Fwd: The Last Notes of Carl Sagan
From: The Great Quail,
Hello, Valiant Fegs!
This is professor Oswald Fane, unfortunately posting with another dire warning. There has been a lot of talk lately on the list about some sort of Quailspiracy -- and none of that from the Great Quail himself, who has opted to remain mum on the subject! Now, some might attribute this to false modesty, or even that the Quail himself is sick of hearing his name constantly mentioned! Ha! Nothing can be farther from the truth. Just because that vile creature has refrained from venting any "quailspew" recently does not mean that he has quit his membership in the so-called "Surreal Posse." As a matter of fact, I would be willing to bet that the bastard is lying low, maybe planning to *finally* finish all those idiotic threads he started and never completed, like what happened to the old server, and what is the destiny of Dan-Yell and Ebcorp?
Idiot.But just so you know the Minions of Darkness are never far from the door, I found this. A recent screening of the movie "Contact" has lead me to the sci.discovery newsgroup, where there has been much discussion about the differences between the movie and the book. Then . . . this. A frantic excerpt from a diary, found among Carl's papers and written in his familiar script. Ah, they all thought it was a hoax, but I fear we all know too well. . . .
<from the sci.discovery newsgroup>
I cannot keep hiding this. I find myself in a unique position, one that brings me even closer to my childhood heroes: Galileo, Kepler, Copernicus. Those valiant men who stood fast in their knowledge of the Truth against the derision of their peers, their whole society. . . . and yet I know that if I publish my findings I shall be laughed at. I will face a trial harder than my attempts at making the governments of the world see the truth about nuclear winter, more difficult than obtaining my grants for the SETI project. I will be the laughing-stock of Cornell University. . . . and yet their great names drive me on, reminding me of what I found noble in the spirit of man when I was a child: nights in starless Brooklyn when the only constellations were these shining points of reason, like bright talismans against the rising tides of ignorance.
So publish them I must. I shall hand my body over to the stakes of the modern inquisition, I shall be that Giordano Bruno of the modern age. Let that bastard Hans Bethe laugh his way to my academic gallows: I shall stand tall. I shall not hear their taunts.
For I have discovered the origin of the cosmos.
Ironic enough that, in the seventies, I thought I had a unique perspective on the universe. I now look back at those years and realize that I was dwelling in the house of an almost Nietzschean arrogance.
"Cosmos" I called my show, my book -- as If I could bind the Infinite and the Absolute in the walls of 300 pages; call the Ineffable to my summons with seven hours of PBS programming. Yes, yes . . . The Ineffable Mysteries Unpeeled between Masterpiece Theatre and Big Bird. Fool that I was. Ah, I had no idea. . . .
I understand now that I must have been stabbing towards the Truth even then; but my first real glimpse into the numinous came with "Contact," my much misunderstood attempt at Science Fiction. (And the lowest book sales I have ever had. Morons, Fools! Should I have added a laser gun? Clad my heroine in a chain mail thong and crowned her queen of Mars? Idiots!) In that work I postulated that the Universe was indeed a Creation, an Artifact . . . and that the Creator could leave a *signature.*
I confess the idea was originally not mine. I confess this now, as I near my death, for the truth -- the terrible truth -- must take precedence over my academic reputation. Yes, the idea was not my own, and that is a small story in itself:
I was drinking in a bar in Sacramento one cloudy afternoon, and there I saw this unusual man, tall, ectomorphic, with a most bizarre look in his eyes. He was cutting paper napkins into little crescent moons. . . . interesting. So in the name of good will, I walked over and asked him his name -- there was an unusual cast to his features, he had the lonely face of a man who needed some companionship.
He looked blankly at my simple question, then shook his head and answered, "Um . . . Reg," in a skewed English accent. I noticed that his plate was covered with geometric cut-outs: circles, crescents, little cones he stuck together with some mashed potatoes as ersatz glue; even a few triangles, smug in their semblance of Isoscelean perfection. I commented on it, for he seemed to be worried about something. I asked him what he was doing, and his eyes shifted nervously, glancing at random corners of the air itself.
"I'm looking for God," he muttered, and then began rambling on about tentacles and squid and hedblades. I stopped him and asked for clarification. He hedged a bit, but the gentle pressure of my hand on his arm must have compelled him. "I learned something recently. I just bought a computer, you know. And . . . I logged on. And . . . " he drifted off, his fingers twitching their way through another circumlocution of napkin and scissors. Suddenly a perfect spiral dropped out from the plane of the napkin, dangling in the air like a pre-schooler's attempt at fabricating DNA from construction paper. He eyed it eagerly, almost expectantly; but the revelation must not have come, for he quickly dropped it with a sigh, and his attention drifted again. "God," he whispered, almost pleadingly.
