Authors: Bill Diffenderffer
1000 Urlin Avenue #A18
Columbus, Ohio 43212
Email: [email protected]
“Quantum mechanics is stunningly successful. Not a single prediction of the theory has ever been wrong….However, quantum mechanics also displays an enigma. It tells us that physical reality is created by observation, and it has ‘spooky actions’ instantaneously influencing events far from each other – without any physical force involved. Seen from a human perspective, quantum mechanics has physics encountering consciousness.” *
by Bruce Rosenblum and Fred Kuttner (Physics professors at the University of California)
All of a sudden, there it was. Huge and gleaming in the sky. The size of a twelve story Manhattan office building. But a building that seemed to have no straight lines anywhere in its design; it was all flowing curves. And it shone, particularly in the night sky, as if its surface was all metallic and rigorously polished.
It was high up, about 20,000 feet higher than the usual airline traffic, and could be seen in the daytime without a telescope and at night it could be tracked by anyone looking up at the sky on a clear night. One had to believe it wanted to be seen for rather than some standard orbit it followed a meandering path that ensured at some point each day it was overhead all the population centers of the Earth.
Its path was unusual for another reason. When the technologically advanced countries of the world trained their earthbound and satellite based sensor arrays upon it, as they did almost instantly, they could detect no apparent thrust engines or the use of energy of any sort for the many course adjustments and its occasional acceleration and deceleration. It quietly, for it was quiet too, travelled about ignoring the laws of physics.
Perhaps in less trying times the wiser advisors to the Heads of State of the world’s powers would have successfully advised their leaders to stay calm and just observe this strange new thing that had just appeared in the sky overhead. But these were not normal times. Based on the event that had just transpired a few days earlier, the militaries of all the major powers were on full Red Alert, all at battle stations, all with weapons at the ready, fingers on triggers, nerves frayed, fear and anxiety paramount. Days earlier millions of people had been incinerated and it still wasn’t clear why or what had happened there. Though that event was clearly the result of earthbound actions, nothing seemed certain. So these were very trying times.
Nothing at all happened during the first twenty four hours following its arrival. It just meandered over the population centers silently, threatening only by virtue of its sudden existence, communicating nothing. Yet this silence was more unnerving than if it had screamed hostile intent.
So as it approached for a second time the western border of China, while it was still over Russian airspace, the Chinese leaders watched it intently, watched it with eyes that hadn’t slept since it first appeared in the sky and had had very little sleep in the week before. Watched it with minds dulled and frayed by recent disaster. And at that moment in time, that huge unidentifiable object did suddenly increase its speed and drop down in altitude. So the Chinese reacted. The missiles armed with nuclear warheads that they had kept lined up on The Object (as everyone was calling it) since they had first observed it, were fired. And as they streaked to their target, the Russians who had prepared for just such a potential action, fired their missiles at it as well. The Americans, armed and ready of course, did not react. They had computed the trajectories and knew they were not then at risk. They just watched. But their protocols had all been raced through and their fingers were poised over the proverbial buttons.
Radar systems belonging to all the advanced countries all over the world tracked the flight of the two sets of missiles. Seconds passed like hours. The destruction of The Object seemed certain. Huge in the sky though it was, it was just office building size – no match for multiple nuclear warheads. The missiles inexorably closed in on their target, visible on the radar screens and their contrails visible to the naked eye to those near enough and looking skyward.
As they approached to the last mile of separation, the blips that were the missiles on the radar screens disappeared. The contrails that were visible suddenly ceased. More seconds passed and nothing happened. Minutes passed and the silence continued. No explosions occurred. The Object maintained its charted course as if oblivious to the danger it had been in. It passed over Beijing and then veered northward on its way to passing over Tokyo. It took no other action. It completely seemed to be ignoring the destruction that it had been threatened with.
But after a couple of hours, electronic devices all over the world had their screens commandeered. Whether the devices were huge Pentagon computers, office desktops or the billions of smartphones belonging to ordinary people, they all showed the same message. It began with visual images of the missiles fired at the object and the missiles were tracked in their course and as they neared their target they were all shown to just disappear – to just pop out of existence. And those images were then followed by a single line of text – text that was in whatever language that the particular device on which it was appearing favored.
The text was in all caps: DO NOT DO THAT AGAIN. PLEASE!
