Thursday, July 26, 2018

7/26/18

Signals From Space
By Thomas G Schmidt


"I am telling you that this is significant and it’s real!!”
Adam Hayes, a young PhD space physics candidate from MIT, was in the midst of an argument with his radio astrometry mentor when yet another partial signal was picked up on his equipment at the Jodrell Bank Observatory in Cheshire, England. The Jodrell Bank Observatory was staffed with a group of international physicists, with many of those physicists considered to be some of best in the world. To get a chance to study space transmissions at such an institute was an honor for Hayes and the young American was risking a lot in arguing with Dr. Michael Clarke, a noted physicist from Britain’s famed Cambridge University.

“Where is it originating from?” Clarke put on his glasses as he examined the radio telescope’s computer screen in detail.

Hayes shook his shoulders in frustration as he checked his equipment.

“I, I really can’t tell. The short signals just come and go too quickly and too randomly.” Hayes looked up at his mentor for guidance. But the older man stayed silent as he continued to look at the computer screen.

Hayes cleared his throat before making his next comment. He was reluctant to suggest the idea but he had no other path forward to suggest.

“Sir, perhaps it would make sense to examine this data using compressed sensing.” Compressed sensing was a signal processing technique occasionally used for reconstructing a fragmented signal. It was based on recreating the signal mathematically using “underdetermined linear equations”. But with only random, short signal pieces available for the work, the results would be highly speculative at best.

“No, no Adam. That would be a futile effort in this case. We have too many variables and too few possible equations. We would never be able to solve for the transmission location of these radio wave emissions.”

Hayes sighed as he pushed himself back in his chair. He knew that Clarke was right. But the proud American was just reluctant to give up. He had invested so much time in this research and to come up empty handed was just a hard pill to swallow.

“There must be a way for us to analyze this data. Surely there is some approach…”

Clarke cut Hayes off in mid thought. “Adam, I appreciate your energy and passion on this matter. But as you work here longer, you will understand that we get many of these space transmissions, too many to investigate all of them. We have to select the ones which have the most promise and to focus our energy on those signals. We don’t have unlimited resources son. Do you understand what I am trying to say?”

Hayes cringed at the word “son” but he understood the point being made by his mentor. He shook his head and simply replied “yes” to the older man.

Clarke smiled and patted his young protégé on the back. “It’s late Adam. Call it a day and we will regroup tomorrow.”

Hayes gave Clarke a forced smile and nodded. And with that, he gathered up his backpack and personal items as he made his way out of the laboratory to his 10 speed bike for his ride back to a small house in Lower Withington where he was renting a room for the summer. Clarke stayed behind to shut down the laboratory for the evening.

With Hayes finally gone, Clarke went back to his own office and immediately collapsed into his chair. Things had gotten close this time, much too close for Clarke. While deep in thought, his personal computer illuminated on its own and an incoming message came up on the screen.

“Are we safe?”

Clarke sighed as he typed a short reply on his computer.

“Yes. I stopped the young human from investigating any further.”

A second message immediately came in

“Are you sure that he won’t continue to dig into the signals?”

Clarke typed his reply. “I will make sure that he is directed away from our true messages. He will be encouraged to investigate the faux signals you are transmitting and in doing so; he will come up with nothing.”

Another reply came in.

“Good. But if he goes back to the primary transmissions again, then you know what you have to do.”

Clarke sighed again as he simply replied back “understood”. The Extronian was well aware of his orders and would obey if required. However, he hoped, he really hoped, that he would not have to kill another human. The act was repugnant to him and in the case of Adam Hayes; he had come to like the young man.

And with that, the computer went dark.


- - -
Tom Schmidt is a Chemical Engineer working in medical diagnostics in upstate New York. He has had a variety of short stories published in the past on websites such as www.short-story.me, www.fartherstars.com, www.short-humour.org.uk and www.overmydeadbody.com. He is currently working on the “Paul Garigan Crime Mysteries”, a collection of short stories centered around a Malibu based police detective which he hopes to publish in the future.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

7/19/18

EINSTEIN AT THE BUS STOP
By John Grey


He's been standing there a half hour already,
it's cold as nuclear winter,
and he can't even wear a toke
because without that fuzzy hair
he could be just anybody.
The speed of light
he has the perfect formula for
but the speed of buses
resists all equations.
A brain massive enough
to contain the universe
bobs atop impatient aching legs.
Can't afford a taxi.
Genius doesn't pay.
But he must get back to work.
His head bulges with the proof
that time travel is possible.
But what if time
is public transport?


