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  • Title: Things Of Interest @ Things Of Interest
    Descriptive info: .. Things Of Interest.. Today in Things Of Interest.. Fiction.. Code.. Blog.. Meta.. Latest updates.. 2013-02-02:.. Time travel in Twelve Monkeys.. 2013-01-26:.. Y.. 2013-01-04:.. Password security in Deus Ex.. 2012-12-26:.. Invisibility theory.. 2012-12-21:.. Daemons.. 2012-11-11:.. The Seventh Impossible Thing.. 2012-10-06:.. Time travel in Looper.. 2012-09-17:.. Space Magic.. 2012-09-11:.. Learn Perl in about 2 hours 30 minutes.. 2012-09-02:.. Teaching Perl.. External links.. My writeups at Everything2.. Twitter:.. @qntm.. Contact.. About.. Site map.. Site admin.. 2004-11-12 Sam Hughes..

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  • Title: Fiction @ Things Of Interest
    Descriptive info: Things Of Interest.. Fiction.. Today in Fiction.. Ra.. (subdirectory).. 30 First Drafts.. Fine Structure.. Causal Noose.. The Vending Machine Murders.. The Difference.. Film Maker.. I don't know, Timmy, being God is a big responsibility.. First Contact: a retrospective.. Gorge.. The Last-But-One Question.. Valuable Humans In Transit.. The Four-And-A-Halfth Planet.. Lonely Photographer.. Forgotten things in space.. Ed stories.. 60-second plays.. The Time Of Vontus (TMV).. sam513.. Some particles just shouldn't be accelerated.. Asteroid McAlmont.. I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.. God Mode.. The Message.. Time Loop.. Tyro.. Back to Things Of Interest.. 2005-08-23 Sam Hughes..

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  • Title: Code @ Things Of Interest
    Descriptive info: Code.. This part of my site contains examples of my code, and the results from some small projects which I wrote code for.. I'm conversant in Perl, PHP, Python and Java and I'm currently getting to grips with C.. Most of these are finished one-time pieces of work.. Code is available on GitHub.. where appropriate.. Today in Code.. Perform bit shuffling operations in Python..  ...   or lambda calculus).. Solving Tetris in C.. The Bulb Dropping Problem.. More Loco examples.. Loco: parser combinators for PHP.. U.. S.. federal individual income tax rates history, 1913-2011.. Convert a context-free grammar to Chomsky Normal Form in PHP.. Compute the intersection of two regular expressions in Python 3.. Regular expression parsing in Python.. Finite state machines in Python.. HATETRIS.. Snake Cube.. 2011-04-16 Sam Hughes..

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  • Title: Blog @ Things Of Interest
    Descriptive info: Blog.. Today in Blog.. Crystal Maze Pub Crawl route v2.. 0.. Abandoned screenplay ideas.. Time travel grammar.. Hypertime: an excessively convoluted time travel framework.. Chess: THE MOVIE.. Thing I Have Learned About Software Testing.. When is a URL shortener not a URL shortener?.. Escaping strings for use at any command line.. Parser combinators explained.. The difference between top-down parsing and bottom-up parsing.. On short URLs.. Further staggery.. Stags.. Desert Island Beers.. Charts/graphs in Perl - some cautionary notes.. Human-powered spaceflight.. "Inbox Zero" is a thing?.. Tesla's Earthquake Machine Method.. Harder Core Than Thou.. One Chance.. Troll pi explained.. The goal of terrorism is not to inconvenience you at the airport.. Algorithm for converting a finite state machine into a regular expression.. Isle of Wight.. Solved: the Monopoly Pub Crawl.. Skynet: Behind the Music.. Wedding season II.. Wedding season.. A minimalist lifestyle does not make you a better person.. P versus NP for dummies.. Ice: a business proposal.. Stay classy, Newgrounds.. "Let's make it an option!".. SOLVED: Escaping strings in Bash.. The Supernova Method.. Why there will never be human-equivalent AI.. Let's enumerate the ways in which Student Finance England are incompetent.. Break it down.. SCARY ROBOTS.. The Thing About Facebook.. That way lies madness.. Regarding code.. If You Are Reading This.. So I guess the OoT WR just got halved?.. The Software Engineer Approaches Cookery.. Alphabet puB Crawl route v3.. A becomes B.. Longer Weekend.. Attention, Simon Pegg, Edgar Wright, Nick Frost, Jessica Stevenson:.. Insane NAS permissions problem (SOLVED).. Everything about driving is hateful except driving.. And now: a homeopathy joke.. Formal language.. Now for some movie mashups.. Alphabet puB Crawl route v2.. On perfection.. Spirit is nothing.. A McAfee Mystery.. Fixed: The Odd/Even Star Trek Movie Law.. Formal grammar.. Tweaks.. Caverns 00A 6:02 -> 4:24.. Gaz's top ten albums 2000-2009.. Notes on System z.. Alphabet puB Crawl route v1.. Pseudomathematics.. The twist ending of "Planet Of The Apes" (2001) explained.. z/OMG.. The Last James Bond Movie.. Crowdsourced atomic translation.. Monopoly Pub Crawl 2009 (plus call for ABC suggestions).. The year 2012 will not destroy the Earth.. A visceral response.. Age.. Oxjam 2009.. ELTCall.. Belated Interconnect Writeup.. SamTronic EtherStorage 2000.. Oyster ring.. Time travel in Primer.. Life at Intercontinental Business Machines.. Review: Star Trek.. On leaving Facebook.. Beer! Mermaids! Jazz! The grand Copenhagen birthday-meet of 2009.. Airport security randomiser.. Savoury Ice Cream Cone.. Everyone needs to drive a vehicle, even the very tall.. snow place like home.. The Last Calvin Hobbes.. Suicide Linux.. Charity Movie.. movies: the new radio.. FTL.. Record Your Whole Life.. CIA sitcom.. SciFiQuest.. New RSS feeds.. What I'm Doing Now.. He's Leaving Home (Flat Hunting II).. Licence To Drive.. Gay marriage: the database engineering perspective.. Flat Hunting I.. Norwich Beer Festival.. Planes on treadmills.. London.. Finally!.. The Sherbrook Road Anomaly.. New site design again.. Review: The Dark Knight.. Alphabet puB Crawl: attempt #1.. Bring back "Thunderbirds".. Resurrect "Men In Black".. Remake "Blake's 7".. Ocean's Eleven: The Series.. StickManStickMan.. Sticky Thirteens.. The Official 2012 Prophecy.. Sony Ericsson W580i review.. The Happenin'.. New commenting system.. Half-Life timeline v0.. 5.. Getting The Wii You Want.. Alphabet puB Crawl: reconnaissance.. somebody's been messing with my anti-paranoia medication.. Primer explained.. Homeless in Cambridge.. It's not every day you get two stories on the front page of reddit simultaneously.. Yes.. Terminator timeline.. At least it means I'm wise.. Let's talk about Everything2.. Happy new something something.. Now with MySQL!.. The mathematics of the Perfect Dark Elite.. AstroLander FAQ.. Bender's Big Score.. Busy few weeks.. The Paperful Office.. RM.. Another job change.. Groupama interview.. Belgium Beer Project 2007.. Review: The Simpsons Movie.. Monopoly Pub Crawl 2007!.. Barbecue! Plus, more failure.. The Fujitsu saga (ongoing).. Allianz Insurance interviews.. Failures of the Turing Test.. No.. Where The Difference came from.. Ericsson Interview III: The Search For Spock.. four more thoughts.. Equal height columns? Using CSS? Mathematically impossible.. four thoughts.. The Ericsson Interview Two.. The World's Largest Numbers, Part Two.. List of United States Presidents by intrinsic comedy value.. Should illegal numbers be possible?.. For no reason, here's the text version of Over Nine Thousand.. J is for Trip To Manchester.. An anticlimactic conclusion to the Kill Everyone Project.. 500 impersonations in 2 minutes - for real?.. The Continuing Happenings of Sam Hughes.. The World's Largest Numbers, Part One.. Neon Genesis Evangelion animated media run-down.. April Fool's Day 2007.. Some pertinent questions about the DC Universe.. Arguably the most important question of the decade.. What are you, America? Chicken?.. The Barcap Interview Two.. Ban Time Travel Now!.. Another  ...   to go to work the following morning.. The End Of College.. I feel ill.. Incomplete two-word sentences with which to end your life.. Worst Christmas Ever.. I got a 2:1!.. Palermo asteroid calculator.. The Piracy Calculator.. The Parting Of The Ways.. It's with great pleasure that I can announce.. How delightful!.. Boom Town.. The Doctor Dances.. The Empty Child.. Geocide podcast!.. My Perfect Dark strategies.. Father's Day.. serious misgivings about Perfect Dark Zero.. Time War comment.. RealID.. The Long Game.. Review: The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy.. Mr.. Hollands has done the honourable thing.. In which Sam votes.. poorer motivation each season.. Election drinking game.. Okay, so this guy has totally ripped off.. Dalek.. Did I mention I got bored.. Dang it.. Dan Shaw writes.. So here we are.. In addition to a new invisible hit counter.. Scene from 2001: A Space Odyssizzle.. GoldenEye versus Perfect Dark: the ultimate poll.. EXIT CATAM!.. Geocide - Mundicide.. World War Three.. The Cheesecake Challenge.. Lightsaber impressions.. Ikaruga.. A curiously similar article.. Aliens Of London.. I took the rather bold step today.. The New Tetris lost all its data.. The Unquiet Dead.. A lot of people are commenting on this Daily Grind Iron Man Challenge.. Stress.. Holy cow, I updated it.. So they want to extend Daylight Saving Time.. Powerpuff Girls anime!.. The End Of The World.. Time zones idea.. April Fools' Day 2005: Be Ready.. Geocide.. Rose.. The Air Quotation Marks Diversion.. Fire alarm.. Major update.. MegaTokyo Missed Comics Bulletin.. You have way too much time on your hands.. Things to consider when naming your child.. Looks like things are calming down somewhat.. Why ice cubes rock.. WHOAH.. Words fail me.. Web Design Rant.. Hello, world.. later today.. The first HTDTE spike.. I discovered that the server I'm using.. That didn't take as long as I thought.. laborious process of adding breadcrumbs.. There is a new HHGG movie coming out.. Andromeda collision video!.. The Official Lent Countdown.. tightened it up considerably.. You can consider yourself counter-pwned, Stacey.. Ode to the Elite.. Personal icons I have used.. My PDE career.. Why you should vote for me in the next Elite player battle.. FOR THE LOVE OF BOB.. Elvis: dead?.. mild food poisoning etc.. Freeow.. This is insanely annoying.. GoldenEye 007 masterclass: 1000% accuracy.. Wishlist entry: Super GoldenEye 007.. Level maps for Sonic 2, 3 K.. Titanic drinking game.. The final minutes of Mark and Lard.. How To Be A Man.. My GoldenEye 007 times.. An Unexpected PR.. January sales.. Derek Clark's GoldenEye 007 Dictionary.. The l33t alphabet.. Looks like the pattern was wrong.. Futurama timeline.. Golden rules of time travel.. Time travel gag.. Review: The worst web comic ever.. Anime Reviews Archive.. Review: The Animatrix.. Lectures are over for this