“Ebony River’s Diary” Year 2585 Entry 4

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2585: ENTRY4

Swimming with sharks is probably one of the scariest and fondest memories of my life. The disguise worked, and I could track the school of 18 sharks following me from afar, but not approaching. The sound and sent signals I transmitted made them think that I was an orca whale. It was likely that the sharks followed the stronger predator hoping to feed on the leftovers of it’s kill.

Hour and a half into my swim, I was overcome with heat exhaustion and dehydration. My entire body shriveled up like a sack of raisins, and I could hardly feel my fingertips. B3 projected a screen in front of me with a 100 meter radius scan of the ocean. About 600 meters to the shore, the sharks stopped following me, because the beach patrol transmitted sound waves that repelled them. I was about to rip off the packaging plastic around my body and cool off, when I saw something in the left corner of the screen. It was bigger than the white sharks, about twice as big, and I was wondering if that could be my ride (the military boat that was supposed to pick me up, but never showed up). I scanned the object for image recognition, and nearly peed myself right there.

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“Ebony River’s Diary” Year 2585 Entry 3

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2585: ENTRY3

I remember seeing the ocean for the first time. Unlike any other human, I did not see it from the shore. The day I escaped from the 4th, my cargo capsule landed about 5 km off the Liberian coast. The Fleet liaison was supposed to track my capsule and pick me up on a motor boat. I opened the hatch on the top of the capsule and carefully poked my head out. A wall of steam obstructed the view for several minutes, as the capsule became hot from the reentry through the atmosphere, and upon landing into the ocean, brought water to boil. When the steam settled down, I saw that there is no-one around me for miles. Something went wrong, and my contact did not show up.

The military warned me against using my brain-integrated computer, which I muted before taking off, because it could be easily tracked from the 4th. That is why I used an older version of a ‘Holistic’, the ‘Barycenter 3’,  that I found in the antique shop on the 4th. These shops are popular with the school kids looking for parts for their science projects. I was fortunate to find a working device. This one even in it’s day looked vintage, made to resemble an old army wrist watch.

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“Paradox Alice” 2012 Sci Fi Movie Review

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Don’t blame me! I did not write this movie! Images are from the ‘Paradox Alice’ movie.

Tonight I bought a sci fi movie without reading about it (went by the feel of the cover), and boy did it surprised me. Written and directed by Eric Dapkewicz, this low-budget debut pushed every boundary I could think of.

In the year 2040, a disaster destroyed all the water supply on Earth causing global wars and unrests. The last resort solution was to send a mission to Europa for a supply of clean water. Thus the crew of three men, one woman, and one smart-ass ship computer with trustworthiness issues are off to the life-saving mission. On the way back with the full tanks of alien water, the crew exits from the stasis two hours before the arrival to Earth and finds itself in the asteroid field that is not supposed to be there. Passing through the asteroid belt, the ship is obviously shaken, and the only female on board is killed in an accident.

Further, things get even worse, because the crew can’t locate Earth itself! The last radio transmissions from Earth indicate that the planet was obliterated with  nuclear weapon.

Recovering from shock, three crewmen contemplate the end of humanity as we know it, because, well, do the math:

3 dudes + 0 females = 0 babies.

And just when they thought things couldn’t get any possibly worse, well, check it for yourself:

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No, this is not Sigourney Weaver bringing over a party crasher. It is one of the crewmen shapeshifting into a woman!

By the way, have you heard of the fish that can spontaneously change it’s gender if the pack looses a female?

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Apparently, clownfish, wrasses, moray eels, gobies and other fish species are known to change sex, including reproductive functions. A school of clownfish is always built into a hierarchy with a female fish at the top. When she dies, the most dominant male changes sex and takes her place. This peculiar fact was used in the movie to hint at what happened on the ship.

