed up.”

Reno face palmed as the realization of the idea suddenly jelled in his brain, “So we command the cosmic computer running our simulation for a ‘computer arch’ and then change the simulation running in the holodeck that we are living in? That hurts my brain worse than quantum theory does!”

“I didn’t dare propose the idea to Bob or Simon,” Issac agreed. “It would be too weird for them to accept. I was hoping that the more pliable brain of you teenagers would be willing to explore this with me. I will need Atom’s help in cyberspace to actually make the connections, if it’s possible.”

“So what do we do?” Reno asked.

“Well first, we are going to try and create an experiment to prove this insane hypothesis,” Issac replied. “That will require your help, Reno. We will also need to construct an interface to collect data. That’s where Atom will come in.”
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Re: Turtles all the way down

Postby Tetsuwan Penguin » 1 year ago

5.

Atom plugged himself into the lab’s high speed local network via the socket just under his chest panel, and he lay down on a cot next to the router. “Back to cyber space again,” he laughed closing his eyes. Reno sat down at Robert’s workstation terminal next to the small holographic display, as Issac moved himself from the large tank terminal to the one near Reno’s position.
“You know Issac,” the boy hacker pondered, “If our existence is a computer simulation, isn’t it possible that the intelligence that created it is also a simulation inside of yet another intelligence’s computer?”

“Quite,” the daemon replied. “In ancient times scholars believed that our world rested upon the back of a giant turtle. When asked where that turtle was, the answer would have been ‘on the back of an even larger turtle’. If someone asked the question again, they might be cut off, and be curtly told that it was ‘turtles all the way down’. It would be rather weird to think that they might have actually been right”

“So how do we prove this theory?” Atom asked.

“I've written various simulation games,” Reno spoke up, “some of them quite complex. One thing in common with all of them, is that the entire universe of the game isn't rendered on the visible screen, only what is necessary for the gamer to see from his or her vantage point.”

“Yes,” Isaac agreed, “But your simulations were intended for an audience viewing it from outside of the machine.”

“True,” Reno nodded, “and also the necessary calculations for what changes everywhere in the game universe are delayed until they are needed.”

“Exactly,” Issac replied. “Now consider what happens in quantum physics. Let's set up the classic double slit demonstration on Bobs optics work bench. We have a computer laser light source that is capable of being throttled down to effectively emit a photon at a time. We can chose to send a particle of light through either of two slits, or both at the same time. We will then set up a light detector looking at a screen a short distance from the two slits. What do you think will happen if we illuminate both slits?”

“That's easy!,” Reno burst out, “We'll see an interference pattern, bands of dark and light areas on the screen.”

“Correct,” Issac replied. “Now what happens if we send but single photons through only one of the two slits?”

“We should see just an even field of illumination on the screen,” Atom replied.

“But we don't,” Reno said, “Because the wave nature of light still demands that both slits are illuminated, and we get the same interference pattern on the screen!”

“Strangely enough, that's true,” Issac agreed. “Reno, why don't you set up the optics workstation and we'll run that experiment.”

Reno walked over to the optics work bench and set up the necessary apparatus. He set up the light source in position to illuminate the two slits, and Issac adjusted the device to only illuminate one of them. He also set up a camera to observe the screen on the other side of the slits. They performed the experiment, and the camera view of the screen agreed with the expected result.

“Now lets add a light detector to observe what comes out of each slit before the light reaches the screen and perform that experiment.”

Reno rearranged the apparatus on the optics workstation. Two cameras were positioned to recorded the wave fronts from each of the two slits, and the third was still aimed at the screen. Atom and Issac monitored the data from the computer interface, while Reno observed the three images on the video monitors. Now the screen showed but a single line of light that came from the only illuminated slit.

“It's different this time,” Reno said, face palming, “but we've changed nothing.”

“We have changed something,” Atom replied. “We are now observing the slits from the other side, before we were only observing the screen.”

“Exactly!” Issac replied.

“So just like my simulations, it was necessary to render additional computations to satisfy additional observations,” Reno guessed. “But isn't this just another variant of Heisenberg's uncertainty principle?”

“That is the argument given by physicists to prop up quantum theory,” Issac replied. “What did you observe, Atom?”