term!.. Review: The Incredibles.. My lifetimer.. Blue?.. MUMP'D!.. Something to believe.. Okay, figured it out.. Apparently the page doesn't render quite right.. Accursed heating.. I changed the colours around.. Things mathematics has taught me.. Never get into an argument with a creationist about creationism.. Brains.. Review: Hellboy.. Actions have consequences.. StickManStickMan is ending.. The Immortality Principle.. Videogames are their own reward.. Review: Metroid Prime.. There is no such thing as Dragonball AF.. Review: Fit The Thirteenth of the Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy radio series.. Review: The Matrix Revolutions.. Thanks to the miracle that is CSS.. The Leaf Game.. Choosing an internet screen name.. Bad Wolf.. Review: Shaun Of The Dead.. Continuity in The Simpsons.. Lateral thinking puzzles, with solutions.. The Zen Of Snorlax.. Bagel incident.. Cheese Vodka.. Review: Equilibrium.. Review: The Matrix Reloaded.. Push Button Codes for Perfect Dark.. Jitter.. Making an F-16 from a cereal box, some Scotch tape, and a penny.. Review: The Dark Side Of The Sun.. Things to do on a bouncy castle.. What is the next number in the sequence 1, 1, 1, 1?.. Review: The Legend Of Zelda: The Wind Waker.. Culture ship names.. Mathematics is the surest way to immortality.. When I am king, Linear Maths will be the first against the wall.. Things to consider before applying to Corpus Christi College, Cambridge.. Videogame clichés.. Sitting eating a bagel.. So I found a pattern in the stock market.. The Meal Game.. The Penny Game.. Okay, so I lied.. My Perfect Dark times.. Smash a bunch of elderly PRs.. Non-update.. World record!.. *jaw drops*.. See my entry into the Five Minute Club.. Now is the winter of our discontent.. The 100% Update.. My First GE Update.. Agent under 30:00!.. My PD debut.. My first PDE post.. 2006-12-27 Sam Hughes..

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  • Title: Meta @ Things Of Interest
    Descriptive info: Today in Meta.. About me.. About this site.. Contact me.. Links.. 2005-11-10 Sam Hughes..

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  • Title: Time travel in Twelve Monkeys @ Things Of Interest
    Descriptive info: The simplest and by far the most consistent explanation for everything that happens in.. Twelve Monkeys.. is that there is exactly one timeline which cannot be altered.. Naturally, explaining everything in chronological order doesn't make for the most comprehensible explanation any more than it (ever!) makes for the most compelling story.. There's also no point in reciting the story from Cole's perspective because the movie (and, for example,.. Wikipedia's plot summary.. ) follows this very closely.. So for the sake of novelty I will take a different perspective, that of the heroes of the story: the scientists.. *.. In winter 1996/1997 a virus was distributed across the world.. The virus soon mutated, no cure could be found, and some five billion people - 99% of the human species - died.. The survivors retreated underground.. It's now about thirty years later, and the scientist/rulers of the world are working to take back the surface of the planet.. To do this, they need to gather a sample of the virus in its pure form, from before it mutated, and to do.. this.. they have developed a rudimentary form of time travel.. Because this form of time travel is dangerous, the people they choose to send back are convicted prisoners and many of the prisoners are mentally ill.. During early attempts, the "volunteers" arrive far too far in the distant past, where some of them go down in history as doomsday prophets.. "Science ain't an exact science with these clowns, but they're getting better.. You're lucky you didn't end up in ancient Egypt!".. Ignaz Semmelweis.. , mentioned in the movie as the father of germ theory, is possibly one of these volunteers.. Some volunteers arrive in the more recent history and become conventional placard-wielding "The End Of The World Is Nigh" types: "You! You're one of us!" (Of course, presumably not all such people are time travellers.. ) Even the completely sane "volunteers" are taken as insane by the people they meet, as well as being cursed with the "Cassandra complex" Railly refers to in her lecture - "the agony of foreknowledge combined with the impotence to do anything about it".. As a result, the scientists' information-gathering process is slow: "We've had some misfortunes with.. unstable types.. ".. The prophets in the Middle Ages would have had to hang around for years rather than days to make a mark on history.. And at the beginning of the movie Cole notes that "none of the volunteers come back", although his cellmate Jose corrects him with a slightly updated rumour that some do.. So it's likely that the "tracking" technology, whereby a tracker implanted in the volunteer's tooth can be used to bring the volunteer back to the present, isn't invented until later in the project, or that it malfunctions when a volunteer is sent too far into the past.. Plus, at least one of the volunteers removes his teeth to stay in the past rather than return to the relatively harsh present.. As time passes, the time travel technology improves, meaning that volunteers cluster and become more numerous towards the end of 1996.. As well as sending people into the past (and occasionally successfully bringing them back to the present for interrogating), the scientists are collecting archaeological data in the present: photographs, newspapers and audio data painstakingly reconstructed from old voicemail messages.. The information available to them is a confusing and contradictory hodge-podge of mostly garbage, analogous to the physical mess of technology that makes up their typical Terry Gilliam world.. Circumstantial evidence such as the "WE DID IT" graffiti has led them to the conclusion that the self-proclaimed Army of the Twelve Monkeys is the organisation responsible for the virus being released.. This is why, towards the end of 1996, Biblical Revelation types also seem to cluster around the building in Philadelphia where the Twelve Monkeys are based.. As we join the story the time machine is becoming more advanced and the scientists have run down their list of candidate agents to reach James Cole.. As the scientists probably do to every volunteer, they tell Cole they'll be sending him back to October 1996 and give him a big smile and a lot of confidence.. But they send Cole to Baltimore in April 1990 by mistake.. After a few days have passed, he is brought back to the present and interrogated.. At the same time, they have also just finished decoding the first telephone call:.. "The Freedom For Animals Association on Second Avenue is the secret headquarters of the Army of the Twelve Monkeys.. They're the ones who're going to do it.. I can't do any more.. I have to go now.. Have a merry Christmas!".. The scientists collectively make up a really interesting character.. On the first impression they were sinister and ineffable, a vaguely malicious pantheon ruling a harsh, permanent underground dystopia and testing their dangerous experimental time machine on semi-willing live volunteers.. It's when Cole comes back from his first trip through time that it becomes clear that this is an act.. Cole tells the scientists that they sent him to 1990 instead, and their mask slips.. Suddenly, they're looking around at each other, confused, double-checking their written notes, scrabbling to figure out what they did wrong.. They aren't wacky trickster gods messing with Cole's life  ...   will die too, but Twelve Monkeys has a happy ending.. Other observations.. Is Cole actually just "mentally divergent", and are the sequences in the future hallucinations?.. I don't think so.. The movie is dense with pointers towards this conclusion, far too many to list here.. The biggest problem is the World War I bullet retrieved from Cole's leg.. The sequence in WWI could be a hallucination like the rest, but the bullet is a physical inexplicable object and it's Railly, not Cole, who digs it out and can't explain it.. If Cole really is insane, then we're forced to conclude that the ballistics report scene,.. for which Cole isn't present.. , is also part of Cole's hallucinations, or that Railly has fully joined him in his psychosis and that the hallucination is hers.. If we accept this, so much of the movie has been called into question that we might as well throw our hands up and settle for "Everybody is crazy; nothing in the film is literally happening", which is admittedly not unsupportable:.. "Psychiatry, it's the latest religion.. We decide what's right and wrong, we decide who's crazy and not.. I'm in trouble here.. I'm losing my faith.. but is about as satisfying an explanation as "It's just a movie!".. In one of Cole's dreams, the man in the yellow jacket is clearly Jeffrey Goines, not Peters.. Yes, this is the third dream, occurring after Cole returns to the future the first time.. This is the only thing in the movie which doesn't fit my "single unmodifiable timeline" reading, an outlying data point.. On the one hand, it's just a dream, Cole isn't the world's sharpest mind, this is a memory from 30 years ago, Cole just ran into Goines for the first time but has never met Peters (and never will), and Cole has also just returned to the future, heavily drugged up.. But on the other hand, Cole is by all accounts "a good observer" and the rest of the dream seems to stay fixed each time he has it.. And as a third possibility, maybe this was just thrown in to stir the pot a bit and make everything line up a little less clearly.. Back to Blog.. Discussion (11).. 2013-02-02 20:28:00 by Sam:.. I'm going to put together some sort of system whereby all of my time travel writeups can be grouped.. 2013-02-03 02:14:30 by mavhc:.. Compare and contrast: http://www.. mjyoung.. net/time/monkeys.. html.. 2013-02-03 03:26:38 by Rafe:.. Ooh! Ooh! Do Homestuck next please!.. 2013-02-03 10:10:28 by Sgeo:.. Homestuck is still ongoing.. Although some time travel model is present, and.. looks complete, I can still think of at least one mystery in the model itself which may be significant.. Jr qb abg xabj jurer pybfrq gvzr ybbcf pbzr sebz.. Bsgra guvf vf n zlfgrel chfurq nfvqr sebz zrqvn gung unf gurz, ohg va Ubzrfghpx, gurer vf ng yrnfg fbzr fhttrfgvba gung vg'f eryrinag.. Qnir erznexf nobhg orvat hfrq gb ubj uvf vaghvgvba funcrf guvatf.. Gur ybbc vaibyivat Xnanln snvyvat gb gebyy Ebfr qvq abg vaibyir Ebfr orvat sbeprq gb pb-bcrengr jvgu n fgnoyr gvzr ybbc, engure, vg jnf qhr gb Wbua orunivat nppbeqvat gb uvf jvyy.. I remember seeing a post about that somewhere, but don't feel like looking right now.. 2013-02-03 18:05:37 by Silhalnor:.. At Sgeo,.. Did.. you just speak in grimdark? How am I supposed to read that? Is there a decoder somewhere?.. 