Meanwhile, one of the two remaining guys with a particular bent towards religious fundamentalism, thinks this is nothing but the miracle from God. He also seems to ‘shape shift’ into a misoginistic religious fanatic obsessed with procreation.

The movie attempts at giving an interesting perspective on women’s agency, on possibility to consent under power pressure and duress, on the right to her own body and reproductive rights. While doing a reasonably good job at that, the movie succumbed to the gender stereotypes, which, from what I understand, it tried to avoid. For example, at the end our gender-bender heroine reflects on how she used to be a selfish typical male, and now, as a woman, she learned to love and to care. That immediately rubbed me wrong, because, to my knowledge, gender reassignment does turn an asshole into a flowerbed. I have an issue with this antiquated view of masculinity as a combination of everything that is wrong with humanity. This approach started during the women’s rights movement and flourished in militant feminism. Granted, more men commit violence against women, but not all men, and not even the majority of men do so. This antiquated stereotype is so unpopular these days, that it nearly costed Hillary Clinton a campaign.

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Women these days don’t believe in blind sisterhood, in war against men and in women with big shoulder pads. I agree, to hell with the shoulder pads and Madeline Albright`s twisted feminism. But I digress.

I spilled a lot of details about the movie, but left enough unsaid to make it worthwhile watching, that is if you are not put off with campy performance, low budget filming, and grotesque plot. This movie received low reviews (3.7/10 on IMBd), but I’m glad I didn’t know it, because it has everything I love in film noir, only with the sci fi twist. As long as you manage your expectations, you are set for an evening of entertainment.

Copyright (2016) Ellie Maloney

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Why “Jupiter Ascending” Appears Suicidal: Lessons For Writers on Plot, Structure, World-Building, Character Development, and Genre Boundaries

 

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Image Credit: “Jupiter Ascending” on Deadline.com .

Imagine that your novel gets a $176 mil. movie budget. Once you recover from the expensive champagne and endorphin induced hangover, you suddenly realize that your story is half-baked at best! Huge gauges peer at you from the pages of your manuscript in plot (characters do things for no apparent reason), structure (climatic sequence keeps crying ‘wolves’ on the reader, and whenever the sheep is finally eaten, we just don’t care), and you are hard-pressed to figure out the genre go your creature. There are two possible explanations:

A. You are a genius who created a potentially misunderstood masterpiece.

B. You are a lazy genius who spent too much time developing things that you enjoy, and brushed through the rest.

Of course, the likelihood of getting yourself on such a conundrum for a novice writer is slim, but we can learn something from the epic screw-ups of the greats: The Wachowskis!

Yes, those very Wachowski siblings who masterminded “The Matrix” and forever changed the way we film action sci fi and even how we see the reality (admit it, you at least once felt like Neo chasing the ‘white rabbit’ trying to figure out what’s wrong with this world).

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The red pill and the blue pill, from The Matrix

After their debut and stellar success with The Matrix, Wachowskis were pretty much writing their own ticket and were allowed to play with sky soaring budgets, and reasonably succeeding at it. That is up until their delayed 2015 release of “Jupiter Ascending.”

As a matter of fact, the 6 months extra time they were forced to take to revisit, reshoot, and reboot their widely marketed creation, should be the sign. I remember my cooking class in the 5th grade. Did you have those in your countries? In mine, we had a class in the curriculum that was supposed to teach us the ‘life skills’: girls were taught cooking, sowing, knitting and other ‘proper’ vital girly disciplines, and boys, respectively, worked with wood, metal and what not. That one time when girls were assigned to cook a meal, I drew a particularly unlucky lot of teammates, the kind that the cruel 5th graders shamelessly call ‘losers’. I have to own to the fact that at that particular assignment I was just as much of a looser, as my teammates, and even worse. I took upon myself the role of the crow that professed a dooms-day to our enterprise, running around and ‘encouraging’ everyone with dramatic exclamations: “We are so screwed!”, “The other teams already finished the first course!”, and finally, the most memorable one, “Save the salad!”. The reason why that phrase was so memorable, was because it caught attention of a teacher, who was serenely reading her magazine in the next room. When it was time for presenting our meals, that particular phrase was especially noticed by the reacher. She refused to sample our salad, because if it needed “saving” in the first place, it could not be good.

