Tag: science fiction

Science and Rediscovery: the basic history of the scientific cults

The rise and fall of science

During the Space Anticipatory Age (the mid-20C to late-22C AD), humans maintained a widespread opinion that magic was a figment of historical imagination. Futurist and science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke’s third law stated that ‘any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic,’ gaining a following of like-minded scientific imaginists. Similarly ignorant of the rule of threes, natural philosopher Isaac Newton’s third law states that ‘for every action force there is an equal and opposite reaction force.’ We can only speculate whether Newton was aware that his law held as true in the scientific field as it did in the magical field, as few natural philosophers distinguished between the two, and the majority of magical records have since been lost. It wasn’t until the 18C AD, with the advent of steam engines, that magic began to go out of fashion in the public sphere.
It was only after the inter-planar arrival of the Co’pulur (23C AD/00C AC — starting the Age of Cohabitation — that humans finally accepted the existence of magic as a separate field of study to science. The resulting destruction caused by the haphazard experimentation of die-hard (and die-often) steampunkers has come to be known as the Flypaper Wars, taking its name from the unfortunate effects of combining science and magic. Though some experimentation continued on uninhabitable out-of-the-way planets, it became generally accepted by Humanity that magic was the equal and opposite force of science and should not be combined.

Separation & survival

During the following two ages of Humanity, the Ages of Diaspora and Silence, a total of 758 groups of fundamental scientists split from the majority of the human race, expanding throughout the -verse to settle on planets both welcoming and hostile to Humanity. In absolute contrast to all other voluntary philosophical or theological separations throughout the course of recorded human history, all scientific groups to leave Earth during this period maintained clear documentation of their intentions, trials, successes, and failures. This last has been of utmost importance in this current age — currently known as the Age of Discovery — as Humanity once more ventures out to explore their Origin Verse (OV). Of the 758 scientific groups to document their intention to leave the system, the survival rate, thus far, sits at ~50%, with 15 descendent populations discovered alive on planets or in orbiting habitats, and 16 ruins.
A further 3 long-range cross-generational craft have been observed but not contacted, as they appear to be proceeding towards their set destinations with full knowledge of their origin point and intentions. In 2 cases, where the destination systems were empty of sentient inhabitants, these systems have been reserved as conservatory parks, with associated tourism and research facilities. In the third case, the craft coincidentally happened to be bound of the home systems of one of Humanity’s enemies, the Sondard, in a parallel verse. The craft has been moved to a bubble outside of time, and a study is underway to determine a verse sufficiently distant from the Sondard, so as not to fragment the current tentative peace treaty.
Similarly, the single automated cold-sleep craft to have been discovered — in which all passengers were still alive — was removed from time until a sufficiently qualified scientific technician could determine that their sanity had not been broken by the ravages of interstellar dreaming. The devastation of the 2 thousand year Age of Silence maintains such a hold on Humanity that the standard non-interference policy is cast aside when dealing with any cold-sleep or ‘suspension’ technology.
A single group was discovered inhabiting the centre of the Earth, whilst all the while maintaining that such a thing was impossible, as per scientific doctrine. This group, dubbed Vernians by their discoverers (for an ancient historian who documented inner earth exploration), were at war with the Singers of Silence when they were encountered and had reverted to a primitive science-fearing existence. It was their discovery that heralded the end of the Age of Silence, and highlighted the need for an investigation of Humanity’s OV, primarily for Singer hives. Thus began the Age of Retaliation.
Following analysis of the extensive documentation – including scientific papers, popular and science fiction, and audio and video recordings – and conversations with those scientific researchers who maintain atheistic views, even in the afterlife, it has been posited that of the 758 scientific cults, 25% (~190) of descendent populations remain alive, 45% (~340) have run afoul of the verse, 15% (~115) have been infected by the Singers,10% (~75) never left Earth, having simply faded into the general populace, and 5% (~40) are no longer — or never were — human.