2013-02-03 20:44:28 by Dan:.. No, he spoke in rot13, which I admit is a fairly clever and effective way to spoiler tag something that I've never seen anyone do before.. 2013-02-03 22:00:47 by Silhalnor:.. Ah, interesting.. Now I can decode it.. I'll have to learn how it works though.. interesting that it retains punctuation and normal word lengths.. It looks surprisingly similar to Rose's grimdark speech.. makes me wonder if I can decode that too.. I've got something to say about HomeStuck's time travel mechanics.. Spoiler.. V gubhtug n zber vagrerfgvat zlfgrel jnf jung znxrf Nycun Gvzryvarf fcrpvny.. Guvf unf svanyyl orra gbhpurq ba erpragyl fnlvat gung gur cngu gung Nycun gvzryvarf gnxr vf n cneg bs n ynetre orvat.. Nyy bgure gvzryvarf, gung vf gb fnl Qbbzrq gvzryvarf, ner phyyrq sbe vg'f jryy orvat.. For your convenience:.. http://rot13-encoder-decoder.. waraxe.. us/.. 2013-02-03 23:43:18 by Jon:.. You know not the magnitude of what you ask.. 2013-02-03 23:50:13 by Sam:.. I do, and I'm not doing it.. Homestuck is.. Biblically.. long and my eyes slide right off the web page after two slides of those interminable chat logs.. 2013-02-04 00:05:38 by MichaelGrosberg:.. There's also www.. rot13.. com - easier to remember.. 2013-02-04 04:22:24 by Silhalnor:.. I must agree to some extent about the chat logs.. At least, the ones from earlier in the comic.. Particularly the ones with Dave's raps.. It gets better later though.. Some people recommend skipping the first couple of acts altogether and going back to read them later on which might work for you, Sam.. If you care.. To return to the topic of time travel in 12 Monkeys; could it be that the scientists are mistaken and the time line can in fact be changed? Reminds me of The Terminator (just the first one) in which the machines believed that the time line was malleable but the ending implied otherwise.. add comment.. 2013-02-02 Sam Hughes..

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  • Title: Y @ Things Of Interest
    Descriptive info: How can a subroutine call itself without it knowing its own name?.. Contents.. Problem.. Fix #1: Symbolic references.. Fix #2:.. strict.. ness.. Fix #3: Anonymity.. Fix #4: Fixed-point combinators.. Fix #5: That was all a complete waste of time.. This is Perl.. In reality, my recursive subroutine was one designed to find the differences between two XML documents, but I don't have space for that, so instead I'll use, ugh, Fibonacci numbers:.. sub fib { my $n = shift; return $n == 0 ? 0 : $n == 1 ? 1 : fib($n-1) + fib($n-2); } print fib(17); # "1597".. One day I renamed the subroutine and forgot to refactor all of the calls to it, resulting in a runtime error:.. sub fibonacci { my $n = shift; return $n == 0 ? 0 : $n == 1 ? 1 : fib($n-1) + fib($n-2); } print fibonacci(17); # "Undefined subroutine main::fib called at asdf.. pl line 3".. This is a trivial defect to spot in this situation because it stands out a mile off, but my XML differ was a few pages long and I'd forgotten that it was recursive, so I got tripped up.. This is something that has tripped me up exactly once ever, due entirely to my own incompetence, so of course I was given to wonder how I could fix it programmatically so that it never happened again.. Two useful pieces of information led to an initial fix.. Firstly, Perl has a concept called.. symbolic references.. Any time you would use a bareword to refer to a package variable (not a lexical variable!) or to a subroutine, you can instead put a scalar containing that package variable or subroutine's name as a string.. Here's what happens if we do this to a package variable.. $main::hats.. :.. our $hats = 78; my $varname = "hats"; print $varname; # "hats" print $hats; # "78" print ${ $varname }; # "78" print $$varname; # "78" since you can omit the braces.. Similarly for a subroutine.. main::scarfs.. sub scarfs { return 56; } my $subname = "scarfs"; print $subname; # "scarfs" print scarfs(); # "56" print scarfs(); # "56", using the now-optional " " sigil to explicitly denote a subroutine call print { $subname }(); # "56"; the " " here is.. not.. optional print $subname(); # "56"; nor here print $subname- (); # "56"; this also works.. Secondly, Perl has the useful built-in function,.. caller.. , which returns a list of useful items of data about the current stack trace.. caller 0.. will give you information about the current stack frame,.. caller 1.. for the frame above that, and so on (give or take the complicated edge-case behaviour that all Perl functions display).. The stack frame that we care about is frame 0, the current subroutine call, and the item in the returned list that we care about is at index 3, which returns the current subroutine name, including package:.. sub scarfs { my $subname = (caller 0)[3]; return $subname; } print scarfs(); # "main::scarfs".. So here's a full solution:.. sub fibonacci { my $subname = (caller 0)[3]; my $n = shift; return $n == 0 ? 0 : $n == 1 ? 1 : $subname- ($n-1) + $subname- ($n-2); # no explicit "fibonacci" required } print fibonacci(17); # "1597".. But I've forgotten a couple of things.. As we all know, every Perl script or module should always begin with the same two lines:.. use strict; use warnings; sub fibonacci { my $subname = (caller 0)[3]; my $n = shift; return $n == 0 ? 0 : $n == 1 ? 1 : $subname- ($n-1) + $subname- ($n-2); } print fibonacci(17); # 'Can't use string ("main::fibonacci") as a subroutine ref while "strict refs" in use at asdf.. pl line 7'.. Whoops!.. So now we've learned something about Perl that's worth knowing.. The.. pragma invoked by.. use strict;.. introduces three different types of strictness, which you can actually enable (or disable) separately if needed.. One of these is called.. strict refs.. , and what this does is explicitly disable the symbolic reference behaviour shown above, which is actually considered unsafe compared to Perl's more explicit and sensible reference-making behaviour, which is always available even with.. enabled, and which works like this:.. my $hats = 78; # works for both lexical and package variables my $varref = $hats; print $varref; # e.. g.. "SCALAR(0x4afeb0)" print $hats; # "78" print ${ $varref }; # "78" print $$varref; # "78".. sub scarfs { return 56; } my $subref = scarfs; print $subref; # e.. "CODE(0x4afec8)" print scarfs(); # "56" print scarfs(); # "56" print { $subref }(); # "56" print $subref(); # "56" print $subref- (); # "56".. So now it looks like we're out of luck.. Perl's.. function cheerfully returns a subroutine name for the current stack frame, but it does not return a subroutine.. reference.. , nor is there any other way in Perl to get hold of this from inside the call itself.. Oh wait, yes there is.. use strict; use warnings; sub fibonacci { my $subname = (caller 0)[3]; my $subref = $subname; # uh, what my $n = shift; return $n == 0 ? 0 : $n == 1  ...   subroutine.. is! All we need to do is find.. 's fixed point - if there is one? - and we're home and dry.. Is there such a fixed point? In fact, mathematically, we can guarantee that it exists, no matter what form.. happens to take.. And can we produce it? Yes, we can, using a.. A fixed-point combinator is a magical function which takes another function as input and.. returns that function's fixed point as its output.. There are infinitely many fixed-point combinators and all of them are brain-wrenchingly complicated.. One of them is known as the.. combinator, and is supplied below.. use strict; use warnings; package ThirdParty; # Take a subroutine as input, return its fixed point as output sub Y { my $subref = shift; my $Y2 = sub { my $x = shift; my $Y3 = sub { return $x- ($x)- (@_); }; return $subref- ($Y3); }; return $Y2- ($Y2); }; sub dispense_bespoke_recursive_subroutine { # Start with an anonymous subroutine whose fixed point happens # to be the desired Fibonacci subroutine my $fib_incomplete = sub { my $subref = shift; return sub { my $n = shift; return $n == 0 ? 0 : $n == 1 ? 1 : $subref- ($n-1) + $subref- ($n-2); }; }; # Find that subroutine's fixed point my $fibonacci = Y($fib_incomplete); # Return it return $fibonacci; } return 1;.. Your code is simply:.. use strict; use warnings; require ThirdParty; my $fibonacci = ThirdParty- dispense_bespoke_recursive_subroutine(); print $fibonacci- (17); # "1597".. This essay is actually my third and hopefully final attempt to decode for myself exactly what it is that the.. combinator does, and why it is useful.. During this long period of incomprehension, I decided, among other things, that it would probably be easier for me to directly modify my programming language of choice to be able to call.. the current subroutine.. using some special new keyword, than for me to actually understand how the.. combinator works.. It's fitting, then, that.. this has now happened.. As of Perl version 5.. 16, you can just do:.. use strict; use warnings; package ThirdParty; sub dispense_bespoke_recursive_subroutine { return sub { my $n = shift; return $n == 0 ? 0 : $n == 1 ? 1 : __SUB__- ($n-1) + __SUB__- ($n-2); }; } return 1;.. We're stuck on 5.. 8 at work, and many programming languages still lack this feature.. Nevertheless, I'm glad to be rid of this ridiculous problem once and for all.. Back to Code.. Discussion (10).. 2013-01-26 14:37:29 by Homer:.. Regarding your original problem: What IDE do you use? Eclipse at least offers a (depending on the language) reasonably reliable rename refactoring (plus hotkey) that updates references and comments.. 2013-01-26 15:14:33 by jason:.. Does this have anything to do with your Ra story? It sound suspiciously similar to that quine and True Name aliasing technique.. 2013-01-26 22:06:48 by Baughn:.. That was hilarious, do it again!.. In all seriousness, if you want to understand the Y combinator, I'd suggest looking at Haskell instead.. The Haskell version (fix) is defined much more directly, as 'fix f = let x = f x in x', leaning on laziness to make it work.. One of the common uses is, indeed, to get a reference to an anonymous function.. 2013-01-27 06:47:09 by Isaac:.. I know nothing of perl yet still enjoyed reading this for some reason.. 2013-01-27 10:15:49 by aaroncrane:.. Thanks, I enjoyed this piece.. It is deliberate that Perl's "strict refs" allows symbolic references to subroutines.. The documentation (see "perldoc strict") says that this "is allowed so that "goto $AUTOLOAD" would not break under stricture.. " (Myself, I'd prefer "strict refs" to complain about " $name", but I think that's quite unlikely to change.. 