FIVE DAYS EARLIER
Experts believed it began with a purge by the Supreme Leader of several of his most senior advisors and military leaders in the now non-existent country of North Korea. The ones purged were deemed by outsiders to be more conservative and experienced and reasonable than the Supreme Leader was himself – that is to say they weren’t irrational and egomaniacal. The purge itself was dramatic, irreversible and undeniable: the six purgees were executed by firing squad on national television. In that ill-fated country senior leadership positions carried certain risks; risks that increased geometrically with any disagreeing with the will of the Supreme Leader who was obviously all-knowing and all-powerful, at least in his own mind.
Then things happened quickly. North Korea fired three missiles at a South Korean military installation on an offshore island that was the subject of a territorial dispute. The North Koreans had done this before and had been warned not to repeat that behavior. They had chosen to disregard that warning and this time the South Koreans fired back, aiming at the launch site of the missiles. The South Korean missiles hit their target and destroyed it.
In moments, North Korea launched more rockets, this time targeting military bases in South Korea. South Korea retaliated. The Supreme Leader did not hesitate. To his mind, what was the point of having nuclear weapons if you never used them? He was all powerful! Glorious victory over the hated mercantilists of South Korea would be his. He would be respected and revered by all! The South Koreans had tied themselves to the weak-minded and impotent Western Powers. They would respond with economic sanctions – so what! He ordered the use of nuclear weapons against Seoul. He smiled as he witnessed on his monitors the mushroom shaped cloud over that despised metropolis.
Unfortunately for the Supreme Leader he saw no more after that. A similar mushroom shaped cloud now hovered over Pyongyang, his capital city where he and many millions of his citizens instantly perished. North Korea and South Korea now no longer existed for all practical purposes.
The people of the two Koreas were not the only ones to die of course. Unlucky people from all the countries in the world who happened to be there suffered the same fate. More importantly from a geopolitical standpoint, soldiers and statesmen from China and the United States were also lost. For many tense hours following the nuclear holocaust, they glared menacingly at each other since China had been allied with the North and the US was allied with the South. But wise enough leaders did control things at the two superpowers and neither exacerbated the situation. Both were scared and in shock. Both had their military poised and ready but no aggressive orders were issued. But it was a near thing.
Over the next few days all the world leaders communicated with each other. All claimed to be horrified and that this sort of thing must never happen again. All claimed to have had nothing to do with the events that had just occurred. All were innocent and none had any culpability. All claimed to be equally shocked and appalled. All promised their deep and lasting commitment to world peace. All volunteered to help the survivors and deal with the fall-out: the economic fall-out, the political fall-out, and, of course, the radioactive fall-out. But all the communications were just words words and more words. Truth and lies blended together so seamlessly that lines of delineation disappeared, just as the two Koreas had. For in truth, for all the world’s leaders, the unthinkable had happened. Over twenty million people had just been killed in a nuclear war that had lasted less than an hour.
This would soon prove to be only the beginning of the UNTHINKABLE.
“I think I can safely say that nobody understands quantum mechanics.”
Quantum Mechanics “describes nature as absurd from the point of view of common sense. And it fully agrees with experiment. So I hope you can accept nature as she is – absurd.”
Richard Feynman, Nobel Prize winning Physicist
At the small Deli/grocery store on Lexington Avenue on the Upper East Side David Randall found a prepared lasagna that he and Gabriela could have that night for dinner and their favorite bottled water, so as he left the store he was cheered that maybe things were getting back to normal. The hoarding that had emptied the food store shelves in the three weeks since the arrival of The Object seemed to have abated. Walking down Lexington toward his apartment on 73
Street carrying his packages he wanted to believe that things were getting back to normal, but he couldn’t convince himself. Eerily, little things were off. Like the street traffic. There were fewer cars in the streets; even taxis seemed to be missing. And drivers were using their horns less but when they did use them, they laid on the blasts longer than they used to. Just eerie.
As he walked, he passed several bars and was tempted to go in one and have a beer. The five o’clock crowd was gathered in the bars though 5 PM was still two hours away. In passing up the temptation David felt no more virtuous than those in the bars. With the world as weird as it was now, having a drink in the afternoon at one’s favorite bar seemed to be a pretty rational act. In the last two weeks he had spent several afternoons at Clancy’s.
With his usual monitoring antenna extended to the conversations of people on barstools within earshot, he had come to identify the three current barroom discussions: First there was the ‘we are all doomed and the world is going to hell.’ Then there was ‘I always knew aliens from outer space were coming.’ And some of those people claimed that they had seen aliens before – only now those same people were listened to where before they were dismissed as nut jobs. The third popular discussion was David’s favorite: Was the coming of the aliens related to the nuclear destruction of North and South Korea? The timing of the two events could not be ignored.
