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 Raindrop's Refuge (my finished paper - uh, I guess? - for this class)

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Vicente



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Join date : 2008-04-22

PostSubject: Raindrop's Refuge (my finished paper - uh, I guess? - for this class)   Mon Jun 09, 2008 3:03 am

Okay, my humorous time-traveling-centered story never made it to light. I ended up writing something completely different. It's got a hint of The Stars My Destination, a dash of Snow Crash, and a pinch of the Restaurant at the End of the Universe. Hope the recipe turned out okay =)

I wrote the prologue to a novel then provided a story summary/author's note at the end (that's why I had "I guess?" in the topic title). Will I actually write out the entire story, eventually? Maybe. So far I actually like the idea.

Since it's a long document (6 pages, 4 without the pics, I think, and single spaced to boot), this'll take several posts. Enjoy the reading, I hope!


Last edited by Vicente on Mon Jun 09, 2008 3:33 am; edited 2 times in total
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Vicente



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PostSubject: Re: Raindrop's Refuge (my finished paper - uh, I guess? - for this class)   Mon Jun 09, 2008 3:24 am

Raindrop’s Refuge

Prologue

It started with an ice cube.

Some smartass students at some university – MIT or CalTech or wherever – thought it would be funny to do a senior project on melting ice cubes. So that’s exactly what they did – they took an ice cube and stuck it outside and watched it melt. Armed with a stopwatch and a fair bit of alcohol, they watched until the poor thing was no more than a little puddle on the ground.

Then a few of them got serious. Found out they had grad school applications riding on this project.

They chose a hotter day – closer to summer, when the sun’s rays slammed the earth more directly. Instead of just letting the ice cube melt on the ground they found a way to suspend it in midair with minimal kinetic or caloric interferences getting in the way to screw up calculations. They even recorded initial temperature and density, just to be sure.

So, more seriously this time, with a better stopwatch and no alcohol, they watched it melt again.

You familiar with basic Calculus concepts? Heck, why not. Learn something today.
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Vicente



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PostSubject: Re: Raindrop's Refuge (my finished paper - uh, I guess? - for this class)   Mon Jun 09, 2008 3:26 am

Let’s start at 2D:

This is a curve:



Pay attention only to that cyan curve, because that’s a curve.

Graphical calculus makes use of one concept and one concept only: finding out exactly how much “space” that curve covers – finding the area under the curve, to be precise. Something like this:



Except we can’t figure out exactly how much area that is because of the curvy shape at the top, and using rulers or mechanical measuring is just sloppy. To get a precise answer, we break the curve up into little rectangles, like so:



This yields an approximation, but a sucky one. Sure, we can add the area of each of those rectangles (length times width) and get an answer, but it’s so off it might as well be the wrong one. So what we do is we make these rectangles even thinner, and thinner, and thinner –



- and as we do this they get closer and closer to exactly outlining the curve’s shape (this is called taking the integral of the curve). Once you get infinitely many rectangles that are infinitely thin, you pretty much have your exact answer.

Multidimensional calculus uses the same concept, but for three (or more) dimensions. Start with your spacial object,



Break it up into little boxes (instead of rectangles, and to find volume it’s base times height)



and voila, a 3D integral. Some people like to leave everything out except for the tops of the rectangles, yielding a surface integral:

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Vicente



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PostSubject: Re: Raindrop's Refuge (my finished paper - uh, I guess? - for this class)   Mon Jun 09, 2008 3:27 am

Uh, where was this going?

Right, the smartass students.

They watched the ice cube melt and used physics equations – thermodynamics for the actual melting, fluid dynamics for when the ice was actually becoming water and moving, not to mention your basic energy equations from Physics 101 – to determine exactly how much energy, joules, was required to melt that one ice cube.

Awesome, tons of work for a useless answer.

But wait, one of them said, let’s get even more serious. So they did.

It took solar energy to melt that ice cube. Factoring out environmental conditions and how the earth’s atmosphere at the time affected the sun’s rays, they figured out how many joules from the sun it took to melt that ice cube. They’d write a thank you letter to Google later.

Whoa, stop, they said. Let’s think about this.

The ice cube acts like the top of a little box - a little box approximately 93 million miles in height and a pretty much infinitely thin base compared to how large the sun actually is. Before they knew it, their entire senior project became a surface integral for energy. A simple one, too – next to boxes, spheres are the simplest curves/surfaces to calculutize.

