Wednesday, 16 May 2012

The Day The World Ended by Anand.Modha

In 1965, it began.

The experiment was simple. A space in time was to be permanently observed. Ed White, an astronaut of great courage, left the Gemini 4 space craft and became the first US citizen to float above the Pacific Ocean. He was just north of the island chain of Hawaii, bobbing in space. After the official photo was taken, he took out the apparatus we had given him, and he unfolded the box, which caught all the empty space it could manage. He then closed the container, and the experiment began. It was transparent, so it was observable at all time, at all angles, in perpetuity.

The box was taken into the Gemini 4 lander, and when returned to Nasa, placed in a room monitored by scientists, 24/7. It was watched by cameras, individuals, groups, but it was permanently observed.  This empty box.

Time passed, and  interest in the experiment waned. I mean, who wants to watch an empty box their entire life? Yet people continued to volunteer, so the experiment continued. Times changed, as we went from the excitement of the 60’s and the space race, to the hidden fears of the cold war and its ideological tensions. Yet still people wanted to watch the box.

By 1995, it had been running for 30 years, and no one who had watched it had seen anything. Pressure was increasing for us to post some results. You may ask what we were hoping to achieve, which is a fair enough question. At the beginning I thought I knew. I thought, through some quantum entanglement theory, I could prove something or other, but I had spent so much time staring at the empty space in that box, that I could no longer remember why I was doing it, just that I had a need to.

Then one day, something happened. We had hooked the cameras that observed the box up to the internet, allowing anyone in the world to watch it. It seemed that we had reached some critical mass, or something else changed  in a fundamental way, because at 8.46 am, on this day in September, a glow appeared in the box and then disappeared.

We then started to receive emails from all over the world. People saying they saw sparks, transparent butterflies, ghosts of birds, a miniature horse. Things made of a pale light. The cameras caught them, but it only ever saw a glow. The observers though, they saw so many things. When they were shown the images from the cameras, they repeated exactly what they saw, not the small bloom those who had not observed in real time saw.

Then, at 9.03 another bloom appeared, and then disappeared. I was watching it in real time, and I know it sounds silly, but I saw a small fox darting about inside it. It had 7 tails fanning out behind it, but then it was gone.

I don’t know what I saw that day, fatal words for a scientist.

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