Of these last groups, it is known that Earth was, for a time, a refuge for certain species genetically allergic to magic, and that, being of small numbers, they hid among Humanity rather than reveal their alien nature. Of note is the ‘lizard-men’ — a humanoid race most commonly documented on Earth in popular fiction and conspiracy theories — who once maraudered across Humanity’s OV until being fatally cursed. Until finding refuge on Earth they had been hunted to near extinction. Masquerading as scientists, they took the opportunity inherent in the Age of Diaspora to slip out from under the awareness of the magic-blessed Co’pulur. In fact, Co’pulur records from the time include various studies on the lizard-men, and at least one attempt to negate or reverse the curse, but it appears that in having their origins in a different verse, they didn’t care one way or another that the lizard-men had murdered sentients across the better part of this one. It has been speculated that in a tight-knit refugee community, such as the lizard men may have had, the disappearance of the Co’pulur test subjects would have been quickly noticed, thus heightening panic and increasing their motivation for escape. An alternate theory suggests they never left Earth, nor survived, but instead vanished into Co’pulur towers and either died or were transmuted. Unfortunately, at the time, experimentation on sentients was unpopular and few records were kept. Future research on unlocking the remaining Co’pulur record spells may shed some light into this area.
Also of note is the 2 — potentially 3 — groups of humans who, according to their publications, had sufficient genetic knowledge as to conquer death. Though they have yet to be encountered, it is quite possible that the very individuals who left Earth are still alive somewhere in Humanity’s OV, or that their immediate descendants are. Though their current genetic makeup is unknown, for the purposes of this paper their theoretical existence is not counted as being human-standard. It has been theorised that 1 or more of these groups may maintain their existence in secret among Humanity, passing off their perceived immortality as being a result of standard magical means. It is unknown for what purpose this might occur, but should any such individual chance to read this paper, the researchers would be interested in discussing the past 6 thousand Earth years with them, especially by what means they assimilated with or avoided the Singers of Silence, even whilst maintaining their own sanity.
One of the most common themes among the documentation of all scientific cults was the intention to use science to conquer all environments. Of the 16 ruins found, 14 were on planets, or in systems, dramatically at odds with an Earth-type planet or system. Both of the outliers prove to be tales of caution on the use of science to effect genetic change.
The first settled on a ‘heavy-type’ planet (with gravity greater than Earth-normal) and genetically modified their children to thrive under ‘heavy’ conditions. However, they also implemented an orbitally based terraforming project to decrease the gravity over the course of millennia, such as to make the planet habitable to Earth-normal type humans. Unfortunately, it appears that they did not plan for a decrease in their level of technology. When political and civil strife in the 5th descendent generation rendered the majority of technology inert, their society reverted to a feudal system. The terraforming project continued unimpeded, excepting the immediate lack of maintenance. In the following centuries, even as the populace developed both science and magic, the terraforming continued at such a pace as to surpass natural genetic adaptation, first crippling and then completely wiping out all life.
In the second case, initial long-range surveys of the system resulted in a false positive reading of a habitable planet. Upon arrival into the system, their crafts were out of fuel, such that the scientists had to adapt or die. Adapt they did, cannibalising both themselves and their vehicles in a mad rush to meld machine and flesh. The survivors could both breath vacuum and eat sunlight, but in a system consisting of a single sun, and a couple of stray asteroids, they quickly went mad from both the moral implications of their actions and from the resulting boredom. Their resulting wars snuffed out the sun, and they starved to death.
Of the 15 descendant populations, 11 have since encountered other races, all of which were, at the time of meeting, magic users. Few of the descendant populations held true the beliefs of their ancestors, and the majority welcomed the aid that magic provided to their long-term survival and recovery, science being largely inadequate to combat the rigours of the verse. Of the 3 that responded violently, 1 is now a sub-sentient slave population bound to their conquerors and traded across both the multi-verses and -planes. The second was almost wiped from existence, then rehabilitated, appearing in zoos across the Humanity’s OV as an endangered species, at least until the end of the Age of Silence and the expansion of Humanity within their OV. The majority of the survivors have been rehabilitated into human society, though a few did opt to remain in captivity. The third group sued for peace, retreated to its home system and is now a popular tourist destination for school groups, researchers, and back-to-nature adventurers.
Of the remaining 4 groups, 2 had rediscovered magic and become powers in their own right, if only across their local planes. Both were quite happy to re-join Humanity, as was the single group which, as part and parcel of its total lack of magical awareness, had forgotten its qualms.
The last group, the single 1 of 758 to have maintained both their history and beliefs wasn’t so much as re-discovered as made itself known, force-starting the Age of Discovery. Though yet unknown to the majority of the verse, apart from a couple of key allies, the segment of Humanity known as the Singh Dynasty has, for the past 6 thousand years, held true to the ideal of science as the sole field of study and development. For 4.5 thousand of those years, clear through the Ages of Silence and Retaliation, they both flourished and remained hidden from both plane and verse, without any magic whatsoever, or even without the magical workings of their allies.