So, using many, many pieces of paper and pencils, some calculus, and more Google, they figured out that, in one microsecond (that’s a millionth of a second), the sun produces enough energy to power the US for an entire year. Funny how much you can find out from a dead ice cube.

(Right, about the calculus lesson: I could’ve just told you what they found out straight up, but where’s the fun in that?)

So they transferred their notes and measurements to neat, colorful graphs and tables, included all their pencil and paper work, properly cited sources, you know, the usual. Then they turned it in and raised a couple of academically powerful eyebrows. Soon the project landed in NASA.

At first they glanced at it and laughed. Hell, they said, we figured out something like this years ago. They skimmed the paper and tossed it into some junk pile.

But a recent MIT graduate over there decided to recover the project and looked it over more carefully. Did some eye stretching as he did it. These students, he found, were damn near close to what his employing place got – except while NASA used million-dollar equipment and supercomputers to get their answers, these kids used basic multidimensional calculus, a $200 stopwatch, a couple TI-89s, and Google. Not bad.


Last edited by Vicente on Mon Jun 09, 2008 4:14 am; edited 1 time in total
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Vicente



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PostSubject: Re: Raindrop's Refuge (my finished paper - uh, I guess? - for this class)   Mon Jun 09, 2008 3:28 am

He talked to his higher-ups and landed the kids an internship at JPL. Hey, said JPL, good stuff – people like to say that Knowledge is Power, but here it’s more like knowledge is horse shit until you apply it. So that’s your job: brainstorming. You found out how much energy the sun produces in a microsecond; here, we get you familiar with our extremely expensive equipment, get you thinking the way real professionals do, and then you find out how to put all that wasted energy to good use. According to your data we’re losing about a million years of energy per second to empty space. So get crackin’- oh, and have fun. We’ll be messing around with Mars.

Happy ending, right?

Not really.

One of the students – the creative one – got too cocky, too experimental. Started doing shit that kept setting the team back, kept costing NASA loads of money that could have been put towards Mars projects. They kicked him out.

He got angry for a little while and shrugged it off. He got into his grad schools so he was okay for the time being. He made new friends, went into new research, got into high level mathematics and physics and engineering.

But he was never satisfied, because he could never forget that one summer he got kicked out of JPL for being himself. No matter how many people he impressed, how successful he became, he couldn’t get over it. Shame, really – he might have been the next Einstein, the next Hawking, revered and loved by the scientific world. Too bad he didn’t know how to lose a grudge.

He and his new friends get really busy. He figures he’ll show those bastards at NASA, make them feel sorry they kicked him out of that internship. His old buddies are blowing through $200k salaries while he and his new team are trying to get their no-name lab some attention.

Now it all starts with a single grain of sand.

Kind of like how it happened with the ice cube, Mr. Grudge and his team extrapolate the exact size, shape, and structure of the universe from a grain of sand. It takes them years, countless sleepless nights, lots of mathematical and physics theory – divine-level calculus, mathematics less than .01 percent of the world might even fathom. But they do it.
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Vicente



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PostSubject: Re: Raindrop's Refuge (my finished paper - uh, I guess? - for this class)   Mon Jun 09, 2008 3:29 am

They computerize their data, run their calculations through a program, try to map it out on a really expensive piece of hardware, all nice and customized with their own software. They’ve had engineers, mathematicians, and hacker geeks on this for years. Mr. Grudge is sleeping after a week or so of lacking it, while most of the team is in a little underground lab staring at a huge screen that’s running off the calculations and preparing to make their data visual. They’re about to make science history.

Well, I guess you could take that last sentence more ways than one.

First thing that happens: the hardware running the operation becomes a god computer. Like, if God had a computer, that’s pretty much what it became. That’s the first thing. It was as if the data running through the machine was in itself some god-creating program. Hell, not much else to expect from having mapped out the entire universe from a grain of sand.

Second thing that happens: they see it. The Universe, plain as day, as if it were in front of them all along. The patterns of the cosmos, the secrets of black holes, every galaxy, planet, star, infinitely small piece of space debris - all here. It’s infinite, huge, almost too much for the human mind to handle –

Er. Scratch that.

Way too much for the human mind to handle.

Everyone in the room dies. Almost.

Their minds explode, and this is about as literally as it can be expressed. When the technicians get there the next morning they freak out. The people in the lab are living corpses, not even able to swallow their own spit.