“My view of the data from the computer interface agrees with what Reno saw,” the boy robot replied. “But why don't you analyze it?”

“I will,” Issac replied. He downloaded the digital data files from Atom's interface into the computer, and started to crunch the numbers. “I find it interesting that we get different results from identical inputs,” Issac replied. “We can make two conclusions here, either our understanding of quantum physics is incomplete, or a simulation of reality that we are inside of has a minor flaw.”

“But which is it?” Reno puzzled.

From his vantage point in cyberspace, Atom could see Issac standing next to a computer terminal. He knew, or at least assumed that Issac's image was the daemon's representation in cyberspace, appearing to Atom as something familiar rather than just a cloud of bits. When Atom held out his hand in front of himself and saw it, he also assumed that this was his minds projection of himself to itself. Cyberspace was really just a virtual reality projected into his electronic brain though the computer network interface.
Thinking rapidly, Atom then realized that if the universe itself wasn't real, but a complex simulation, then it too was nothing but a projection. Only this time, his electronic brain was also a simulation, only the computer that was running the simulation was real, but even that should be interfaceable. “I'm beginning to think like Issac,” he said, face palming.
He tried to disconnect himself from the network in the real world, but he couldn't feel his hands finding the opening to his chest panel. Suddenly, the fabric of cyberspace seemed to grow fuzzy in front him. It was like a doorway to a tunnel had materialized in front of him.
“Issac!” he yelled, “Do you see this?”
The daemon didn't seem to hear him. Everything seemed to be moving in slow motion now. Atom felt himself being drawn towards the fuzzy opening, and he fell into what seemed like a wormhole. After what seemed hours of tumbling head over feet, he landed face down on a hard floor.


Reno yanked the network cable from the socket inside of Atom's chest cavity and closed the panel. “Time to wake up, buddy,” he said, “You can leave cyberspace now.”

The boy robot's eyes remained closed. Reno poked Atom's lifeless body in the ribs, but got no response.

“Issac, something's wrong with Atom!”, he yelled in panic.

“I saw him leave cyberspace,” Issac answered. “All his readings from my end looked normal just before you disconnected him from the network.”

“Yeah, I saw that on my end too.” Reno popped the boy robot's chest panel open again, and connected him to the diagnostic station. He started the automatic test sequence that Albert and Robert had programmed, but the machine failed to find any faults. “Everything looks normal,” Reno said with a panic in his voice, “But no one seems to be home inside of his electronic brain.”
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Re: Turtles all the way down

Postby Tetsuwan Penguin » 1 year ago

6.

Atom blinked his eyes and looked around. He glanced down at himself and felt confused at what he saw. Gone were the short pants and knee high red boots. In fact, his appearance had changed greatly. The skin on his arms now had a silvery green complexion, and his hands now sported six digits each with two thumbs. Reaching upwards to feel the top of his head, he discovered that he was totally bald. His feet were bare, each sporting a half dozen toes, two of which were again larger than the other four and offset from them. It was as if his limbs were now identical on each side, with no mirror image between the right and left. He felt slightly dizzy, and struggled to remain upright on his feet.

“What's the matter, Mota?”, an alien looking being asked in a strange sounding tongue that Atom's mind understood without any effort. “You seem dazed. Did the interface effect you?”

The being speaking to him was roughly humanoid, and about his height. Its skin was slivery-green, and its body hairless. It was also naked, as Atom realized that he also was. There were several of these creatures standing around what appeared to be the console of a ginormous computer, whose racks of processing and storage units filled a massive room whose far end was beyond the reach of Atom's view.
His 'friend' appeared to be male, as it lacked the larger breasts and nipples that a few of the others had, they were probably female. All of them had their genitals hidden behind flaps of skin. Looking down again at himself, Atom realized that his body was now identical to the others in the room. He also noticed the audio-visual headset that he was holding in his left hand, which he had probably just removed from his head.

Atom tried to collect his thoughts and speak, but the only thing he was able to get out of his mouth was “Where am I?”

The one who had first addressed him, motioned to another and was handed a glass containing some sort of milky liquid. “You're probably dehydrated, Mota,” he said in a worried voice, and handed the glass to Atom. “Drink this!”