An impossible future

This was hitherto thought to be an impossibility, but as the Singh’ were quite quick to point out, Clarke’s very first rule states, ‘When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.’ This holds as true with magicians as it does with scientists.
Indeed, on re-examining Clarke’s first law, ‘any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic,’ we must admit that the technology of the Singh is so sufficiently advanced that is would be indistinguishable from magic were magic itself sufficiently advanced.
Investigation of the Singh relationship with their oldest ally reveals that the Marrek, like the lizard-men, where once known to Humanity only through conspiracy theories or in popular fiction. The were known as the ‘greys’ — grey being the only shade of a Marr skin visible on the natural human sight spectrum. It appears that an experimental mechanical Marrek craft crashed on Earth, kick-starting the Space Anticipatory Age, giving the Usan people — the forerunners to the Singh — the first inkling of -verse technology. According to Marrek records, when the Usan migration took place in the early years of the Age of Diaspora, their technology had developed so significantly that few Marrek could begin to grasp its implications.
Research is currently underway to discover exactly when, in the next few centuries, the Singh’ scientific knowledge began to surpass the limits of magic as we know them. This is but one tangent of investigation, as sentients across both the -verse and -planes struggle to develop their magic, or indeed science, to a level where they can at least defend against the perceived threat posed by the Singh’. Though the Singh’ have clearly advertised their peacefulness, their very existence raises the possibility that there may be other sentients whose existence and intentions remain unknown.
Of additional concern is the discovery that the Singh’ have expanded across the -verses, yet continue to maintain their aversion to magic use. Thankfully, there is no evidence of their expansion into the -planes.
We can only speculate as to what other impacts the Singh Dynasty will have on sentient existence. Clearly, as evidenced by the Usan (their forebears) presence at the start of both the Ages of Space Anticipation and Diaspora, as well as their own appearance to at the beginning of the Age of Discovery — not to mention the studies that suggest they played a role in dramatically decreased the impact of the Age of Silence in Humanity’s OV — they clearly have a role to play in the long-term development of Humanity.
There is some speculation that there is a powerful deitic force that ensures their existence, however, beyond their purported peaceful nature and adherence to science, little is known about their theological beliefs. We can only turn to the words of another ancient human, a historian known as Shakespeare, who wrote ‘there are more things in heaven and earth, than dreamt of in your philosophy.’

Film: Spectral

Spectral-2016-232x323Spectral is a recently released movie in which a DARPA engineer is sent to a eastern-European conflict zone to investigate a new and deadly weapon system that is decimating special-ops troops. Set in the near future, it is not immediately clear that the story is science fiction rather than stock standard military fiction, and could easily have been a simple spec-ops mission movie. The sci-fi aspect is a nice twist away from that trope, providing a hook to hold even the most tired civilian mind – as I was when I saw it. Additionally, most, if not all, of the background scientific theories check out, and are introduced with enough focus of the facts to truly provide the feeling that the portrayed events might indeed, one day, happen.

I am writing this review, however, as in looking up the science, I chanced across a number of whining reviews that purely pissed me off. Many of these reviews derided the underlying tale as having been ripped off from other movies, so this is my response to those reviewers. Read more →