2013-02-02 15:11:30 by Sam:.. Having just read the documentation about AUTOLOAD and the goto $subname; formation, I see the uses of both.. I agree with you that goto $subname; isn't a compelling enough reason to break strict subs, though.. Surely it would be easy enough to modify the goto built-in so that it also allows goto $subref; ?.. 2013-02-02 22:03:20 by aaroncrane:.. Hi, Sam.. I’m not sure I follow your question — "goto $subref" already works.. More generally, I definitely agree that the use case — letting people do "goto $AUTOLOAD" (and therefore "goto $subname") in an AUTOLOAD routine with "strict refs" in scope — could have been solved in a way more targetted to that particular goal.. (Or, hey, such people could be invited to do "no strict 'refs'" before such a goto; that’s hardly a significant burden in code that’s already doing something crazy enough to need an AUTOLOAD.. ) But, still, the fact that "use strict" has had its current behaviour for a couple of decades means that we’re probably stuck with it the way it is.. 2013-02-02 22:15:07 by Sam:.. Ah, goto $subref; does work.. I thought it didn't.. Wait, so if goto $subref; works, why does anybody care about goto $subname; being disabled?.. 2013-02-04 17:00:30 by PhantomHoover:.. Er, doesn't the Y combinator only work in languages with non-strict evaluation?.. 2013-02-04 18:38:14 by Sam:.. In its original form, yes, but here I use the eta-expanded version from the bottom of this section:.. https://en.. wikipedia.. org/wiki/Fixed-point_combinator#Y_combinator.. 2013-01-26 Sam Hughes..

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  • Title: Password security in Deus Ex @ Things Of Interest
    Descriptive info: Deus Ex (every time you mention it, someone reinstalls it) takes place in a 2050s future world at the tipping point between dystopia and flat-out chaos.. It's also a game world filled to the brim the computer terminals and numeric keypads, roughly half of which must be used to advance through the game.. While it's possible to hack terminals and use multitools to bypass keypads, hacking is time-consuming and risky while multitools are in finite supply, which means you end up collecting usernames and passwords from dozens of different sources.. Because so many of these logins and codes appear in the game, some interesting patterns emerge.. As is true in every aspect of videogames, making a game which is realistic is a goal totally opposed with making a game which is enjoyable to play.. Player character JC Denton is improbably difficult to see or hear, even when crouching in the peripheral vision of a guard in a brightly-lit corridor.. Buildings have navigable ventilation shafts; security cameras are placed nonsensically, creating networks of blind spots.. And password security is unrealistic.. It's both unrealistically bad and unrealistically good.. A complete list of this data can be found.. here.. Data in this list falls into three broad categories, which overlap somewhat:.. Information.. given to you explicitly.. while playing the game.. Information gathered by delving into the game's code.. Information that you can guess.. The third category is probably the most interesting one and should definitely be examined first.. Technically, every code in the game is amenable to a brute-force approach, and this actually becomes a legitimate in-game approach for the two-digit codes.. But some others are clearly intended to be guessed from clues, by a smart player.. Here's a great example, found in Maggie Chow's apartment:.. Hello Maggie! I swear I will never forget your birthday again! July 18th is marked on my calendar forever! -- Louis.. When you run into a three-digit keypad elsewhere in Maggie's apartment, guess what the code turns out to be?.. Codes are the most frequently guessable, but some logins can also be guessed.. Usernames across the entire game - and in every organisation, from UNATCO to MJ12 - tend to fall into the pattern of "character's first initial followed by character's surname".. That leads to this, split across two datacubes hidden separately in (again) Maggie Chow's apartment:.. When you have the time, May-Sung, I would suggest that you read two of my favorite books: Insurgent and Tai-Fun.. I believe you’ll find both of them as illuminating as I have.. They’re in my office if you’d like to borrow them.. -Maggie.. Hundley, It has become necessary to change my system password since it may have become compromised; I will encrypt the new password and forward it to you shortly.. Please note that any access attempts made using "Tai-Fun" should be tagged and traced for interrogation.. -Maggie Chow.. These make for cool puzzles.. Others in the cryptic-but-potentially-guessable category include.. bduclare.. /.. nico_devil.. (only guessable after the separate login.. nico_angel.. is revealed elsewhere) and.. ajacobson.. calvo.. ("CALVO" is printed on a poster in Alex's office).. There are also a few situations where you have only the password to the system, and have to guess the username, which is neat because usernames in the game tend to conform to the same pattern of first-initial-followed-by-surname.. At the next tier up in difficulty, there are logins which a player of a mere computer game would probably not have the motivation to guess, but which are still extremely insecure by real-world standards because of their relative obviousness.. The freighter captain, Kang Zhao, has the login.. kzhao.. captain.. (and the datacube with this information is stored right there in his cabin next to the computer!), while the free clinic secretary Alice Priest's login is.. alice_priest.. secretary.. (Amusingly, the doctor's password is.. apple.. ) Several times, multiple users can be found sharing the same password.. On the username front, we find that the entire NSF are apparently sharing the single username.. nsf.. , shoddy for an otherwise well-equipped domestic terrorist organisation.. Majestic-12, with a hundred times the NSF's reach and resources, are doing the same with the username.. mj12.. Moving out of the blindingly obvious, we find many passwords are still single dictionary words like.. chameleon.. ,.. zeitgeist.. and.. armageddon.. After that are memorable combinations of multiple dictionary words such as.. smashthestate.. oceanguard.. bionicman.. Passwords only rarely include a combination of letters and numbers and are generally still pretty straightforward in this case:.. bravo13.. 5x5.. (three characters!),.. omega2a.. Only very few passwords contain an underscore (e.. knight_killer.. ), which is the only non-alphanumeric character used.. Probably the password that would take the most time to crack in reality is one of  ...   I never finished Deus Ex a decade ago and haven't even played the reboot.. 2013-01-05 08:38:02 by Zarkonnen:.. My girlfriend and I were talking about Deus Ex passwords just yesterday, noting how realistically terrible and lazy the passwords tended to be.. It's also worth noting that you can often acquire passwords via some very basic social engineering - passing homeless people have often overheard a password or code, or corrupt or disenchanted employees can be cajoled or bribed into giving you information.. Really, the icing on the cake would've been if you could switch into a delivery man's or electrician's uniform and wander into secure areas by looking like you're meant to be there.. The fact that you're a stone-faced trenchcoated cyborg does put a bit of a limit on the social engineering.. 2013-01-05 09:16:30 by PunchmasterJenson:.. RE: Zarkonnen.. In part of the new prequel I bluffed my way past a security check by telling some armed guard or other I was there to fix a gas leak in the top-secret part of the building.. 2013-01-05 10:17:31 by Arik:.. Unfortunately, the poor password selection and credential sharing is all too similar to reality, as well as the practice of selecting common objects in the terminal's surroundings and/or adding a contact to your phone with the password.. Choosing 4 digit keypads to protect assets I would personally post an armed guard to protect is also not unheard of.. Those proximity cards that look very cool are also quite easy to duplicate; yet they seem to be the de-facto standard for secure installations.. I've seen worse.. -- Arik.. 2013-01-05 16:49:25 by ChrisTodd:.. I was one of the writers on Deus Ex and responsible for almost all of the datacubes, books, e-mails, etc.. You have no idea how difficult it was to keep coming up with semi-plausible reasons why everyone kept leaving their password information out in the open everywhere.. :) And yes, real-world password best practices definitely took a backseat to wordplay.. We had to keep ourselves entertained somehow.. :).. 2013-01-06 16:43:23 by P:.. 3 digits was deemed enough for the door to the Chemistry prep room at school.. I started brute force at 100.. The code was 147.. Free magnesium ribbon for experiments!.. 2013-01-13 16:04:40 by Chutney:.. Interesting article.. Most of my universities user names follow a similar and very predictable format.. Passwords have to contain both numbers and letters, but can often be guessed for logins that are surposed to be used by multiple individuals because they are usually some reference to the building, or group name, followed by a number or 2.. I also do some research work for a utilities company.. Its quite easy to break in to their systems too.. You just wander into the office (follow someone else through any electronic locks) pick a computer and use the phone next to it to call IT and tell them you forgot your password.. If you can give them a user name (standard across the company, forename surname) they will reset your password to something very basic like Hello123.. This system exists because many modern companies require everyone to change their password every month.. So everyone forgets their passes easily and needs resets very often.. This sort of setup is not uncommon.. 2013-01-13 17:13:19 by Lith:.. The true test of a Deus Ex user/pass junkie is.. what is wgibson's password, and why is this cool?.. 2013-01-14 13:09:21 by stkaye:.. One of my favourite moments from Deus Ex: First playthrough, early level where you need to get into the terrorist hideout in Castle Clinton in battery park.. Three-digit code on a ramp leading down.. Just heard a tramp muttering about hell on earth, or a trooper about how it's hell down there, something like that.. Just about to save and quit.. Tried, without expectation, 666.. Played for another 4 hours.. 2013-01-15 16:42:01 by rapchee:.. Lith: cyberspace? sprawl? neuromancer? if it was a genuine gibson pwd, probably it'd be impossible to guess.. 2013-01-16 08:47:12 by lith:.. SPOILER!.. rapchee: so close! It's entirely more appropriate for the game - it's idoru.. All Gibson's works are appropriate for DX, yes, but this one slightly more so.. I loved that egg.. It wasn't easy to find, but it also didn't involve delving into the game's code.. In Versalife, if you hack one of the computers, you see the user lists, and one of the names is one not found anywhere else - wgibson.. (It's not any computer, by the way - it's only one of the dozens in the building.. ) I did have to guess the password, though.. It gives you some nice insight into the guys like Chris Todd who wrote the game.. 2013-01-04 Sam Hughes..