The teacher was right about the salad, and it was flushed down the toilet. In a weird way, “Jupiter Ascending” has a lot in common with that failed salad I cooked up in the 5th grade. First of all, the movie is a salad, a mix of appetizing ingredients, only the way it was mixed, made it unpalatable. Second, in words of my wise teacher, if the salad needed saving in the first place, it can’t be good. Something went terribly wrong with the “Jupiter Ascending”, and only the laziest critic did not take a stab at attempting to find out what went wrong with the recipe in the first place. […]

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Wrinkly Egg Universe Theory, or the Theory of Almost Everything

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Credit: Ellie Maloney

Over the past three years, I was working on several ‘hard’ science fiction novels, which caused me to obsess over the nature of the universe. I shuffled through ton of popular science writers and futurists (Hawking, Susskind, Kurzweil, Kaku, Penrose and such), and even some scientifically astute theologians (only one name, in my opinion, is worth noticing, but it is a formidable think tank: Robert J. Spitzer). I wanted to put my universe in a scientifically plausible environment and make my characters interact with it. I needed to know what is dark energy, dark matter, black holes, quantum theory, M-theory, how many dimensions are really there… On  and on and on. This seemed to be a Gordian knot that just kept growing in complexity. After enough perseverance and ‘fogginess’ over all of this, glimpses of clarity started to appear. I tried to visualize and incorporate all the science problems I came across, and make an ‘unscientific’ meta-analysis. The result of it is the “Wrinkly Egg Universe Theory“.

This theory have grown out of control and no sci fi writing can tolerate so much science density, although I tried in my latest post “Ebony River’s Diary: Year 2585 Entry2“. Ebony River is a character in my  sci fi alien mini-series “Million Deaths of Lt. Mazula“. She lives in the distant 26th century on the 4th Orbital Colony, and her society is light years ahead even compared to the rest of the human races due to embracing genetic engineering and unlimited enhancements of human potential. In short, Ebony is smart. Her diary is my attempt to learn about her culture in order to create a richer ‘world’ of Lt. Mazula’s series, where the human race is at the state of a ‘cold war’ with an alien race Unkari. In other words, none of my characters would be ever justified to write about science in such complexity as the “Wrinkly Egg Universe Theory” requires, except for Ebony River, and only in her private diary.

As for the theory itself, it answers the following current scientific enigmas:

  1. What is dark matter and dark energy?
  2. Why can’t we detect neither dark matter nor dark energy?
  3. Why did matter and anti-matter not annihilate each other during the Big Bang? 
  4. Why quantum theory tells us that there are 11 dimensions, but we can only experience 4 (3 space + 1 time)?
  5. Why is the universe expanding (Hubble expansion)?
  6. What are the black holes and why they appear in the universe?

These are extremely difficult questions, and if I wasn’t writing this for the purposes of science fiction, I’d say they have a shot at the Nobel prize. (Probably not, because I don’t have that level of math to look into any of these hypotheses, I can only put together some thought experiments based on the conclusions of the real scientists. So if any of this is flawed, I blame the scientists for providing me with the wrong data. Kidding.)

Here is my short explanation of the Theory.

Synopsis

Most of the researchers agree on the event of the Big Bang. For the purposes of my theory it is irrelevant, if the Bang happened only once, is it a reoccurring event, and how many universes are there. The researchers tell us, that during a very short period of time (Plank time), all the matter that exists in our universe probably existed in a state of a dense energy, and then rapidly expanded, forming matter, separated into 4 forces (gravity, weak, strong forces and electromagnetism), and supposedly 11 dimensions that we know of according to the M-theory calculations. The “Wrinkly Egg Universe Theory” attempts to speculate about the rest, based on the current scientific assertions and observations.