"God."His eyes closed. "That damn Bird . . . . What have I been doing?" He then
opened his eyes and fixed me with a haunted gaze. "The cave . . . Debbie . . The Woj-Thing." He punctuated each word with a small tap of his finger on the table. Paper hexagons scattered like leaves. He watched one fall off the table, tumbling slowly to the floor. It landed, the focus of his absent attention for a full minute.
Suddenly he blinked, "They *are* fiends, you know."
With that enigmatic comment, he got up to leave. Troubled, but intrigued,
I paused him -- but he shook me off. "God is not who we think . . . or rather, is not the one we think. They are old, as old as the stars, and the Demiurge of this Universe. . . ."
"What?" I asked, sensing his sudden apprehension."Trancedental numbers. Signatures. The Seal of the Author. His -- no, *Its* -- terrible . . . its terrible *claw.* Scratching its mark into the very canvas of the cosmos." Suddenly he shook me off, and before I could protest, he was gone.
I got to thinking about what the eccentric Englishman had said, and I wondered -- could I write a book around that idea? That God would leave a signature? Yes. S/He could sign the work, insert a code deep in the very architecture of the universe itself, hidden so far into -- into what? Oh, say the ratio of pi -- so deeply embedded that it would take a computer to reach it.
And so I did.********************
But I was so ignorant. I had no idea what it would cost me.
My first instinct was to look in a circle. I requested ungodly amounts of computer time, and began my work . . . months passed, but I was finally rewarded!
There it was. Deep into the wilderness of the irresolvable 22/7 ratio, the zeroes began popping up in any way that was decidedly not random. In fact, when plotted on a matrix of 220 by 70 units, a perfect circle appeared, the very signature of the author of a circle itself, embedded deep in the mathematical text of the Universe. Ingenuous. . . .
Except for the very center, where there was an annoying glitch: a sequence of ones that formed a tiny spot, almost shaped like the letter Q. . . . A mote in God's eye. . . . was there more to go? Was this flawed circle only the first Incarnation? Was there more, even deeper?
Or worse: was the circle indeed - I shudder - Random?
Soon that glitch began to haunt me. Why would God, or the Creator, place such a flaw in the perfect circle. . . .or maybe . . . no. It couldn't be.
In my dreams I began glimpsing a new truth. *Could* it be?
Could it be the *pupil of a vast eye?*
Sleepless nights I spent worrying about that Great Eye. How it stared at me, denying me entrance through the portal of sleep by its stern and staring interdiction. And my machines cranked on, spending all my resources on Cornell's super computers. . . . was there *another* circle, a more perfect circle, tucked away even deeper in the ratio?
Years passed under that mocking gaze. . . .
Then one day I had a sudden inspiration. Out of the billions and billions of digits of pi, only *one* nonrandom message had materialized. What about other transcendental numbers? What about e? What about the ratio between the speed of light and the rest mass of an electron? What about the ratio between the atomic mass of Hydrogen and Helium? And so on. . . .
It was in "e" that I found the next message . . . two smaller circles, side by side. . . .
And each with that pupil-like flaw in the middle!
My mind reeled. I tried other constants, other numbers. The next message came when I set the computers to divide the speed of light by Planck's constant . . . and weeks later, deep in the numerical ratio the message was repeated, but there was a pair of strange curves framing the "eyes!"
Almost as if they were set in some terrible face. . . .
Two years later the next revelation was at hand. The ratio between the half life of Tritium and Uranium 238 brought me closer to -- what I was now calling, despite myself! -- the Face of God. And . . . and . . .
. . . the eyes were in a perfectly roundish face, devoid of features . .
. except, placed directly under the eyes was a great and terrible *beak*
The horror. . . . . ???
My mind was close to a complete fracture. All types of questions played themselves out in my fevered brain. Was I truly progressing in some sort of preordained order? Why should *I* be granted the vision of this . . . this God, this beaky Creator . . . as something moving *away* from me? Bringing itself further into resolution with each iteration? What if . . . what if I was *working backwards,* and if I was supposed to be APPROACHING closer to the face of God, and if the next ratio beyond pi was to be a final revelation? Was I moving *away* from Grace? And *why* was there an order at all? Could it really be Coincidence that I was finding the correct order of sequences? After ten years of searching?
What if -- and here was my most terrible thought -- what if it did not matter what order, that no matter where I started, the visions would be the same? Was that even possible? A blasphemous utterance, to be sure. Implying -- I don't know, a quantum God, watching my experiments with amusement and tweaking the minutiae of the Cosmos (His beak curled in a snide expression of gleeful malevolence) -- purposefully manipulating the Universe to keep the sequence nonrandom? As if each constant of nature were really -- as seen from His distance -- pawns on some great mathematical chessboard? What if I had *started* with e, and *ended* with pi -- would the sequence of images, of messages, still be exactly the same? This idea was, paradoxically, both the most disturbing and the most comforting. Questions of free will against a benevolent deity struggled to resolve themselves.
