Posted by Dean M. Cole

Morpheus Takes Flight (kind of)

So I’m minding my business, having a beer with my neighbor (Pilot Disclaimer: It was my week off) when I hear what sounds like a fighter jet doing a full throttle ground power check on the southeast corner of my block.

“What the hell?” I scream over the din.

“Morpheus,” he yells.

“Morpheus?” I queried back. “What, did I swallow the red pill?” (Pilot disclaimer: This is a reference to ‘The Matrix’ … not drug use.)

So he proceeds to tell me about this new lunar/planetary lander developed jointly by NASA and Armadillo Aerospace. They are doing tethered test of it in the field behind my house. For those that don’t know, my subdivision forms the northwest boundary of the Johnson Space Center (JSC). While the first word spoken from the surface of the moon was ‘Houston’, as in “Houston, the Eagle has landed,” JSC is not typically the home for rocket test. I return you to the fact that my house lies within 100 yards of NASA’s boundary and less than 900 yards from the site where the above photo was taken. Actually, the trees in the background of the picture and the video below are my subdivision.

“Cool!” I say to said friend. Because … it is! They are using eco-friendly methane based propellant and its size along with NASA’s safety protocols give me a warm fuzzy.

Hopefully I’ll be able to pull a lawn chair and cooler (Pilot disclaimer: filled with soda if it’s my week to fly) to the field’s edge for the untethered test.

Here’s a link to an article about it on Space.com.

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Posted by Dean M. Cole

Why Do We Think We Know It All?

As a science fiction writer I try to root my stories in the possible. However, if taken to the extreme of Hard-Science Fiction stories become quite limited. To be sure many an author has produced quite fascinating stories within those limitations, Sir Arthur C. Clarke high among them.

I regularly see reviews and forum comments about various books and subjects in which said commentators make disparaging remarks about authors who have spaceships that magically travel faster than light, communicate faster than light, or somehow violate physics as we know it.

As I said in the beginning of this article, I try to root my stories within the possible, but having the imagination of … well, a writer I imagine that we may not know everything there is to know about the universe.

I do understand that E=MC2 ties space and time together so that you can’t change one part without affecting the other. But we humans who:

  • Don’t know how many dimensions or forces form our universe.
  • What dark energy is.
  • What dark matter is (or if either exist)
  • Why the universe expanded at superluminal (Faster Than Light – FTL) speeds for a time after the big bang
  • Why its expansion is accelerating today

somehow feel certain that FTL travel, communication, or anything else is impossible.

To me it’s as arrogant and assuming as those in the 1800s that said speeds over 100mph would kill you and those in the early 1900s that said travel faster than the speed of sound was a feat man would never accomplish.

Before I present my fictional workarounds (to call them theoretical would make me the biggest pompous ass of all) let me first say that I’m not a physicist, hell I didn’t even stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night. So there are likely glaring holes in my fictional workarounds. Also, as an author I generally chose not to put my readers to sleep so these are ideas that, for the most part, do not get explained ad nauseum in my books. Till today they merely floated around in the back of my mind as a self-defense mechanism. They allow me tell myself: “I’m anchoring my tale in the possible.”

The basis for my workarounds: I believe three areas that we as a society are just starting to nibble at, three areas that, once figured out, will either lock us into our piece of the galaxy, or open up the universe to us are:

* Dark Energy:

Its apparent anti-gravity effect. Can it be manipulated?

*Undiscovered Forces:

For every force in the known universe there is an associated particle, either known i.e.: Electromagnetism – Photon, Weak Force – Intermediate Vector Bosons, Strong Force – Gluon … and so on; or hypothesized i.e.:  Mass – Higgs Boson (aka God Particle), Gravity – Graviton … and so on.

CERN’s Large Hadron Collider and the US’ Tevatron have recently hinted at as yet unknown forces. Who knows how many underlying forces may exist and how they might be manipulated.

Electricity and magnetism are two sides of the same coin; Yin and Yang if you will. Manipulate one and you generate the other and vice versa. What if some new force or a new manifestation of an existing force, i.e.: electricity and magnetism, rises from the data and turns out to be the Yin of gravity’s Yang. In that scenario just as you can manipulate magnetism to generate positive and negative electricity, you could manipulate the new force or manifestation of gravity to generate positive or negative gravity.

* Extra Dimensions:

If we fully understand them and how they tie into the underlying fabric of space-time could they open up the potential for my book’s fictional FTL Parallel-Space travel? (again, see Heim’s Quantum Theory)

What about using extra dimensions for communication. Theoretical physicists postulate the existence of additional dimensions beyond the three spatial and one temporal that we perceive. They tell us these dimensions, existing near the Plank level (the smallest theoretical size), have no size in our universe, but are like curled up dimensions existing adjacent to our dimensions throughout the entire universe.

