Morning Word 29 – Strings [Part 2]

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Everything he tried had failed. Dr. Andrew was not able to reproduce the faint signal that seemed to be emitted from the filament cloud. Worse, he couldn’t be sure it wasn’t an accident. As he tried to reproduce the conditions of that moment, a voice in his head told him that there was a more reasonable explanation: his equipment had picked up some terrestrial radio signal.

After several weeks and nothing to show, he walked upstairs and knocked on the door of Dr. English, an expert in wave physics. “Aren’t you supposed to be commercializing this project?” he asked Andrew. “This sounds like an incredible waste of time.” English had always been a faithful board ally but he was intrigued by Andrew’s data. The signal did look like it was coming from within the cylinder.

They considered various possibilities. Perhaps the cylinder had reflected or enhanced an existed signal. Or perhaps this was a typing monkey situation, “You’ve got infinitely random data in there. Eventually, it will create something that looks like organized information.” But Andrew wasn’t convinced. He suggested that maybe there was someone in the cylinder. “On what grounds do you make this ridiculous assertion?” asked English. Andrew didn’t have an answer. He thought unlikely things may have equally unlikely explanations.

While he wasn’t the best ally, English was still a physicist and was excited by the impossible. He was willing to test the idea that, however the means, the signal was sent by an intelligence and Andrew wanted to know if they could send something back.

English offered a piece of equipment, a transmitter that produced waves that were atomically small like the one they had received. He brought it down to Andrew’s lab and pointed it at the cylinder which was still perched in its chamber. “What do we send?” asked English. “Are you there God, it’s me Margaret? Although, I suppose we would be God in this circumstance.” Andrew suggested the Fibonacci sequence and English replied, “Yes, I’m sure these people will be as excited by over hyped pop math as you are.” The machine hummed on and English entered the sequence to be transmitted in pulses: 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8 They transmitted it continually for an hour, turned the machine off, and waited.

Nothing happened that day. Dr. English eventually got bored and left. He checked in the next day but nothing still. He stopped by a week later but still nothing. After that, he stopped coming. Dr. Andrew, however, had no choice but to show up for work, sit quietly in his lonely lab, and watch his glowing cylinder. He didn’t dare perform any more tests. He didn’t want to alter the system in any way.

So he just sat there and looked at it and thought about how he would never get to show his technology to the world. Some other scientist at some better funded university would invent this same technology in a few years and get all the credit for being the father of quantum computing. Still, he thought while sitting in his chair, it is beautiful to watch.

He was so lost in the beauty of it that he didn’t hear the knock at the door. He didn’t hear the door open and someone come in. “Dr. Andrew!” He looked over. “The board would like to see you now.” Now? Why now? He wasn’t given any notice!

“You were sent several letters,” said the man who sifted through the doctor’s stack of unopened mail and pulled out a pair of envelopes from the university. “You have five minutes,” said the man and he left.

He presumed this the meeting where he was to explain his million dollar idea, an idea he never bothered to come up with. Andrew stood up and reached out to grab the cylinder out of the chamber. But there it was, displayed on the screen, little pulses separated by a space: 13 then 21 then 34. Those were the next numbers in the sequence. It wasn’t his own information coming back. There was someone in the cylinder and that person could do math.

[PART 3]