Atom accepted the glass, and quickly drank its contents. The taste was pleasing, and vaguely familiar. He managed to walk towards a chair to sit down. “I'm OK now Noer,” he voiced, wondering how he knew the name of the being he'd just addressed, “But I'm still quite confused. What's happened to me?”

A familiar looking female ran towards him. “Mota!” she cried, “Why did you stay inside of the simulation so long? You know what happened to Tlabok!”

“I'm OK now, Naru,” Atom replied weakly. “Sorry to have scared you!”

Noer waved to the others, and bid them to leave the room. “Hey guys, give me some time alone with Mota,” he said. “I going to need to debrief him.”

Gradually the crowd left. Noer took Atom by the hand and walked him into a small room within the massive computer complex. He motioned to a large, comfortable chair and had Mota sit in it. Atom leaned back in the recliner and his body sunk into its pillows. He looked into Noer's eyes and realized that this person was someone that he had a deep friendship with, yet he had no recent memory of it.
“Don't freak out, buddy,” Atom spoke, “But I feel like Rip Van Winkle having just woken up from a nightmare.”

Noer seemed to get the reference, or at least pretended that he did. “Do you know where you are now?”

“Vaguely,” Atom voiced. “Perhaps you should jog my memories.”

“Yeah, that might be a good idea,” Noer agreed. “That computer complex back there is running a massive simulation. The two of us have worked for over a decade building and programming it, with the help of dozens of other wonks. We've created an entire universe in cyberspace, complete with billions of galaxies. Each of those galaxies contains billions of stars, most of them containing planetary bodies orbiting them. We've established physical rules governing the behavior of gravity and electro-magnetic forces at the atomic and subatomic levels, and our simulation behaves accordingly. Strangely though, in only one of all the galaxies, and in only one of the solar systems, did a unique accident of creation take place. Only there did we end up with a planet on which intelligent life could develop. On the nexus of this world we were able to simulate the development of that life from simple single celled units to sentient beings like ourselves. Once the program reached that level, we were able to use VR interfaces to project ourselves into the simulation and interact with it.”

“Is that where I was?”, Atom asked.

“Yes.” Noer replied. “Actually, every member of our team has been in the simulation. You're the only one other than Tlabok who seems to have been effected by it though. I think the problem is the exposure time. All of us have limited our immersion to only a few hours at a time, with a few days in between. Your last session was for almost 24 hours!”

“Yeah, I guess that was a bit reckless of me,” Atom laughed.

There was a knock on the door. Noer opened it a crack and spoke in a whisper to someone on the other side. The door closed, and Noer now held a thick printout in his hand. He quickly flipped through the pages and a sour look filled his face.

“What's wrong?”, Atom asked.

“Tlabok just handed me this,” Noer replied. “It seems we have a small instability in the simulation.”
Atom stared at his friend. “I know.”
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Re: Turtles all the way down

Postby Tetsuwan Penguin » 1 year ago

7.

“What the hell happened?” Robert Levinson looked over the body of the unconscious boy robot lying on the operating table in the computer laboratory.

“We were performing an experiment in quantum physics,” Isaac explained. “The purpose of which was to try and create a paradox between what we perceive as reality, and that which exists in a computer simulation.”

“You've been listening to Elon Musk's dribble a bit too much!”, Bob replied.

Simon Green who had made his way into the lab shortly after the conversation had started scratched his chin in thought. Though not usually outspoken in technical areas, the director of the think tank, and special projects directory of the museum's archeology department managed to correctly access what had been going on. “You wanted to see if you could avert doomsday by hacking the universe, assuming it's not actually real but a product of a computer's imagination?”

“Crudely put, but accurate enough,” Isaac answered.

“So I assume the experiment went badly, and poor Atom was the victim of it?, Green voiced.

“I'm not exactly sure just what happened,” Issac started. “We had successfully created the dual results of the double slit experiment when Atom apparently came to the observation that there might be a way to interface ourselves with the simulation of our universe, assuming that the idea was true. I'm not sure what Atom discovered, but he suddenly vanished from cyberspace and lost consciousness in the real world at the same time.”

“Atom didn't wake up after I disconnected him from the network,” Reno added.