Matter and Anti-Matter

Matter is plainly what everything is made of. It is made of atoms, it has subatomic structure (quantum structure with it’s Particle Zoo, or the Standard Model), and it is speculated that the quantum level of matter consists of strings, the smallest units of matter (String theory).

Anti-matter is the exact same matter, except negatively charged.

Coming into contact, matter and anti-matter produce a violent reaction, as a result of which, huge amount of energy is released. Anti-matter is a real substance, experimentally obtained in the laboratories, but producing any substantial amount of it is prohibitively expensive. However, in the science fiction, it is customary to operate warp drives on the anti-matter reactors.

It is one of the universe’s mysteries, why during the Big Bang, matter and anti-matter did not cancel each other out. I have heard several unsatisfactory speculations on this subject. In theory, as far as I understand, the Big Bang should have produced equal amounts of both substances, which, in that case, would lead to it’s instant self-destruction. Another suggestion is that there was slightly less of anti-matter to begin with (as if in 1 mil. of anti-matter particles, there was 1 mil+1 matter particles), and our universe is just a leftover of that math. This feels unsatisfactory, because it feels arbitrary and, as if Einstein would say, it is not an elegant explanation. Another explanation I came across was that the particles and anti-particles are identical (except for the opposite charge), but not totally identical, but ‘almost’ identical. Not sure what that suppose to mean, and it also does not make sense. Were the antiparticles less massive? Anyway, this is not what we observe in the anti-matter experimentally received in the laboratories.

One way or another, we have a case of ‘missing’ anti-matter in the universe, and it bothers scientists, because it is not symmetric, and the universe is notoriously symmetric when it comes to it’s basic building blocks (electron-proton, gravitational attraction and Hubble’s expansion, in other words, every action has it’s counteraction).

The case of missing anti-matter gives rise to the ‘Egg Theory’. Imagine the instant from the Universe’s birth and during the rapid inflation period. A lot of scientists speculate that it was an infinitely simple universe that:

  1. Contained all the matter (or the potential for the existing matter; the law of conservation of mass and energy according to which no matter or energy may be added or removed to the universe),
  2. Contained only one singular force, which broke down into the four known forces,
  3. Probably contained only one dimension, which subsequently broke down into at least 4 that we empirically know of, and at least 6 or 7 more, that we suspect of based on the equations of quantum physics,
  4. Was extremely hot, violent and chaotic, which probably means that no universal constants were yet  formed.

After the inflation period, we have the universe that mostly consists of matter (not much, if any, of anti-matter), ‘dark matter’ and ‘dark energy’, which I will discuss later. There are a lot of speculations as to why we do not observe other dimensions, and some of the scientists suspect that during the Big Bang they folded themselves on a string level, too small to be detected. Thus the scientists suspect that there was a certain period of ‘evolution’, during which an infinitely simple and unstructured universe ‘evolved’ into a structured one that we know. That allows us to suspect that the 4 forces, 11 (or so) dimensions and 26 (or so) universal constants (speed of light and gravitational constant are the most famous) evolved.

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Evolution of the universal structure during the inflation period. Credit: Ellie Maloney

This is not a difficult assumption to make, but it’s implication may be profound. It speculates that at different points of the ‘evolution’ during the inflation period we had different ‘configurations’ of the universe. For once, the speed of light might be different, and the speed of the inflating universe is hinting that (it appears that the universe inflated much faster then the current speed of light).

If that is something we could at leas hypothesize, I propose to imagine conditions of the proto-universe that allowed for creating an egg-shaped structure, or the ‘matryoshka’ structure, that would allow antimatter to drain into a separate compartment of space.

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Simple depiction of the Proto-Universe.