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  • Title: Invisibility theory @ Things Of Interest
    Descriptive info: As part of.. I realised that I needed a character to become invisible.. Since this requirement is coming up quite soon I decided to sit down and work out how this cloak of invisibility would work.. I ran into some interesting problems.. It turns out that becoming invisible is less than half of the problem.. I haven't written any more of Ra yet, so the cloak might not come into the story in the next chapter, or even at all.. Even if it does appear, the cloak might not function as described below, and even if that's the case I probably won't spend a huge amount of time laboriously explaining the full mechanism behind it in the story.. So, other than the fact that an invisibility cloak might appear in Ra in the future, this article contains no spoilers.. What you should already know.. Here are two things that have already been established in the story.. The chapter.. What You Don't Know.. covers this in detail.. Firstly, there is a special kind of mana called "chi" (the Greek letter Χ) which is given off whenever magic spells are carried out.. Chi mana exists only in very small quantities.. The universe is almost completely dark in the chi spectrum.. Chi mana is also very weakly interacting.. It passes through physical matter (including human bodies) with ease.. They are most similar to real neutrinos, except that the universe is flooded with neutrinos whereas chi particles are very rare.. Secondly, there are special magic rings called "oracles".. An oracle is enchanted so that when a chi particle passes its mouth, it is transmuted into a photon of visible light.. moving in the same direction.. By holding an oracle up and looking through it, you can essentially "see magic".. Augmented reality for mages.. A third fact revealed in other chapters (starting in.. Sufficiently Advanced Technology.. ) is that there exist full-body magic shields.. When using one, the wearer is enclosed by a surface set a few centimetres out from his or her skin, which can absorb physical attacks.. Naturally, this closed "bubble" contains only a small amount of air, but this is a secondary problem.. Transparency in the visible spectrum.. Invisibility cloak #1.. Within the rules already described, it's quite easy to conceive of a magic shield ("cloak") whose surface is enchanted to function like an oracle.. This would allow you to see magic in whatever direction you looked.. What is also easy to conceive of is an oracle which works in exactly the opposite fashion to a conventional oracle: it converts photons of visible light into invisible chi particles.. Looking through such an oracle, you would see only perfect darkness.. Given these two developments, it's easy to devise a cloak of invisibility:.. Make a shield which operates like an "opposite oracle" on the way in, and like a conventional oracle on the way out.. Watch what happens when a photon of visible light passes through you while wearing this cloak:.. The photon of visible light hits the surface of the cloak from the outside.. The photon is converted to a chi particle which passes into the cloak interior.. The chi particle hits the surface of your skin from the outside and passes into your body, unchanged.. The chi particle hits the surface of your skin from the inside and passes out into the cloak interior, still unchanged.. The chi particle hits the surface of the cloak from the inside.. The chi particle is converted back into a photon of visible light which passes out into reality.. Thus, all the light falling on the cloak is eventually emitted in the same direction from the far side of the cloak, and what a person standing on the far side of you sees is exactly what they would expect to see if both you and the cloak were not there.. The cloak and everything inside it is invisible!.. Some additional assumptions have to be made here for this to work:.. That the different visible wavelengths (colours) of photons can be put into a correspondence to different wavelengths of chi particles, and that this transformation can be reversed.. If the chi particles are not of different "wavelengths", they must at least be able to differ from each other along.. some.. kind of usable spectrum (which, for the sake of argument, we shall refer as "wavelengths" from here on).. Otherwise, at point.. S.. when we receive a random chi particle, we have no way of knowing what colour of photon to turn it back into.. That the transformations at the cloak and at your skin occur instantaneously, or at least very quickly.. Any kind of delay in propagation results in a curious "delay" effect whenever the "invisibility" cloak is moving.. The background image projected forwards will be out of date, making it possible to tell where the cloak is, although it would admittedly be much more difficult to see than you just standing there.. That chi particles in flight move at the speed of light, or at least very quickly, for the same reason.. I'm going to go ahead and dismiss these issues for now because from a storytelling perspective I can just say "yes, this is all the case" quite easily without it being too implausible given what we already "know".. There's one other issue which is much harder to crack.. You're blind while you're wearing the cloak! It's pitch black in there!.. Visible light cannot enter the cloak from the outside: it is.. all.. converted into chi particles.. You're invisible, but you also can't see out of the cloak.. This problem arises in other models of fictional invisibility too: for example, if you have your body chemistry somehow altered so that visible light passes through you, or are somehow "shifted out of phase with the universe".. Human vision works like this: a photon falls on your eyeball, your retina absorbs the photon, and a nerve impulse sends the image to your brain.. If you can see, then a person standing behind your retina should at the very least notice a dark patch in mid-air where this absorption is taking place.. Conversely, if you are invisible, then photons passing through your eyeball must pass through without being absorbed: thus, you cannot see.. Invisibility cloak #2.. The solution to this problem is to modify our cloak so that it lets the light through.. as well as.. creating chi particles.. Let's see what happens now:.. The photon is left unchanged, but a chi particle is also generated.. The photon and the chi particle hit the surface of your body - your retina, let's say.. The photon is absorbed (and seen) but the chi passes through.. The chi particle emerges unchanged from the back of your head.. The chi particle hits the surface of the cloak from the inside and is converted back into a photon.. Great: you can see again.. But you're not invisible anymore.. Firstly, when the photon hits your body it may be reflected (or re-emitted) instead of being absorbed.. When the re-emitted photon arrives back at the cloak surface, it'll escape without a problem.. You're now plainly visible again.. Worse, the cloak is a few centimetres thick.. It's quite possible for an incoming photon to pass through the cloak and straight out again without passing through the wearer's body.. In this case, see what happens:.. Both the photon of visible light and the chi particle hit the surface of the cloak from the inside.. The chi particle is converted back into a photon while the original photon is unchanged.. There are now two photons.. Your cloak of invisibility now not only leaves you completely visible but wraps your whole person in a few-centimetres-thick glowing shround of amplified light!.. Invisibility cloak #3.. Let's make a second modification to our cloak.. Make it so that visible light exiting the cloak is suppressed.. Now, light rebounding off your brightly-coloured clothing doesn't escape, so you can't be seen.. And let's look at the edge of the cloak:.. Photon enters the cloak.. Becomes a photon + chi particle.. Photon and chi particle both exit the cloak.. The photon is absorbed.. The chi particle is converted to a photon identical to the original.. Great.. We're now totally invisible - which is to say that we are transparent in the visible spectrum - but we can also see perfectly!.. There's only one small drawback, which is that torches don't work.. In fact, philosophically speaking, torches.. cannot.. work if you wish to remain invisible.. A torchbeam, by definition, gives away your location! Invisibility means that light emitted by you - regardless of source - must not escape the cloak where it can be seen by hunters.. A laser sight would have the same problem.. Of course, if it's so dark that you need a torch, it's probably also so dark that a cloak of invisibility is of no particular use.. So, this would be a good place to stop in most cases.. Transparency in the chi spectrum.. Now let's consider a different problem.. With cloak #3, you can't be seen if visible light falls on you.. But what if there's a chi source nearby?.. Chi particle enters the cloak.. It passes through unaltered.. Chi particle enters your body unaltered.. Chi particle exits your body unaltered.. Chi particle exits the cloak.. It is converted into some sort of visible photon.. Oh, snap! All a hunter needs to do is put a significant chi source behind you (who are normally invisible) and when you walk in front of it you'll light up in brightly visible purple and orange! We need to reconfigure our shield again.. But we can't modify the cloak exit transition, because that'll break our transparency in the visible spectrum.. We have to do something to the cloak entry transition.. Invisibility cloak #4.. Let's change our cloak entry transition