As he kept walking David noticed there were more ‘Going out of Business’ signs in the windows. Several of those stores were neighborhood stores that David had shopped at over the years and knew to have good businesses. Thinking there might be a story there, earlier in the week David had gone into a couple of the stores to ask why they were closing. Several of the owners had been quite candid. They wanted to get out of the city fast and move out to the country where they felt they would be safe. Or at least safer. New York City was too much of a target. They feared Armageddon. David knew they weren’t the only ones, but he didn’t want to write that story.
Interestingly to David, though everyone seemed afraid, there was no unanimity about what they were afraid of. Some feared The Object but many could put no name on what they feared. They just knew things were bad and these times were dangerous. David got that; he had that same sense of unease and disquiet. The combination of nuclear warfare and aliens from outer space could spook people. David shrugged, thinking it was just an internal shrug, but he actually shrugged. It was the story line of a bad horror film for teenage boys – or a good spoof of one. Truth really is stranger than fiction – at least stranger than serious fiction.
As he neared his apartment building, he almost turned around to go have a beer at Clancy’s. He probably would have except he was expecting a phone call based on a text he had received. It wouldn’t be such a good idea to take that call at Clancy’s.
When he finished the call with the editor from The Washington Post, David Randall smiled and put his feet up on the side of his desk. He looked out the small window of his home office (which also happened to be his living room) and thought about how the arrival of The Object in the skies above the Earth three weeks ago could be very good for his career. All of a sudden people everywhere, people who had last thought about reading anything that even bordered on “Science” when they were in college or high school, now wanted to read about interplanetary travel and astrophysics. The call from The Washington Post’s editor was proof that things had changed. Rather than David calling the editor to pitch some science based story, the editor had called him and practically begged for David to give him anything and everything David could come up with that was at all about The Object and how it had suddenly appeared out of nowhere.
Better yet, the science that had to matter here was Physics. And David had written a lot about Physics. True that since he had dropped out of Columbia University’s Physics doctoral program ten years ago he didn’t actually have a PhD, but he had co-written a best-selling book by Janis Wheeling who had recently won the Nobel Prize in Physics. Also, articles he had written had been published in all the major newspapers across the country and his series of articles on CERN’s proof of the existence of the Higgs Boson had won him a Pulitzer. That definitely counted! So he had the background, the sources and the ability to write real science that ordinary people could read and understand. And now he had a blank check from The Post to write whatever he could come up with. Sweet!
Thinking about that blank check made him smile again. Maybe at last he could actually put some money into investments. He had some banker and lawyer friends who were always talking about putting money into this and that – real Wall Street kind of conversations – and he just had to keep his mouth shut. He knew he was smarter than they were but they were the ones living on Park Avenue in multi-million dollar apartments with doormen.
But the stock market was bouncing all over the place. One day it was up hundreds of points and the next day crashing downward. It was the optimists against the pessimists and neither side had any real idea what was going to happen with the world. David thought it had always been that way but now it was more obvious. Still he wasn’t sure which side of the argument he would bet his money on. Gold hidden in the mattress had its allure.
With his feet up on his desk, trying to come up with deep thoughts about the mysterious Object, he realized he didn’t yet have anything to write. At least not anything that represented a new and fresh angle on it. Of course no one had really approached it scientifically yet. Its mere existence had been mind boggling, especially as it showed up so quickly after the annihilation of North and South Korea. Connected or not, that was bizarre! And also of course, the appearance of The Object had caused the whole planet to be shaky, confused, scared, buzzed, distracted, disoriented and a whole lot of other adjectives he could come up with and that was just describing the more sane people of the world! The extremists, the borderline crazies and the real lunatics had gone way over the bend into favorite fantasylands and religious epiphanies and excesses over the idea of extra-terrestrials.
But overall, he mused, he had to give people credit. After the first few days of emptying out of supermarkets, the Home Depots and Lowes, the gun and ammo shops, and anywhere else survivalist gear could be found, goods and services had again become available. Store inventories had been replenished and he could again find what he needed to eat at the same little groceries he had always shopped at. The lasagna he had just put in his refrigerator was proof of that.
In fact, life had resumed its normalcy remarkably quickly. At least superficially. Perhaps that was because after its single communication to practically everyone in the world about not firing any more missiles at it, The Object had remained completely silent. It just meandered its way across the skies as predictable now as the Sun or the Moon in their daily paths. The fact that there was no indication at all whether it had arrived with good or evil intent did not seem to matter. People had returned to their day to day existence. Well at least most people. Not all.