- - -
John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in Examined Life Journal, Studio One and Columbia Review with work upcoming in Leading Edge, Poetry East and Midwest Quarterly.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

7/12/18

Knowledge Cube
By David K Scholes


It was a long lonely trip. Being the only living physical being on a robotic ship of artificial intelligences. I’m not even really in charge except nominally. Just more of an observer and moral conscience. In theory I can “pull the plug” on everything if things go really bad. In theory at least but I don’t believe the AI’s would let me do that.

All of my kind recognised the once in a lifetime moral duty. Shared among us all. The time given up being insignificant against our near immortal lives.

* * *

The world came into view moments before it was to be “transformed.” Strange it didn’t look like the sort of world that would be scheduled for that path.

Our job? It’s not to carry out the judgement or to prevent it. Not really just to observe it either. No our job is the initial preservation of all of the knowledge of the world existing prior to its transformation.. I do mean all of the knowledge. Every single drop of it since this world was formed.

Once our work is done – others more elevated in the cosmic hierarchy will decide what’s to be done with it.

I mean a total world knowledge cube can be consigned to the cosmic trash can or it can be revered and placed with the knowledge cubes gathered at the anchor point of reality. Or anything in between. Sometimes, bizarrely, left near the world that was transformed.

The whole thing is quite an art really – you have to affect the total knowledge transfer only moments before the world is purified. It’s illegal to do it any sooner and after the event it’s just too late to capture everything.

I thought, not without some sadness, of the billions of beings below totally unaware of us.

* * *

Afterwards the world didn’t even look the same at all. The beautiful blue green planet replaced by something darker, more sinister. Ready now though for the presumably more worthy alternative life forms that would soon occupy it.

* * *

Then I turned my attention to that which lay not more than a few ship’s lengths in front of us. The brand new Knowledge Cube. Vibrant, pulsating, quite unlike the new world that lay below.

* * *

Did I say I was just an observer? Well maybe a little more than that.

As a level 9 advanced psi my job includes a preliminary examination of the integrity of the new knowledge cube. Those who come after us might or might not be influenced by my initial report.

My protected physical body skirted the edge of the knowledge cube first, before my supported mind entered it shallowly. Long experience had taught us this was the best way. As an initial approach this was vastly superior to anything involving intrusive high technology. Though that could come later. Usually this was just routine. Though not this time.

Fractional time periods seemed like eternity as I delved through the surface layers of the knowledge cube before the realisation came to me. An unprecedented first order mistake had been made. This had been a world in the ascendency rather than in decline. My mind was flooded with a richness of culture, a diversity at odds with the observed attained level of technology. Which was to say that they were capable of so much more. If they had but been given a chance.

The question was – what could I do about this without overstepping the mark? What report might I leave for the higher order cosmic entities that would come here after us? That they might take some note off.

Certainly I would recommend that the assessments for all future world transformations be on a much broader basis.

Yet even so – this knowledge cube for the world that was - might still be consigned to the cosmic trash can.

So, against all laws, I added something to the knowledge cube that would ensure it a better placement. Not too much but enough to tip the balance in its favour. The beautiful thing was the AI’s aboard my ship would have no way of knowing what I had done.

No one could go back now and re-make this world as it was but I had quietly secured its place in cosmic history.

And who knows if – in an attempt to try to set matters right - this knowledge cube might ultimately be placed among those most revered at the anchor point of reality.

At the All Place.


- - -
The author is a science fiction writer who has written more than 200 short stories. He has written eight collections of short stories and two novellas (all on Amazon). He has been published on the Antipodean SF, Beam Me Up Pod Cast, Farther Stars Than These, 365 Tomorrows, Bewildering Stories, the WiFiles sites and the former Golden Visions magazine. He is currently about half way through a new collection of science fiction short stories.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

7/5/18

Sea Brutes
By David Castlewitz


When players arrived, night disappeared. Even when they entered the game-space at midnight, morning dawned. They were sea brute riders, these game players, who competed for titles and prizes while racing and fighting in the virtual ocean.