so that it destroys incoming chi particles.. It is absorbed.. Darkness.. Nothing exits the cloak.. What we now have is a cloak which is invisible as usual but whose interior is completely dark in the chi spectrum.. If you walk in front of a chi source, you'll absorb all of it.. The only way the hunter could see you is if the hunter is watching through an oracle of his or her own.. Through the oracle, you would show up as a big dark shadow.. At least we've made things harder.. Is this the best we can do? Can we be transparent in the entire visible spectrum.. and.. the entire chi spectrum simultaneously?.. Invisibility cloak #5.. Um, yes.. But the solution suddenly becomes much less elegant.. The major problem is this:.. The spectrum of visible and magical radiation falling on your cloak must be exactly the same as the spectrum of visible and magical radiation that leaves it.. All of the information stored in this spectrum has to be retained in transit somehow.. But when visible light hits your skin, it's absorbed.. This destroys some of the information.. That means that the information stored in the visible part of the spectrum has to be stored somewhere else in the spectrum while it's in transit through the cloak (and possibly your body), then restored.. The logical place to put this information is in a dedicated section of the chi spectrum.. But that means that the information previously stored in that dedicated section of the chi spectrum is destroyed instead.. Where do we put it? How can we find room?.. There are several approaches available here, of differing levels of complexity.. Here's one:.. Take the entire original spectrum of both visible and magical radiation.. Compress the spectrum horizontally so that the whole thing will fit just in the chi wavelengths.. Store this compressed spectrum in the chi wavelengths as you'd expect, BUT also retain all of the original visible light information in the visible part of the spectrum.. Notice how the new spectrum has two copies of the original visible light information.. The new spectrum hits your body, and much of the visible part of the spectrum is absorbed (i.. e.. you can see it).. No matter: we have a copy of this information encoded into the chi part.. When the radiation exits the cloak, reverse this transformation.. First, discard all the visible light, whether it's a photon that passed through unaltered, a photon emitted from a torch or simple darkness.. Next, take the chi part of the spectrum and expand it to cover both the chi and visible parts of the spectrum as before.. The above solution assumes - dubiously - that there is infinite granularity in the range of possible chi wavelengths (or, if not, that the two transformations don't result in a noticeable loss of fidelity).. Another solution would involve no "compression" in the spectral information, but just moving all the wavelengths "up by one" so that they are no longer visible.. This in turn requires that there are infinitely many available chi wavelengths, such that this wavelength shift can be carried out for incoming information of any wavelength.. Both of these alternatives require us to introduce some further assumptions about the nature of magic.. As a writer of fiction, I'm able to wave my hands around as much as I like to justify these assumptions, but I'm sure you'd agree that there's a distinct loss of elegance the more I do this.. These solutions can be broadened to accommodate more forms of incoming radiation, with a commensurate increase in technological difficulty because of the extra compression required.. For example, it would probably be desirable to be invisible in infrared as well.. Invisibility cloak #6.. These solutions become more troublesome if we add more requirements.. We've already established that, while wearing the cloak, you want to be able to see in the visible spectrum.. What if you want to be able to see in the chi spectrum as well (i.. by using a conventional oracle under the cloak, in the form of a monocle or similar)? Suddenly you have a requirement to let the chi spectrum through unaltered as well.. It would presumably be possible to use a more advanced transformation to let a narrow band of chi mana through unaltered while storing all of the necessary information in side-bands.. But if you want to be able to see the.. whole.. chi spectrum, you've run out of places to store this information.. Essentially, the problem becomes one of out-of-band signalling.. You have a requirement to be able to observe and therefore.. absorb.. the entire spectrum of information falling on your cloak.. But you also need to store all of that information unmodified.. somewhere.. so that it can be rebroadcast on the other side of your cloak.. This means that you have to pick some sort of out-of-band signal to use: not chi particles, not visible light.. One option might be radio, but now you're in a situation where any passing radio broadcast causes you to shine like a light, just like the chi source did! Another option is conventional electronic circuits.. But in that situation you've not only sacrificed your lightweight magical shield for a physical object which you have to.. carry.. , you've also basically built real, fully non-magical thermoptic camouflage, making no use of the convenient chi phenomenon at all!.. We can do better.. The last solution is to add your selective "oracle" capability to the invisibility shield itself.. This means that all the information you desire is crammed into the visible spectrum in some form at cloak entry, then safely discarded at cloak exit.. Conclusions.. If you already have the literally magical technology that is necessary to become invisible, you are.. still.. going to have a hard time getting practical use out of it, because you have to be able to see.. I now have  ...   be able to manipulate objects or do you just need to hide? Do you need to hide footprints, air currents, and other physical activity?.. 2012-12-29 09:10:48 by john:.. What you need is a purely magical surface which converts photons to chi-band mana and vice versa, as efficiently as possible, forming a bubble around the thing you want to hide, with any supporting devices inside the bubble.. Ideally, waste chi from the invisibility spell itself gets translated to something mostly outside the visible spectrum; radio waves if you can swing it, lots of background noise there.. Inside the bubble you can navigate by watching pre-existing chi sources, potentially planting new chi sources specifically as navigational beacons, sound, dead reckoning, or (depending on bubble size) by looking at what you're standing on.. Speaking of which, the other flaw in this strategy is that you can spot a divot seemingly cut out of the ground wherever the invisible person is standing, or any other surface they get too close to, if they're not extremely clever about the positioning.. Logical fix for that would be to build it into a wheelchair, so distance between the machinery and the ground can be kept constant while moving.. 2012-12-29 10:18:33 by JohnF:.. What is the propagation speed of chi particles? If they propagate at exactly the speed of light regardless of the medium they travel through, then there would be refraction induced at the conversion surface.. I would think that refraction would occur regardless of the mechanism that oracles operate by, because refraction is caused by how the differing propagation speed affects the impacting particle's wavefront.. The index of refraction in air at STP is 1.. 000277, which would give a critical angle of 88.. 15 degrees.. So there would be total internal (actually external because the air outside the cloak is the denser medium) reflection of all incident light which strikes at angles greater than that.. I suspect this would be noticeable as a faint silvery outline.. You could handwave this away by saying that refraction simply doesn't occur, but that feels unsatisfying to me.. 2012-12-29 10:47:07 by Eleanor:.. Divot cut out of the ground doesn't really apply.. Yes the shield is defined as being a few centimeters out from the wearer's skin, but it's also defined as able to block physical objects.. That blocking means the shield butts up against the ground rather than penetrating into the surface.. No part of the ground is allowed inside, which means you don't have the problem of the floor going invisible beneath you.. However that does remind us that you'll still leave conventional footprints in any soft surface, and disturbances in any other soft material you contact.. The user who's smart and paranoid enough to make a level-4 or higher cloak must also be smart and paranoid enough never to walk on a grass surface or stand amid blowing leaves.. Best they stay in an enclosed environment where everything is bare concrete or linoleum.. 2012-12-29 18:09:18 by Silhalnor:.. john, my interpretation of how magic works suggests that the waste chi will be emitted from the bubble's surface and within which means that there is not a chance for the waste chi to pass through the bubble.. Of course this is speculation based of observations in the story and extrapolation from real world physics (eg.. a black body cannot influence the radiation it emits) so I could certainly be wrong (especially if there is hand waving involved, haha) but I don't believe it should work.. I would like to say that Arik's solution is the most elegant solution here, at least for photon invisibility.. It has a flaw; the user's goggle mounted oracle will cast a shadow but this is easily solved, albeit by reducing the elegance somewhat.. What you need to do is have the goggles act like cloak #2 and leave the chi particles undisturbed while producing new photons.. When a photon hits it you'd probably want it destroyed to ensure that no visible light escapes your cloak.. Ignoring waste chi (and immense energy expenditure and potentially insufficient space for data) I think my addition above is the only one here one that works perfectly in both the chi and optical bands.. It is the same as Sam's cloak #5 (the cloak encodes incoming photon and chi particles into compressed data and decodes it back on the other side) but with the addition of an oracle on your person that decodes the chi data out of your compressed data and emits it as visible light, leaving the original chi particles alone of course.. Waste chi from both the cloak and the oracle would produce interference though so the chi bands used would have to exceed a minimum brightness or amplitude.. This, in effect would both increase energy expenditure even further and take away storage space.. 