It then occurred to David that perhaps that was not true. Perhaps it was communicating with the Government or several governments? He needed to try to look into that. As he considered that possibility, he rejected it. First because so far everything it had done seemed to maximize its exposure. Secondly, if the government was communicating with The Object, they wouldn’t be able to keep it a secret.
Right then he heard the sound of a key opening the lock of his front door and as he turned to it, it opened and Gabriela came into the room. Looking a little disheveled as she usually did when returning from Columbia where she was a professor in the Physics Department but still looking great with her jet black hair, tall, trim figure, olive complexion and general Spanish gypsy looks, she tossed her knapsack on the couch and plunked herself down next to it.
With her typical lack of preamble, she looked at him and said, “It’s making me crazy!”
“It being The Object, I presume.” David responded.
“Of course! What else is there now in the world of Physics? “
David knew what she meant. Physicists were really not happy about The Object. For weeks they had been trying without success to determine how it had arrived undetected by any of the thousands of telescopes that routinely observe all that occurs out in space, telescopes that map star positions, planet orbits or even potential killer asteroids. In the time before the arrival of The Object not one telescope anywhere had picked up anything that could have been The Object traversing the heavens. It just suddenly appeared. The physicists just hated that!
And right after they finished hating that, they hated that The Object seemed to move all over the place without the apparent exertion of any energy – even when traveling through atmosphere. Laws of Physics were not supposed to be so easily circumvented! Einstein would have hated it too.
David smiled and said, “I love The Object!”
Gabriela was not amused, “And why is that?” David’s sense of humor was usually wasted on Gabriela, and frankly on most people. It was usually somewhat self-involved and often more than a little esoteric; still he was popular with people because he was non-judgmental and invariably good humored. And he rarely felt threatened or insecure. Physically and intellectually he could always hold his own. His years of playing Lacrosse could be traced on his lean and athletic frame along with a scattering of scars including a ten stitches scar on his chin. Also with longish sandy hair and wired rim glasses he still looked like the good looking boy next door that mothers wanted to introduce to their unmarried daughters.
“Because The Washington Post called me today and basically put me on retainer to write whatever I come up with on The Object. This is the best assignment I ever had!”
Gabriela regarded her boyfriend of many years with knowing eyes. “What about the story you were working on about the ability of quadriplegics to manipulate controls of their wheelchairs through a mental interface with a computer? I thought you were really excited about that – the whole mind over matter thing.”
David grimaced. “Yea, that is pretty cool. First you insert a small chip studded with wires no thicker than a strand of hair into the part of the brain’s neocortex that controls movement. Then the motor signals are transmitted to an external computer which decodes them and transfers them on to robotic devices. The ability to use their thoughts, though actually it is electrical current, to activate the controls of the wheelchair is amazing – and I’ve seen it work….But forget about all that! It will have to wait. I can get back to that. The Object is front and center for now.”
Gabriela leaned back on the sofa as she kicked off her shoes and then tucked her legs under her. It didn’t surprise her that David would jump from one story that just a few days ago he was very excited about to something new. His focus on something could be deep and intense, but rarely lasted for long. He would think of something new then switch to that. Still she was glad that he was not that way about women, just ideas. That trait though served him well as a writer about scientific breakthroughs. “So what are you going to write?”
“I don’t know yet. I hoped you could help me. What are the brainiacs in your department saying about it?”
Gabriela shrugged, “Lots of theories but no data. Half of them really don’t want to admit that it is there. But they are all Superstring theorists, so of course they are thinking in terms of higher dimensions. “
“That could be interesting.”
Gabriela shook her head, “I think they are all missing the key point. This thing could be dangerous! We all seem to be forgetting what it did to those nuclear missiles that the Chinese and the Russians fired at it. Where did they go? How come they didn’t blow The Object to smithereens?”
“Smithereens? Is that a technical term you Physicists use?”
“Don’t laugh! This isn’t funny! What do you think happened to those missiles? Those missiles were the best weapons we have! Don’t you realize that we are probably defenseless against that thing! Doesn’t that scare you?”
He knew Gabriela was right. Though she had a tendency to dark forebodings which she claimed was a family trait borne out of generations of oppression for being Eastern European Jews, this was more than that. They really did have no idea about the true intentions of The Object. Why had it appeared? And where did it come from?