Now suppose an advanced race, has decoded the mysteries of the universe, i.e.: they’ve unified Quantum Mechanics and Special Relativity, they’ve unified gravity and electromagnetism (see Heim’s Quantum Theory), and even taught cats and dogs to live together in perfect harmony. Employing their mastery of the universe they learn how to expand one of those curled up dimensions just enough to accept an energy state. That energy state (say, half of a quantum pair) could then be manipulated to convey a signal, creating a data-stream.

This extra-dimensional dimension has no size other than that created through their manipulations. So this data would have nowhere to travel, but it could be accessed from anywhere in the universe … who says you couldn’t have instantaneous communication across the universe? (at least fictionally)

In Conclusion (Finally)

Once again, I’m not a physicist and I’m sure there are plenty of theories that would rule out most if not all of my fictional workarounds.

The region between proven facts and the waterfalls at the edge of the universe (here there be dragons) is the realm of science fiction and fantasy. While I like to think my work leans away from said falls and dragons, I’m okay if it takes literary license from time to time. The truest measures are my reader’s opinions, and their willingness to suspend their disbelief whilst they roam my universe.

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Posted by Dean M. Cole

SECTOR 64: Coup de Main – Audiobook Sample

SECTOR 64: Coup de Main – Audio Book Sample

Click on the link or the picture for a free audio preview of the first scene of SECTOR 64: Coup de Main, read by the author. It streams directly from this site.

I’m in the process of producing SECTOR 64: Coup de Main as an audiobook. This is my first effort at producing one so go easy on the rotten tomatos.

It’s more involved than I fully appreciated at the outset, but I’m enjoyong it. Hope to have it completed by the end of the month.

Posted by Dean M. Cole

How Humans Will Become Computers.

I think one of the biggest challenges in writing Near to Distant Future Science Fiction lies in finding a common point of reference for today’s readers. Under the mantra that fact often eclipses fiction, I believe the world as it will look a millennium from now will be so alien to today’s culture, any fiction that truly captures the likely changes might be a difficult read.

Most authors (me included) limit the ways future technologies change those cultures, leaving the human condition relatively unchanged. This allows the reader to identify with the story’s characters in ways that would be difficult with the truly alien culture that a millennium of “progress” would generate.

What could so radically change our culture, you ask. Say one day someone implants a chip in a brain for a simple memory augmentation. No big change right? Let’s even suppose that becomes a commonplace treatment for Alzheimer’s disease. In the next step, having perfected nanotechnology, we learn how to implement these changes without surgery. The surgeons or scientist need only inject a solution teaming with millions of nanobots programmed to seek a certain location and self-assemble into the same circuits that were previously surgically implanted.

Now say someone gets tired of doing rudimentary calculations and decides to utilize the same painless, non-invasive technology to implant those memory circuits along with an integrated circuit. Ah hell, throw in a modem while you’re at it. Now you have upgradeable memory in a powerful PC—or Mac—built into and integrated with your mind. (Kind of gives a whole new slant to the “I’m a PC, I’m a Mac” commercials.) All of that incorporated with a low powered Electro-Organic modem. Talk about the information superhighway.

The biggest impediment to seamless computer access is the interface. With a thought-integrated computer, instantaneous internet, email, and tweets are only a thought away. Think the Internet has had significant social implications? What will happen to our society when we’re all linked together with no information bottlenecks.

Now, let’s take our thought experiment a little farther. The next logical brain enhancement would be the implementation of thought expanding circuitry. You have all of this data coming through your Electro Organic Network (EON as it’s called in my book) but the organic part of your brain can only handle so much at a time. Some hacker or scientist figures out a way to reprogram intellect into your memory or integrated circuits (EON). This would enable you to shift some of your thought processes into a network that runs exponentially faster than your organic computer (read: brain). This assumes that Moore’s Law will have made computers much more powerful than the human mind, currently they are not.

Unhappy with the status quo, people add more and more mental functions and thought processes to their EON. Eventually the silicon-based thoughts exceed the carbon-based.

So I’ve laid out the hypothetical path for a society to transition from organic based thoughts to computer-based without a single huge leap. What kind of social changes would that bring about? The slow-thinking twenty-first century man will look like knuckle-dragging caveman in comparison to the twenty-second century EON enhanced man.

Most people shrug off the suggestion that we may someday shift our thoughts to computers, saying “It’s too big of a leap.” Not in the small baby steps I’ve laid out. Or, “It would be a soulless copy of the real person.” Once again, not in the parallel processing scenario I’ve painted. Although, I’m sure philosophers and theologians will argue ad nauseum.

Those ideas represent a mere fraction of the possibilities of the next century, let alone a millennium. On a geologic timescale a thousand years is blink of the eye. What about 10,000; 100,000; or even a million years (still barely a yawn on a geologic timescale).

But who knows, maybe I’m underestimating my prognosticating ability. Maybe humans several millennia removed will closely resemble what I’ve depicted in my book.

Side note: Just when I thought I had an original thought—  While looking for links to tie in real-world data to my theories I discovered many references to Ray Kurzweil’s Singularity. He took this thought experiment to its ultimate outcome long before me.

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