Manual All Of Time And Space: The Story Of Us

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The Soviet embassy in London was forced to switch from celebration mode to damage control. Sputnik 2 continued to orbit the Earth for five months, then burned up when it reentered the atmosphere in April He even brought her home to play with his children before she began her space odyssey. Vladimir Yazdovsky wrote in a book about Soviet space medicine, as quoted by the AP. Contact us at editors time.

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Curators' Corner. Ask Smithsonian. Photos Submit to Our Contest. Photo of the Day. Video Ingenuity Awards. Smithsonian Channel. Video Contest. Games Daily Sudoku. Universal Crossword. Daily Word Search. Mah Jong Quest. Subscribe Top Menu Current Issue. Take a look. He turned to look at the heptapods, impressed. And the biggest sentences had an effect similar to that of psychedelic posters: sometimes eye-watering, sometimes hypnotic…Comparing that initial stroke with the completed sentence, I realized that the stroke participated in several different clauses of the message.

That meant the heptapod had to know how the entire sentence would be laid out before it could write the very first stroke. The other strokes in the sentence also traversed several clauses, making them so interconnected that none could be removed without redesigning the entire sentence. I had seen a similarly high degree of integration before in calligraphic designs, particularly those employing the Arabic alphabet. But those designs had required careful planning by expert calligraphers.

No one could lay out such an intricate design at the speed needed for holding a conversation. At least, no human could. The summer after my senior year in high school, I attended a total immersion program for learning Russian; by the end of the Summer, I was thinking and even dreaming in Russian. But it was always spoken Russian. Different language, same mode: a voice speaking silently aloud. The idea of thinking in a linguistic yet non-phonological mode always intrigued me. I had a friend born of deaf parents; he grew up using American Sign Language, and he told me that he often thought in ASL instead of English.

With Heptapod B, I was experiencing something just as foreign: my thoughts were becoming graphically coded. As I grew more fluent, semagraphic designs would appear fully-formed, articulating even complex ideas all at once. Instead of racing forward, my mind hung balanced on the symmetry underlying the semagrams.


  • Scientific laws and God.
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The semagrams seemed to be something more than language; they were almost like mandalas. I found myself in a meditative state, contemplating the way in which premises and conclusions were interchangeable. For them, speech was a bottleneck because it required that one word follow another sequentially. With writing, on the other hand, every mark on a page was visible simultaneously.

Why constrain writing with a glottographic straitjacket, demanding that it be just as sequential as speech? It would never occur to them. They act to create the future, to enact chronology. Similarly, knowledge of the future was incompatible with free will. What made it possible for me to exercise freedom of choice also made it impossible for me to know the future.

A reasonable question. With performative language, saying equaled doing. For the heptapods, all language was performative. Instead of using language to inform, they used language to actualize. Sure, heptapods already knew what would be said in any conversation; but in order for their knowledge to be true, the conversation would have to take place. Not simply to guess at it; was it possible to know what was going to happen, with absolute certainty and in specific detail?

Gary once told me that the fundamental laws of physics were time-symmetric, that there was no physical difference between past and future. I liked to imagine the objection as a Borgesian fabulation: consider a person standing before the Book of Ages, the chronicle that records every event, past and future. Even though the text has been photoreduced from the full-sized edition, the volume is enormous. With magnifier in hand, she flips through the tissue-thin leaves until she locates the story of her life.

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The thought of doing just that had crossed her mind, but being a contrary sort, she now resolves to refrain from betting on the ponies altogether. The Book of Ages cannot be wrong; this scenario is based on the premise that a person is given knowledge of the actual future, not of some possible future. How can these two facts be reconciled? A volume like the Book of Ages is a logical impossibility, for the precise reason that its existence would result in the above contradiction.

And we knew free will existed because we had direct experience of it. Volition was an intrinsic part of consciousness. Or was it? What if the experience of knowing the future changed a person? What if it evoked a sense of urgency, a sense of obligation to act precisely as she knew she would? Explain it by saying that a difference in the index of refraction caused the light to change direction, and one saw the world as humans saw it. Explain it by saying that light minimized the time needed to travel to its destination, and one saw the world as the heptapods saw it.