Naturally, Mr. Grudge is on top of this in no time. He and his remaining team are scared out of their wits. Looking over the video of the room at the time of the accident, there’s a huge flash of light, the machines in the room go ballistic, and everyone makes funny noises and falls over.

So, all the data is in a disc now, all the preliminary paper documents sealed away somewhere, safe and sound.

Mr. Grudge?

Despite being scared as hell, he’s happy. Now he can seize by the scientific world by the scruff of its neck, make it get down on its knees and beg. Make those bastards pay for not recognizing him in the first place. And he’s got some God disc to back him up.
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Vicente



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PostSubject: Re: Raindrop's Refuge (my finished paper - uh, I guess? - for this class)   Mon Jun 09, 2008 4:07 am

Plot Summary

Well, it isn't a Prologue for nothing, right? =P

But to clarify, the story wouldn't follow Mr. Grudge, his new team members, or anyone from NASA/JPL. I'm thinking it might either follow a philosophy student or an engineering student. Or maybe it could follow an engineering student minoring in philosophy - let's call him Ace for now. I figure it'll be a good set up for sneaking in some technical exposition, since, if I were to finish this story, I'd include hefty amounts of math and physics background. I'd definitely be more tactful about it than I was in the Prologue (no to mention Snow Crash), though.

The story will start off with a little mini-aside where Mr. Grudge starts making copies of the mind-destroying discs, throwing out defected ones. One of his lackeys loses it in some kind of accident (flies out of his car window or something, not sure really) and Ace eventually gets his hands on it. Like any smart student, he inserts the unlabeled disc he found off the street into his computer. Since the data was faultily copied, he doesn't lose his mind, but his pc goes nuts and he gets a glimpse of the data and visuals. He gets his hacker friend to look at it, and soon he and a ragtag team of students of various disciplines from several different universities find themselves caught in a hideously complicated and thrilling plot to save the world from mind explosion.

I figure the way they figure out how to solve everything comes in "corrupting" the data, finding a weakness in the calculations. Right now my idea is they infect the data on paper with a counter-calculation.

In terms of the Big Bang, Stephen Hawking calculated that if the Big Bang exploded 1 x 10^-11 seconds faster than it did (that's a really frckn small amount of time, btw), the Universe would have collapsed into a giant fireball. Yes, this is fact - Hawking really *did* discover this.. I'm not sure if it was slower or faster, or even if the exponent was -11 (pretty sure it was, though), but he did find out that if the big bang's rate of expansion were different in some mind-bogglingly miniscule way, the universe as we know it would not exist.

So, for now, that's how I would plan to "counter" the disc/data in the story. Infect it with a counter-calculation, exploit some imaginary solution (like how it's done in Algebra) almost like creating a virus. Maybe the kids meet up with the original students that were recruited by NASA, maybe not, but that original team is gonna make an appearance either way.

That's the story as I've visioned it in a nutshell.
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TheDirector



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PostSubject: Re: Raindrop's Refuge (my finished paper - uh, I guess? - for this class)   Mon Jun 09, 2008 7:43 am

Very interesting. Getting kicked out of JPL for being an egotistical geek doesn't quite ring true. The place is full of them and they are used to dealing with one another. That's a small point though.

John Edlund
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Derek



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PostSubject: Re: Raindrop's Refuge (my finished paper - uh, I guess? - for this class)   Mon Jun 09, 2008 6:59 pm

I like how you put Stephen Hawking in there.
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Aik Roy Heng



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PostSubject: Re: Raindrop's Refuge (my finished paper - uh, I guess? - for this class)   Tue Jun 10, 2008 5:29 pm

LoL, I'm impressed Vicente!!!
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aitokunaga



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PostSubject: Re: Raindrop's Refuge (my finished paper - uh, I guess? - for this class)   Tue Jun 10, 2008 7:03 pm

OMG!! You have to hurry up and write the story! I love your writing style. It's funny but smart-funny, not what-is-this-person-on-funny. It is such a great idea. I like the ice cube bit, too, in that this whole big plot thing can happen just because of one insignificant little ice cube.
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Vicente



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PostSubject: Re: Raindrop's Refuge (my finished paper - uh, I guess? - for this class)   Wed Jun 11, 2008 9:27 am

Well, stick around for summer!

I still need to finish the Hare/Tortoise one, too.
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