“OK, let's get him hooked back up to the mainframe and see what's happening inside of his electronic brain,” Robert suggested as he made the necessary connections.



“What do you know?”, Noer asked.

“There is a large planetary body in a collision course with the Earth,” Mota answered. “The inhabitants of the planet know about this, but they won't have the technology in place to prevent it.”

“You were involved with the humans in this discovery as Atom?”, Noer questioned.

“Yes,” Mota replied, “We need to do something about it.”

“Well it will be a setback, but it doesn't matter,” Noer said shrugging his shoulders. “We've been though this before, the simulation comes to a dead end, we analyze the data, reboot everything and fast forward to the breakdown point, make a few parameter changes and continue. We'll have a few days of downtime, and then continue were we left off. Naturally there will be some minor differences in the simulation, we can't save all the details, but the data collection will go on.”

“But everyone will die!”, Mota cried out.

“Do you really believe that our simulation is a living thing?”, Noer laughed. “You really need to take a long sabbatical my friend. You've become too involved with the simulation and can no longer tell reality from fabrication.”

“How do you know that the simulation isn't real?”, Mota yelled back. “We've put so much logic into our AI routines that the computer has become sentient, and has created its own life forms. I've got to modify the universe parameters and prevent this destruction from happening!”

Noer pushed Mota back into his seat with a hand on each of his shoulders. “Calm down, buddy!” he said sternly. “You know that the prime directive of this project is to not interfere. Only by running all possible paths through the logic will be eventually get the answers we're seeking. You yourself wrote the rules.”

Mota sighed. “I know, but things have changed!”

Noer stepped back towards the door to the room and opened a metal cabinet attached to the wall. He removed a hypodermic injector and a small vial of fluid. Carefully he slid the needle into the rubber top of the vial and loaded the injector. He turned towards Mota.
“You need to relax, buddy. Maybe this will help.” Noer quickly jabbed the needle into Mota's leg and quickly injected him with the drug.
Mota's eyes glowed with anger, and then faded. He collapsed into the thick cushions of the chair as his vision faded. His breathing slowed to a peaceful pace as he lost consciousness.



The computer screen filled with scrolling columns of kanji like figures. Robert and Reno tried to make sense of the quantum core dump coming from Atom's electronic brain without success. Even Issac failed to come to any conclusion as to what they were seeing. Gradually, the display morphed into a recognizable memory pattern image, as Atom opened his eyes.

“Hey buddy, you're back!” Reno smiled, giving the boy robot a nuggie between his hair spikes. “Where were you.”

“Not in Kansas anymore,” Atom groaned, “That's for sure!”

“You've been on the other side haven't you?” Issac asked. “In the universe where the computer simulation of our universe is.”

Atom nodded. “Yes. And the Alien beings there know that the simulation is heading for a crash, that the Earth is doomed. And they won't fix it.”

“They won't!”, Reno gasped. “They would just let everything self destruct?”

“Actually, that makes sense,” Robert voiced. “Since from their point of view it's only a simulation that can be backed up, patched, and restarted. It's just an experiment from their point of view. Most of us would probably be resurrected the second time around, though the current bunch of us would die horrible deaths.”

“More than likely, it's more than just the second time around,” Issac suggested. “They just keep rebooting the program until they either get it right, or give up and shut it down for good.”

“You know,” Simon sighed, “I didn't really want to know that. It kinda makes existence seem, well what's the point of it all?”

“I'm going to have to figure out how to get back to the other side and correct things.” Atom said. “But I'm going to need help.”
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Re: Turtles all the way down

Postby Tetsuwan Penguin » 1 year ago

8


“Do you remember how you crossed over to the other side?” Isaac asked.

“I'm not sure,” Atom answered. “I was going to leave cyberspace by disconnecting myself from the network when I realized that that if the universe was a simulation running on a computer, then my own electronic brain was only a simulation. If only the computer running this simulation was real, it should be interface-able. I wondered what the other end looked like, you know the computer running our universe simulation. I then tried to disconnect myself from the network in our real world back in the laboratory, but I couldn't feel my hands or my chest panel. Suddenly cyberspace seemed to gray out in front of me and a wormhole appeared. I felt myself being sucked into void, and I woke up face down on the floor of a strange laboratory.”