2012-12-29 18:12:17 by ComputerSherpa:.. From a storytelling point of view, having the cloak be imperfect turns it from being a boring magical technology into an interesting plot device.. A cloak that requires active, skillful management from its user is more engaging than something that makes you automatically undetectable.. I like the idea of an operative who has to hide from his pursuers in the electromagnetic spectrum as well as in real space.. Give the cloak a knob so its user can choose which frequency light will be stored in, as well as a full black mode that gives you perfect invisibility in exchange for blindness.. This allows you to showcase just how good a stealth operative the cloak's user is, and forces him to resort to luck and dead reckoning when he finally encounters an enemy that can afford full-spectrum jamming.. 2012-12-29 19:40:13 by ianso:.. Similar to Dmytry, I was going to suggest oracular contact lenses.. But doesn't your suit have another problem - it also functions as a normal oracle to anyone looking at it? Chi mana would pass through the visible- chi oracle unchanged and then into visible light on the other side.. br The alternative is to convert chi mana to visible and back again at the same time? With the downside that you could blind (or fry) someone wearing an invisibility suit using a large spell.. 2012-12-31 03:44:19 by Tint:.. The compression steps in the later suits seem like they might be unnecessary.. I'm assuming that when an ordinary oracle emits photons in place of chi particles that the spell is somehow computing a vector representing the particle's flight (perhaps implicitly, though, since there's no real need to store the information longer than is necessary to generate the photon).. So why can't we do something similar here? When a photon hits the suit, generate a vector representing its path and then compute where on the opposite side of the suit the photon would intersect with your force field if you weren't in it, then emit a photon from that point and absorb all photons which attempt to exit the suit.. Same goes for chi particles.. This does have two obstacles which come immediately to mind: first, you probably don't want to (or can't) emit a photon immediately when one hits your suit (I'm presuming that magic doesn't allow us to get past relativity).. Perhaps the time it takes to determine the point and generate the new photon will happen to be proportional to the speed of light, but in any case some work would need to be done to ensure that the particles were being emitted at the correct time as well as the correct place.. The second problem is that if the interior of your suit absorbs all particles that attempt to escape, you will quickly overheat from incoming light as well as your own body heat!.. Power might be an issue as well since any photons absorbed by your skin or clothes wouldn't hit the force field and thus wouldn't be able to contribute any energy to help with generating the extra particles, so the cloak may have a very short lifetime for most mages.. Perhaps you could use some of the heat generated by the absorption on the interior of the suit? Even if it wasn't enough to sustain the cloak indefinitely that could help solve the heat problem.. 2013-01-01 09:39:05 by Sealeaf:.. Sounds like your mechanical approach is leading to more difficulties than it is solving, starting with the invention of chi particles.. I prefer a psychological approach to invisiblity.. Something on the order of the, nothing of interest here , field or Douglas Adams' someone else's problem field.. Tolkien touched on this idea with his elven cloaks that were hard to see by unfriendly eyes.. The advantage to this approach is that the invisiblity applies across all forms of sensing, If you don't see any thing interesting then you don't hear anything interesting either.. Also your own senses work fine inside the field.. The problem is that you only become invisible to observers who are close to you and inside the effective range of the field.. Another problem would be mechanical sensors.. The security camera would see you just fine even though the store clerks would not.. 2013-01-01 19:31:45 by OvermindDL:.. A side effect I see with being able to convert any form of light to chi, especially while modifying the data/waveform/whatever: You could create things that could, for example, take infrared/radio/microwave/whatever, convert it to chi, convert it back to 'visible' light, thus making very effective out-of-band light googles or so for humans.. You could even do things such as shifting the waveform around, imagine taking in the visible spectrum but put it back out again after flipping the data, thus making red to blue or whatever.. 2013-01-02 21:03:16 by Trord:.. I wonder what the boundary conditions would be like.. A tangent to a curve hits the curve at one point.. Would that mean that photons hitting the very edge of the cloak are converted into chi and not converted back, and vice versa? If so, that would give the cloak an outline that's bright in the presence of ambient chi and dark otherwise.. 2013-01-03 14:35:27 by JoetheRat:.. What sort of remote viewing magics are there? A lot of the need to see issues could be resolved by having your visual input be outside of the cloak, and transmit the signal to a receiver within the cloak.. I'm going to assume that you can't simply create an invisible p.. o.. v.. for a crystal ball, and instead rely on magic mirrors (Mirror 1 sends its view to display on Mirror 2).. Rig up a set of goggles, where Mirror 1 extends to the surface or just past the cloak, and Mirror 2 sits comfortably inside to transmit its view.. The closer the two, the better, as it will create less displacement.. Having the two physically connected could allow you to avoid the chi/em conversion mechanics as the signal should be safe in its wire (or you could incorporate the appropriate shielding/signal transformation to make it work).. The only limit here is how unobtrusive you can make your external camera - either go for a pinpoint style lens, or a ring of hyper-fine wire or (very) low refraction material.. Or you could create a second simple shield to hide the Mirror 1 lens-ring, but leave the lens/space free to see.. Done right, there shouldn't be more than an odd mote in the air.. Depending on how serious the concern, A one-way sound mirror - noise passes in, but is absorbed going out - means you will not reflect, and will also be rather quiet.. This does create a sound shadow / hole in auditory space, so it's a crude measure for the problem, and a wonderful loophole for the opposition to try and exploit.. (Yeah, I think like a pulp comic book writer.. 2013-01-05 06:38:14 by DanielLC:.. When a photon hits the suit, generate a vector representing its path and then compute where on the opposite side of the suit the photon would intersect with your force field if you weren't in it, then emit a photon from that point and absorb all photons which attempt to exit the suit.. But how do you transmit the signal to emit the photon to that side of the suit? You could send it around the edge of the suit instead of through the middle, but that doesn't really help solve the problem.. Only an infinitesimal portion of lines are tangent.. It can't possibly make a difference.. What sort of remote viewing magics are there?.. If it's anything like real life, none at all.. The closest you could get would be something like light, where you can tell what's in the distance, but only because of something moving along the path between them.. There are ways to use this someone effectively if you're willing to stretch the limits of disbelief.. Namely: the later versions of the cloaks listed.. 2013-01-08 07:00:32 by traverseda:.. I'm a little bit confused by the time line.. In sufficiently advanced, Laura and Natalie have forcefields that extend above the skin.. In ragdoll physicist they are surprised by benji being able to modulate a cone shaped force field.. The timeline doesn't quite seem to work, unless you're telling it out of order.. If they are completely different tech trees, if binding above a surface is a lot easier then modulating in mid air for some reason, putting a personal forcefield on a big speaker would allow them to replicate benjis research and invoke ra.. Or just speed up casting a lot by carrying around an mp3 player loaded with spells.. 2013-01-08 09:17:19 by Sam:.. A simple piece of sound-reproduction hardware like a music player can't be used to cast spells.. There's a reason for this.. 2013-01-08 10:57:48 by traverseda:.. But a force field apparently can.. I was under the probably mistaken impression that this was because magic was the thing actually moving the air.. Now a forcefield attached to a speaker, well it's the magic actuating the air still.. I can't the fundamental difference between a magical forcefield shaking up and down due to more magic, and a magical force field shaking up and down due to electron or mechanical actuation.. Both have the same affect, magic shaking the air.. I suppose it makes sense if it's not the magic modulating the air that's important, but the data being encoded magically.. In which case you could probably generate the electrical potential to actuate air via a speaker.. It also has some interesting implications.. It implies that the sound data is encoded in a persons mind using magic, and that benjis disk encoded that data in a similar way as the human mind.. In which case I doubt the characters could actually make use of it.. 2013-01-10 20:06:20 by Omegatron:.. For the timeline question:.. until very recently, small-scale non-flat force fields were impossible.. From just after Ra/Benj activates the sound thing.. I think the only reason it was able to cast spells was because it was Ra doing it.. 2013-01-10 20:10:23 by Omegatron:.. It turns out that two things in the universe can use magic, Benj explains.. One is sentient humans.. The other is magic itself.. And the base ring says, Ibra oniki ra.. QUINIO QUINIO QUINIO alef a ra.. Laura backs away a step and almost trips on the uneven ground.. But.. nobody cast that spell.. Without a human mind behind it, it's just pressure waves in air.. There've been dozens of experiments.. Thousands.. Machines can't spell.. Machines can't do magic.. It has to be a human being.. 2013-01-17 04:39:44 by traverseda:.. If magic itself can cast spells, is it important that something magical is actuating the air, or is it important that the data is encoded magically? Some third option, both of them perhaps?.. 2012-12-26 Sam Hughes..