What was the next discovery?
And would the final Body of God look like? Surely not that of some demented bird?
I pressed on, one month blending into another. My life was becoming a haze, an arrow shot from a bow and aimed at an uncertain future. I was Heisenberg's prophet. I stopped returning phone calls from colleagues; I forgot even to send Christmas cards to Linus and Stephen. In vain I struggled to find the next golden ratio, searching high and low. . . .
In the meantime, I found myself becoming possessed by the images I had so uncovered. Could the Face of God really look like some giant bird? Was it possible that we lived in some strange . . . "avianiverse?" I began to experience odd events, incidents which I can only describe as hallucinations . . . I began hearing bizarre "cheeping" noises every time I allowed myself to relax. I couldn't even walk outside; all I found myself aware of was birds -- the birds everywhere. What kind of secret were they hiding? Did they *know?* Was there some sort of hermetic message coded into their random chirping? My research in this direction led me to discover that I was not the only one to ever pursue this course. I learned of a man named Abd Al-hazred, the so called "Mad Arab."
A mathematician in the dark ages, a time when the world of Islam was inventing algebra, the precursors to calculus, and bringing chemistry and medicine from the dark European cesspool of ignorance. . . . This Abd Al-hazred claimed to be able to interpret the sounds of tiny birds in the desert night, and he started to diagram the hieratic glyphs that he contended were their messages. The language of birds? He focused on desert birds such as the Frilled Sand Eb and the Tewed Titmouse, the Ubertweak and the Fretless Nicksucker; but could it not be *all* birds -- the Yellow-eyed Penguin, the Lynn Jackhurst, the enigmatic Glosterpigeon, the Gnat-a-Lee and the lowly quail? Could they really be communicating the secrets of the universe, openly, *mockingly?* This so-called "Mad Arab" then penned a book of circular symbols, a coded grimoire that he insisted contained the true shape of the universe. Called the "Qayl-Azif," this book was considered "blasphemous" by the strict Shiite critics of his day, and he was torn to shreds for his work, much like Jamis Qamer-On was before him in the City of Feglistia. . . . .
Would I, too, be torn to (somewhat less literal) shreds? Was my reputation up for a public desecration? Would I be demoted to the status of crank, of charlatan, of quack? (How ironic, I thought, about that last one.) Was I to fall from grace, and dwell in a hell of Beakerman Jacks, Mr. Wizards, and Bill Nye the Science Guy? Or -- and I shudder to pen this -- was I fated to become another Erich van Daniken?
Then came the most unsettling thing of all. One night, my wife and I were planning on going to the movies on Campus. And as I walked out to my car, my heart was struck in my chest by a sight I will never forget . . . there, scrawled into the layer of dust on my car, was -- was -- A CRUDE PICTURE OF A QUAIL. And there, in plain sight, underneath this horrifying image, were the words: "Hi Carl! I love your work. Just visiting a friend and seeing a Robyn Hitchcock Concert. Signed, your friend TGQ."
Hi Carl . . . .
My mind reeled. I staggered back, and darkness swirled down around my eyes. . . . when I came to, I was in Ithaca Polyclinic. . . .
What was happening to me?
Then I met my doctor. The man was positively condescending, an ugly little man with the face of a . . . .
. . of a mole.
How can I have never considered this? I immediately rushed out of the hospital and made my way back to my lab. All my previous work was suspended, and I set all my resources to finding Avagadro's Number to the umpteenth significant figure. . . . my eyes surely must have possessed the glazed light of the madman. When I went to call up Linus, I was told that he died a few years back. My God! Have I been in a fog that long?
Certainly my wife and children believed me mad - I came perilously near a divorce more than once, particularly after the insane fits of giggling at the Italian Market. ("Avacodos? Ha. Ha ha. ha ha ha, heh heh. NYAHHH ha h ha h hhhaaaa. . . ")
Then the day neared . . . the zeroes and ones, the binary systems that I had spent so long anticipating, began showing up. All that was left was to plug them into the matrix, to check their alignment. . . .
Silence enshrouded me as I began my work. You could have heard the sound of an electron quantum tunneling through Hawking's vocoder battery. The numbers began filling the screen.
My God, no.
NO!!!! Could it all be a joke?!?!?
NOooooooo. . . . .
For this is what I saw:
Could it be? The horror . . . the horror . . . . not only was the Divine Signature one of . . . those HIDEOUS birds, but Author of our Universe could only manage the most crude sketch of himself - no, of ITSELF. And those final words . . . a personal address to me? No . . . no, take it away, I cannot bear any more . . .
No. . . . .
I must publish this, I must. . . .
Well, Fegs, I just thought you might like to know. I should add though, that if the Gnostics are right about the Demiurge, we could all be in very big trouble. . . .
So I repeat again:
Do not go to the Quail's Party! Death or worse awaits you there!!!!!
--Professor Oswald Fane