“Wait, you mean you were a real being on the other side?”, Reno asked.

“Maybe?”, Atom voiced. “There were several other beings in the laboratory. Two males named Noer and Tlabok, and a female named Naru. They called me Mota.”

“Wait, that's almost our names spelled backwards, plus Uran and Cobalt with a 'K',” Reno said.

“Yeah, your right,” Atom gasped. “That almost makes it seem like I was only dreaming, but it seemed too real.”

“It could be a mirror universe,” Robert suggested. “The beings on the other side would have based their simulation on their own existence.”

“That's logical,” Isaac agreed. “It's also logical that all of us are projections of beings on the other side into the simulation. Atom, when you woke up in the other laboratory, what were you?”

“I don't think I was a robot,” Atom said, “I appeared to be an alien humanoid, as were the others. We were all silver-green skinned, hairless beings with six digits on our hands and feet. Our bodies were otherwise similar to humans, except for the genitals hidden behind a flap of skin, like on aquatic mammals.”

“How you you know that?” Reno asked. He suddenly face palmed when the obvious answer hit him, “Oh, you were all naked?”

“Yes, we were.” Atom laughed.

“I wonder why they visualized us as wearing clothes, if they don't?” Simon asked.

“Probably for the same reason we usually imagine aliens would be naked,” Robert replied. “We think we are weird for what we do, and that aliens would act more logically.”

“I wonder if any of us could transfer our consciousness to the other side?”, Reno asked.

“I don't think so,” Isaac answered. “Atom is unique because he can be connected to cyberspace via a network connection with his electronic brain.”

“But I once entered cyberspace,” Robert pointed out. “I faced your alter-ego in fact!”

“Your connection was via a virtual reality terminal that made use of superconducting EM links with your brain waves,” Isaac replied. “Technically your consciousness was never in cyberspace, it remained here in the laboratory. You did have a totally immersive two way link into the system, which to you did appear as being in cyberspace.”

“Well it sure seemed real!”, Bob argued.

“So does playing Dr. Grodbort's Invaders on a Magic Leap headset, but it's still just an illusion,” the daemon countered.

“Hook me up to the computer again and re-run the simulation of the double slit experiment,” Atom suggested to Issac.

“I think I know what you have in mind,” Issac replied. “I'll compare the background noise to the data we collected before at the instant you transitioned over. I'll feed that back into your interface.”

“Right,” Atom nodded. “Hopefully, this time I can control it.”



Mota woke up to find himself lying on a daybed in the reference room down the hallway from the computer lab. He slowly got up, but had to steady himself as the knock out drug that Noer had injected him with hadn't quite worn off. He blinked his eyes several times in an effort to counter his double vision as he wobbled over toward a water cooler. Mota filled a paper cup and slowly drank the cold liquid. He repeated this several times, and then poured one cup over his head. The hydration seemed to be taking effect, his dizziness was fading.

Even though he had been disconnected from the simulation for several hours, and had then been sedated, he still remembered the connection with his alter ego in the simulation. “It's not right,” he muttered to himself, “We have a responsibility for what we've done!”

Mota grabbed the knob on the door, but found it was locked from the outside. “Damn you Noer!”, he cursed under his breath. Without realizing what he was doing, Mota lifted his shirt and felt the surface of his chest. He face palmed when he realized what he was doing, for a moment he had been thinking that he was a robot, just like Atom in the simulation. “I'm not Atom,” he thought, “and Atom isn't me, but I was seeing the simulation though his eyes. Noer was seeing through Reno's eyes, and Tlabok through Kobaruto's.” Mota then remembered the simulation theory that Dr. Amnet had proposed. 'Who is to say that if we have created a simulation of a universe whose occupants believe is real, that our own existence isn't also a simulation created by other beings that are themselves just a simulation?', the great mind had said.

“Well, if I'm just a simulation of a simulation, couldn't reality be modified?” Moto thought?” Once again he tried the door, but the lock wouldn't budge. A strange feeling came over him, and he felt a surge of strength in his forearm. Mota gripped the doorknob and twisted it with a newfound surge of might. The latch snapped and the door opened.
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