Chapter 34 ATLAS The Paradox Solver
19 0 0
Reading Options
Font Size
A- 15px A+
Table of Contents
Loading... please wait.

Atlas looked at his planet. He hadn’t seen it for a while. He could see a thick cloud now covered New Europa. Plumes of gas and water exploded from above the cloud and some were like jets, continuously spraying into the atmosphere. “Is the atmosphere venting into space?” he asked.

“Some. The hydrogen is floating away, but the oxygen will stay at the surface,” Ship replied as he changed the image of the planet to an infrared version. This allowed Atlas to see through the cloud. “You see there –” Ship pointed at the infrared image. “– some areas of the planet are heating up. All the movement caused by the ice breaking is speeding up the process.”

Atlas moved his head closer to the screen. He could see the heat signature of the planet had changed since he first looked at the image. There were now warm parts. Thinning ice sheets. The average temperature was about five degrees higher than when he started this process. “Change the image back to the visible spectrum,” Atlas requested.

Ship did as he asked. The colour changed from the monochrome red colour.

Atlas pointed to the screen. “Is that green?”

The planet was covered in a green film. He could see gaps in the clouds, where the surface of New Europa was green.

Atlas jumped up off his seat, a grin spreading across his face. “We did it! Can you get Icarus? I have to show him.”

He heard a popping sound of electricity, as if a lightning bolt had hit the wall behind him. Then there was a continuous white noise sound mixed with the buzzing of electricity. He could feel the room vibrating. Atlas turned his head towards the sound.

A white circular glowing orb emitting sparks of lightning had appeared behind him. In place of his bookshelf was some sort of large glowing bubble.

He watched as a pixelated foot protruded out of the white orb. Then a hand. Then he recognised who it was.

“Like my portal?” Icarus said as he walked through.

“First you make yourself a cartoon. Now this?” Atlas said, shaking his head in disbelief.

Icarus shrugged. “Atlas, why be a hapticgram if you’re not going to embrace it? Which reminds me – I made a few improvements to our simulation. Do you want my Lex to give you the update?”

“Yes. But what are they?” Atlas asked curiously.

“Here, let me show you.”

Atlas felt a strange sensation run over him. It was odd. His brain wasn’t quite sure what had changed. But something had. He closed his eyes. Breathed out. Then breathed in. There was a smell of sulphur in the air. How could he smell? There wasn’t a mechanism for hapticgrams to smell. He wondered why he hadn’t noticed the lack of smell until now; why it hadn’t bothered him before. “Why can I smell sulphur?”

Icarus smiled. “I added it to the portal simulation. Makes it feel like I just burnt through the walls.”

“How am I just learning about this now?”

Icarus walked over to the portal and stuck his hands in. He moved them about a little then drew them out, holding two glass cups of coffee. “Wait until you smell this.”

Icarus handed a cup to him.

Atlas peered into the cup and inhaled deeply. His nostrils were filled with a euphoric rush of pleasure. He shook his head in disbelief. “You have just blown my mind. I’ve been a simulation longer than I’ve been alive. And I hate that I’m just discovering this now.”

“Well, this is actually better than when you were physical. I’ve given us all a dog’s sense of smell.”

Atlas couldn’t help but laugh. “Does Trillion know about this?”

Icarus nodded. “Yes, her entire spaceship is covered in scented candles now. Anyway, why am I here? What did you want to show me?”

Atlas walked back to his desk in the middle of the room and clicked a few buttons on the computer. “Look at this. I call it New Europa.”

Icarus leaned forward and looked at the screen. “Nice name. Is that because it’s an ice world? It looks like it’s about to explode.” Icarus studied it a bit more. “That’s a lot of tectonic activity for a planet you want to seed.”

“No, no,” Atlas said, “look at the green. Can you see the green coming through those cracks? That’s life.”

Atlas remembered about the coffee again and took a sip, not expecting to taste anything. “Wow, this really tastes like coffee too.”

“I know, right? It’s amazing. Which reminds me, we’re all having dinner at mine tonight.” Icarus gazed at the screen again. “This planet looks like it’s going to explode.”

Atlas smiled again. “Actually, the planet is basically a bomb. One spark, and ¼ boom!

“Can we blow it up?” Icarus asked.

Atlas couldn’t tell if he was joking or not. Then he saw the toothy cartoon grin. “You got me,” he mused. “Oh, by the way, I’ve been testing the causality problem you mentioned.”

When Icarus looked slightly confused, Atlas explained. “The one about how this faster-than-light communication network breaks the laws of causality.”

Icarus clicked his fingers, remembering. “Oh, the Starnet?”

Atlas nodded. He had been thinking about how Icarus used the marbles to tell a story for a while. He changed his opinion and on reflection he liked it. It really explained things visually, so he thought he’d do the same. “This is where things get strange. I’m going to need your help here,” he said as he walked over to one side of the room, gesturing at Icarus to follow.

“You understand time dilation?” Atlas asked.

“Yes, as you move faster through space, time slows down.”

Atlas nodded. He pointed to the other side of the room. “Imagine this side of the room and that side over there are light years apart. For simplicity, let’s say it’s 100 light years across.” Atlas looked up at Lex floating in the corner. “Lex, can you place a floating timer on both our heads?”

In an instant, Atlas and Icarus had digital timers above them. They were ticking at the same rate starting from one, then two …

Atlas pointed to his timer. “To both of us, time is moving at the same rate. Let’s assume each of these ticks represent a year.” He began to walk to the other side of the room. As he moved, his timer started to move slower. By the time he reached the other side his timer was showing ten.

Atlas pointed to the timer once more. “To get to you, over there, it should take me about 102 years.”

Icarus clarified a point Atlas had forgotten to make earlier. “Are you assuming you travelled at one G acceleration the whole way?”

“Oh yes, sorry,” Atlas said, a little embarrassed with himself. “Yes, basically if I travelled to this side of the room fast, time would have moved slower for me.”

“Yes, I agree.” Icarus looked at the number above his head. “But from my perspective, it took you 102 years to get there, even though you only experienced ten-ish years.”

“Exactly. Relativity and all that,” Atlas smiled. He was a little out of practice with explaining things to other people. He started walking back towards Icarus. “Without FTL communication, everything is fine. I arrive back and I’m a lot younger than you. But the universe doesn’t care. However, it gets strange when we add FTL communication.”

A new timer floated in the middle of the room. It flicked between 10 and 102 several times and then a question mark appeared.

“Which time does the Starnet use? Because the two timers are completely different. My clock says it’s been 10 years. Yours says it’s been 102,” Atlas stated.

“I understand all this, Atlas. Remember I was the one who asked you about the causality problem? If the Starnet uses my timer, then I’m sending messages 92 years in the past. If it uses yours, then it’s sending messages 92 years into the future.”

Atlas thought he heard a twinge of excitement in Icarus’s voice. He knew he was starting to spark his imagination. “Exactly. I could send a message through the Starnet and receive it 92 years before I sent it. This obviously breaks causality.”  

Atlas nodded with excitement. He knew he hadn’t told Icarus anything new yet, but the next part was going to blow his mind.

“So tell me, Atlas, how does Starnet not break causality?”

Atlas pointed up towards the timer between them both. “The Starnet itself has its own time.”

“Oh, so you’re saying it doesn’t matter what time our reference frames are as the network always has its own time?”

Atlas nodded. “Precisely.”