Two very different interpretations.

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The physical universe was a language with a perfectly ambiguous grammar. Every physical event was an utterance that could be parsed in two entirely different ways, one causal and the other teleological, both valid, neither one disqualifiable no matter how much context was available. When the ancestors of humans and heptapods first acquired the spark of consciousness, they both perceived the same physical world, but they parsed their perceptions differently; the world-views that ultimately arose were the end result of that divergence.

Humans had developed a sequential mode of awareness, while heptapods had developed a simultaneous mode of awareness.

We experienced events in an order, and perceived their relationship as cause and effect. They experienced all events at once, and perceived a purpose underlying them all. A minimizing, maximizing purpose.

My mind was cast in the mold of human, sequential languages, and no amount of immersion in an alien language can completely reshape it. My world-view is an amalgam of human and heptapod. Before I learned how to think in Heptapod B, my memories grew like a column of cigarette ash, laid down by the infinitesimal sliver of combustion that was my consciousness, marking the sequential present. It is the period during which I know Heptapod B well enough to think in it, starting during my interviews with Flapper and Raspberry and ending with my death.

Usually, Heptapod B affects just my memory: my consciousness crawls along as it did before, a glowing sliver crawling forward in time, the difference being that the ash of memory lies ahead as well as behind: there is no real combustion. But occasionally I have glimpses when Heptapod B truly reigns, and I experience past and future all at once; my consciousness becomes a half century-long ember burning outside time.

I perceive—during those glimpses—that entire epoch as a simultaneity. Then, perhaps I could immerse myself fully in the necessity of events, as they must, instead of merely wading in its surf for the rest of my life. The message is one of acceptance and taking life as a whole, for both good and ill. There are many problems with the time-travel interpretation, which require assuming that much of the story is simply irrelevant technobabble, the symbolism is to be ignored, and that Chiang, a master of world building, failed to note the simplest implications which render his world internally incoherent:.

What do stories have to do with time-travel? Why the second-person narrative framing of the daughter being told the story by Louise? Can someone please explain? Why is the emphasis on Heptapod physics teaching the human physicists next to nothing, when transmitting information back in time would be a revolution?

Why the emphasis on perception? Does it really require time travel for a Heptapod to read a page as a single whole? But nevertheless, the universe continues as before, regardless of whether one perceives it as a unity or as many pieces, and the convincingness of the experience has little or no relationship to the truth of the perceptions. Chiang knows that none of the discussed topics provide a realistic mechanism, yet he does not define his world with any FTL or novel physics. He also knows that Sapir-Whorf is merely a psychological claim; there has never been any serious prospect that Sapir-Whorf could justify something like precognition or time travel.

A linear sentence can be read forward and backwards, but still has an ordering. Will I achieve a minimum, or a maximum?

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And why does she not know why the Heptapods are leaving? And why would the students ever be indifferent or bored?

And if Louise is the only person capable of it, why is she special? A close read shows no examples of Louise acting in a way that requires knowledge of the future beyond ordinary cognition and creative license in recall:. S scientists on our agenda with the heptapods. While the lecture and interaction with her future husband Gary have great significance, this significance is because she is able to recall memories of it, not because of any time-travel. We never did learn why the heptapods left, any more than we learned what brought them here, or why they acted the way they did.

He and I will drive out together to perform the identification, a long silent car ride. I remember the morgue, all tile and stainless steel, the hum of refrigeration and smell of antiseptic. An orderly will pull the sheet back to reveal your face. The phrase binds the beginning and end together… as a story, in retrospect, once the outcome is known. Louise has nightmares about bad things happening to her daughter and seeing her in the morgue, both before and after she dies. That is what happens to humans. As Vonnegut says, it is not hard to see the future of your babies, nor your closest friends, and Linke and his wife knew when they married each other that the other would one day die.

Your father is about to ask me the question. This is the most important moment in our lives, and I want to pay attention, note every detail. I also think a lot about how it began, just a few years ago, when ships appeared in orbit and artifacts appeared in meadows…. All I will have left from this moment is the heptapod language.

So I pay close attention, and note every detail. From the beginning I knew my destination, and I chose my route accordingly.