Hence the ‘Egg Universe’. To be  clear, I don’t propose that the universe geometrically looks like an egg, or that it is necessarily a sphere. I propose this visual image to ease our understanding of the breakdown of the 11 dimensions.

For now, I’ll leave the “Egg Universe” at that, and proceed with the explanation of other components of the theory.

Dark Matter

Dark matter is often called mysterious, because we know it is there, but we cannot detect it. Also, there is much more of the dark matter than the ordinary matter.

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Distribution of dark matter, dark energy, and the ordinary matter in the universe. Source: PhysicsOfTheUniverse.Com

It is astonishing to know, that ordinary matter comprises less then 1 percent of the weight of the universe. It is speculated, that the dark matter may be an unknown particle, the WIMP (weakly interacting massive particle), but we have zero success as of now in detecting it. A lot of excuses point to that it may be extremely weakly interacting, and if it does not interact with  any of our equipment, we cannot catch it. Another excuse may be that we need to have an extremely ‘clean’ controlled environment to be sure we have not missed the interaction. That is why the search is carried in in the underground laboratories.

What we do know, is that it is definitely there, and it gravitationally interacts with other ‘ordinary’ matter, and keeps the galaxies from being ripped apart by the fierce dark energy. We also know that it is not evenly distributed, thus it is not a field of some kind. For example, the researchers say, that the Sagittarius Dwarf galaxy has much more of it, compared to our galaxy.

So the dark matter is the matter that we cannot detect. I have previously heard that the reason  is that we cannot detect it, is that it is simply not ‘here’. The hypothesis that went with that statement was that maybe it is in another dimension, or in the parallel universe that exists extremely close to us (according to the Many Worlds interpretation of the quantum theory).

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Popular depictions of the parallel universes, or many worlds. The source of both images is unknown, and ownership is not claimed by the author.

But we do know that it gravitationally interacts with the ordinary matter, and presumably, with itself.

In my theory, I propose to consider that the dark matter is the missing anti-metter, that drained in the separate ‘plain’, or compartment, or structure, or, simply, to another section of the universe. We can experience its gravitational effects, but we cannot detect it, because it is simply not here. My apologies to the guys in the salt mines, who are faithfully searching for the WIMPs over the past decades! Oops…

Anyway, long story short, dark matter is the missing anti-matter from the baby universe.

Why there is so much more of it? I don’t know. One of the quick brainstorming ideas I had was that the separated part of the universe where it resides has somewhat different properties, such as for the Higgs Boson that is responsible for the manifestation of mass. Maybe in that universe, matter is simply more massive. Although that is even more of a speculation then the rest of this theory.

Dark Energy

Dark energy is the energy that is responsible for what Edwin Hubble once observed in the movement of the galaxies, and ultimately for the expansion of the universe. According to his observations, galaxies are flying apart from each other.

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Illustration of Hubble expansion. Credit: this site.

Often this phenomenon is explained with the balloon analogy. If you draw dots on the balloon when it is not inflated, and then inflate it, the distance between the dots will increase. This is a simple and far from perfect analogy, but it gets the point across.  The space between galaxies is constantly expanding, and what we observe is that currently this expansion is speeding up, and not slowing down. We believe that because we observe the further galaxies moving away faster from us.

For the purposes of my theory I propose that this  Hubble expansion may be accounted with the inflation of the portion of the universe that contains the anti-matter, or the dark matter as we call it.

Why is it expansion speeding up? I cannot tell that for many reasons. First of all, I am not sure how certain the scientists are that what we are observing as Hubble expansion is correctly interpreted. I believe that the observation is correct, but I don’t know if it applies with all certainty to the entire region of our universe, or only to our local region. I suspect that the scientists tend to agree that this is a universal trend. We also don’t know if at some point the universe may bounce back and start retracting, causing another Big Bang.