Like everyone in the game-play village, Yosuf answered the claxon’s call and hurried to work. Outside the huts of sticks and waddle, women wove baskets, made needles from dried-out fish bones, scraped the fleshy side of a sea wolf's hide with a sharp-edged stone, or tended a small fire under a black kettle of ever-boiling water. Men mended nets at the dock or grumbled to one another as they prepared lateen sail boats for the morning foray to the fishing pens.

Yosuf’s role as a user’s helper required a minimum of verbal communication, utmost politeness, and extreme attention to the intricacies of fitting players into their game suits. Every setting had to be correct; every dial positioned correctly; each strap buckled in a precise manner and every helmet fitted to the user's head. Game world hurts readily translated to real world damage, from aches and pains to shattered limbs and crushed bones.

First-timers often laughed a lot. Yosuf wondered if they were afraid. They'd come in search of adventure; they'd paid a lot for the thrill of competing for the title of "Sea Lord" or "Rider King" or some other award. He thought they should be thrilled and excited.

Lorraine Denton started off as a frightened girl who chewed on the ends of her shoulder length blonde hair, her blue eyes flitting from one thing to another. Her friend, Stacy Potts, put on a bold front, but Yosuf assumed she'd never ridden the ocean waves astride a sea brute.

"Mustn't change the mid-chest dial," he cautioned the girls. A slip of the suit might engulf them in nauseating waves of motion. A change to a setting at the front of the helmet could generate vibrations that would drive them crazy. Anything not set correctly brought dire consequences, Yosuf warned.

Stacy proved to be a difficult pupil. She wanted to set everything herself. She challenged Yosuf with statements like, "How do I know you're doing it right?" Or berated him with, "Read that dial back to me. I need to know the setting."

Lorraine, on the other hand, let Yosuf drape her lean body with the riding suit and voiced no complaints, never a question. She shuddered at his touch, but didn't pull away. She allowed him to put the helmet on her head and tuck her long yellow hair underneath. She did nothing to alter the procedure.

"You don't know what he's doing," Stacy said, and often. "You can't trust a helper bot."

"You don't need to insult him."

"It," Stacy said.

Yosuf tried not to wilt before Stacy's hard stare. He didn’t meet her eyes. He didn’t react.

"Know what, Stacy?" Lorraine stood with her gloved hands on her narrow hips. "Why did you come with me if you don't like it?"

“I don't trust these bots. How do you know they're doing what they're supposed to do?"

"They're bots," Lorraine said. "They're our helpers. Trust them."

Yosuf lowered his head. "I don't want anything bad to happen to you, Miss Lorraine," he said.

Her eyes went wide. Small circles of red appeared on her soft cheeks. She raised her gloves to her face.

"I didn't mean to insult you," Lorraine said. "I'm sorry if I did. But ‘bot’ isn’t a bad word, is it?"

Stacy laughed. "Don't apologize. Bots can't be insulted. Are you stupid, or what?"

They left the Ready Station. Yosuf led them to the dock where sea brutes bobbed in the water. Ocean-going mechanical beasts, they were the epitome of the seamless blend of the virtual with the physical in this game-playing space. Horse-like, the brutes carried a single player, sprayed virtual fire from their mouths, and achieved game speeds of hundreds of miles per hour.

Yosuf turned to Stacy and reached for her helmet as he helped her mount a brute bobbing in the water. He touched a dial with his finger, his touch so deft that no one could detect it. Certainly not Stacy.

The young women left the dock astride their mounts. Elsewhere along the estuary, other players parted from their helpers and rode into the open water. They bounced and spun and floated, some at the crest of a wave and some riding through the whitecaps generated by players racing one another on fast moving sea brutes.

Yosuf pictured Stacy losing her balance and slamming hard against a virtual wall or rock or into another player. She’d take a rough jolt in her game suit. She’d lose her helmet. She’d be smacked by a wave, her cheeks stung and her vision blurred. Most likely, her game injury would reflect in the real world and she’d be scared away from the game for a long time.

Only thing Yosuf regretted: Lorraine would never know he'd done this for her. Because she deserved a better friend.


- - -
After a long and successful career as a software developer and technical architect, David has turned to a first love: writing fiction of all sorts, especially SF and fantasy. He's published stories in Phase 2, Farther Stars Than These, SciFan, Martian Wave, Flash Fiction Press , Bonfires and Vanities (an anthology) and other online as well as print magazines. Visit his web site: http://www.davidsjournal.com to learn more and for links to his Kindle books on Amazon.


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