An alternative and highly speculative thought is that some processes in the endo-universe  are causing the inflation. I also hypothesized a dimension of anti-time that exists in that compartment of the universe. This might mean  that if the process occurs there backwards in time, here we experience it forward in time. I am not sure if this is even making sense, but this is what I’ve got so far.

Egg Universe

Thus, the “Egg Universe”: two ‘layers’ (for the lack of a better word) comprise an egg shape.

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Visual depiction of the “Egg Universe” Theory. Credit: Ellie Maloney

Like I mentioned before, I don’t necessarily mean that the universe is exactly egg-shaped, I only hypothesize two compartments in it. Also, I am not sure if they are spatially so clearly separated. We may be a tiniest distance away from the ‘yoke’ part at all times, like the ‘branas’ of the hypothesized parallel universes.

Wrinkly Egg Universe

Wrinkliness is due to the gravity. This is the final (almost) aspect of the theory, that messes up a little bit my ‘egg’ visualization. That is why I have a slightly different analogy for it: crumpled sheets of paper.

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‘Wrinkly’ universe due to the effects of gravity. Credit: Ellie Maloney.

Imagine two sheets of paper, crumpled together as a useless draft. This is what gravity does to the spacetime, forming the ‘landscape’. That is why we have planets, stars, solar systems, galaxies, clusters and superclusters (like the Laniakea one). In other words, the matter in the universe is unevenly distributed. Because gravity affects time and velocity, we are not traveling in space in a straight line. Instead, we sort of ‘ride’ hills and valleys of gravitational landscape. This is by no means my invention, and a rather confirmed fact. So much so that we recently detected gravitational waves empirically proving Einstein’s predictions. But this ‘wrinkle’ had to be added to my theory for thoroughness.

Black Holes

This is the final and most speculative part of this theory (As if the rest of it is not speculative!, you might say. Yeah, I know!). Anyway, this is just a fun speculation on what would happen if the spacetime between the folds of the universe stretched too thin. Well, anti-matter would react with matter, kaboom, we are all dead.

On the other hand, if we throw black holes in the mix, we might speculate, that since they are so supermassive, that not even light escapes it, so that the anti-matter wouldn’t escape either (and so won’t the matter + anti-matter reaction). Maybe the black hoes form in the areas of clustering of matter and anti-matter, or where two supermassive stars explode, only one is on our side, and another on the anti-side. I don’t know. It’s anybody’s guess. That’s why we have sci fi  writers to figure it out. But one of the functions of the black holes in the universe might be to plug the ruptures of spacetime, for our own good. Clever, isn’t it?

Conclusion

This theory adds wonderful complexity to science fiction writing.

Let’s take wormholes, for example. It puts restrictions on where you can skip, how far you can skip and such, because

a) obviously, you cannot go through the anti-verse (or end-verse, or yoke-verse, I’ve lost count how many names I have for it);

b) you need certain gravitational and dark matter maps;

c) you can open a wormhole through the folds of the ekzo-verse, but it can bring you only to the other side of the fold.

Thus wormhole travels transform from a single skip in ‘subspace’ into a series of elaborate ‘thermite path’ skips through the fabric of spacetime. Finally, you could think of the secret routes, of collapses of the wormholes, of being ‘lost’ taking the wrong wormhole and other ‘troubles for your space travelers. The space itself transforms from a lonely nothingness into a vast rugged gravitational wilderness.

Also, the anti-matter harvesting from the ‘yoke-verse’. It may be profitable, useful, but extremely dangerous. You can rupture the fabric of spacetime, you can cause horrible explosions and put whole civilizations at risk of extinction etc.

Also, the black holes can be used in a new light. Let’s say, your characters travel without good maps, or their navigation is fried, and they enter the region of ‘thinned’ spacetime fabric between the ekzo-verse and endo-verse, that is the region where a black hole is in the process of forming. Since we know about the effects of gravity on time, the characters will be forever trapped in the black hole forming region not knowing why they experience strange time dilation effect.

Copyright (c) Ellie Maloney

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