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  • Title: Daemons @ Things Of Interest
    Descriptive info: Previously.. Nick Laughon teaches now.. He's brand new at it, only a month into the job and still full of momentum.. It's the first job he's had which uses any meaningful fraction of his energy each day.. It's the first time he's ever gone to bed tired without serious exercise.. It also means that he gets home earlier than most.. Today, Laura is waiting for him.. "Hello," he says, stacking a crate of unmarked red exercise books in the flat's nominal hallway and dumping a weighty rucksack on top of them.. Laura's sitting in the living room, positioned to face the door directly.. Between them on the coffee table is a glass filled with a colourless, effervescent liquid which Nick assumes to be gin and tonic.. Basic signals given off by Laura suggest a relatively high gin-to-tonic ratio.. The drink, however, is full.. Laura sits behind it, not drinking it.. Deliberately and purposefully not getting drunk.. She is deeply unhappy.. Nick last saw Laura more than twenty-four hours ago.. Work has demanded that she stay ungodly late before, more than once, but for Nick to receive no phone call and for Nick to wake up still alone the following morning is unprecedented.. "What happened to you?" he asks.. "I lost my job," Laura explains.. "What? How?".. Laura doesn't move.. "I stole the CEO's key card.. I broke into a secure room in the site's basement.. I broke into a secret mana accumulator which Ed Hatt had set up more than fifteen years ago and I stole something in the area of sixty megawatt-hours of mana from it.. And then I burnt it all on a boondoggle.. Ed Hatt caught me and shut the spell down.. He fired me on the spot.. Nick opens his mouth, but can barely vocalise.. He is stunned.. He rubs his temples.. "Why? I-- Why did you do that?".. "I had a spell that I needed to try.. This is-- you know this has happened before.. I have to.. try.. things.. I can't let an idea fester.. I have great difficulty.. sleeping on things.. "I know all of that, Laura.. I know who you are.. What was the spell?" Nick asks.. "I can't even say it," Laura says.. "It sounds so stupid to say it out loud.. It sounds so.. stupid.. to say what I'm trying to do.. before.. I've achieved anything! Do you know what I'm talking about? At the very beginning, when magic was first discovered, the people who first discovered magic had the same nightmares.. I've got to be able to prove it before I announce it and I've got to.. do.. it before I can prove it.. If I'd succeeded, if I had enough.. power.. , then nobody would be laughing and-- and it would have changed everything.. Literally everything.. But I need more power, and I feel like my head's coming unscrewed, like I'm trying to open a safe using a blowtorch that's inside it.. She.. has all the answers, but I need all the answers before I can talk to her.. "This is about your mother," Nick realises.. "When I first met Ed Hatt, he showed me a piece of sleight-of-hand.. " Laura holds out the fake boarding pass and tries to do Hatt's finger trick, but she doesn't have the dexterity and she drops it.. "And I knew, I.. knew.. he wouldn't be wasting my time with something like that unless he was serious.. He wasn't hazing me, he isn't that person.. I thought he'd worked out how to pull a small amount of mass back into his hand from the Tanako construct.. The only problem is that a human weighs a hundred thousand times this much.. The mass-energy problem is that much harder.. So I thought he'd be amazed that I got it to work on a macro scale.. You know, like that story where a lecturer puts an unsolved maths problem on the blackboard and some prodigy at the back of the room comes back the next week having solved it? I had this whole fantasy scenario worked out.. I think I'm losing my mind.. Nick doesn't immediately tell Laura that she's not losing her mind.. He observes her from a distance.. She's staring unfocused at her untouched drink, fiddling obsessively with the boarding pass, folding and folding it.. The material it's made of is closer to linen than paper, designed for wear and to resist tearing.. It won't hold a crease.. "I need the Ra codes," Laura says.. "I need to find Benjamin Clarke again and-- and smash his brain open and see what's inside.. "You need to get another job," Nick suggests.. "I don't want another job," Laura says.. "I want.. job.. "Well, maybe you should have got my opinion before.. going out and losing it.. ! We're on the.. same side.. , Laura! You should have called me! I tried to call you.. "I was underground.. "You were.. scared.. You were scared to tell me what you were trying to do.. Well, guess what, I know what you were trying to do.. Because I know who you are and where you're from.. And believe it or not, I don't think it's a stupid idea on its face.. I just think you picked a monolithically bad, premature way to execute it.. "Don't you think I'm angry enough at myself already?".. "No," says Nick, levelly.. He picks up the G T and escorts it back into the kitchen.. "You and your gaggle of girlfriends had a saying at university," he tells her.. "'Drink through it'.. Breakups, hangovers, finals.. I have never encountered a shorter, worse, more densely.. bad.. piece of advice.. " Next he goes into their bedroom for a moment.. He returns with four running shoes.. "You did the right thing by waiting for me.. Probably the first right thing you've done in the last twenty-four hours.. I subscribe, as you know, to a different mantra.. So we're going to run.. The route to the top of St.. Nicholas' Hill - which most refer to as "Nick's Hill" and Nick refers to as "My Hill" - is two miles horizontally and about that far vertically.. Laura reaches the top hoarse, wobbly and in a substantial amount of pain.. Nick is in infuriatingly good shape and has essentially taken it at a brisk walk.. The nominal park at the top is deserted.. The view of the city is impressively lofty.. The Sun's dropping fast, but Nick's accurate Knowledge of local running routes and timings predicts that they'll be home long before dark, even if he has to carry her.. Laura staggers over to Nick and leans the top of her head against his chest.. "One-word answers," she pants.. "Feel better?" asks Nick.. "Noooooo," says Laura, but she does.. She recalls being one percent of the way up the first foothill of a figurative peak as tall and black as Doom.. It feels good to be at the top of a literal one.. No magical jewellery, no bangles.. She sometimes forgets how heavy the equipment is.. As for Nick, he has run through all of his anger.. He asks, "Are they going to press charges?".. "No.. "Well, that's something.. "Yes.. ".. You're going to find another job.. "Frankly, though, you could use the break.. Laura shrugs.. "Probably.. "And we'll have to do some financial acrobatics in the meantime.. Nick stares at the horizon and the setting Sun for a long moment.. What is Ra?".. Laura can't answer that in one word.. Applied Magic is a vocational qualification.. It was a safe assumption that Benjamin Clarke would go professional mage after graduation.. In his first free year, he maintained thaumochemical processes at a gas terminal in south Wales, but before long he had developed severe restlessness and an itch to travel.. With the parent company's blessing, he switched tracks and took a job as magical engineer on the monumental liquefied natural gas carrier.. TTN Plesio.. , where he's been ever since.. Benj is still way down the hierarchy of the ship's startlingly small crew, and will be for years to come, but he rates the job highly.. The working environment is intense, the working day is long, the world is huge, the engineering is challenging and the magic is real in a way which lab study never really drove home for him.. He's doing heavyweight spells on a routine ten times as demanding as his training.. He's also losing a surprising amount of weight.. Laura learns all of this in bits through friends of friends.. She and Benj haven't met or spoken since university and Benj is at sea three months out of every six.. It takes her more than a week to raise him on the phone.. And he doesn't want to talk about what happened.. Laura insists, again, that he must have something for her.. Benj says, again, "I remember nothing.. I have always remembered nothing.. "But you remember the time between the first accident and the second one.. "From the beginning, then," says Benj.. "What I have always said: I built the conical force field.. I built the oscillation spells to drive it.. They were clunky and impractical toys, done to win marks, not to serve a purpose.. They didn't.. work.. I never found a way to store and play back modulated sound.. You made that up.. I never developed a self-casting spell.. "I didn't make it up, Benj, I saw it happen--".. "You'd need a literally infinite mind.. At the instant that you cast the spell, you'd need to have total comprehension of the entire spell and of your own brain doing the casting, which is obviously impossible.. "It's not impossible, Benj, that's what the word quine means--".. It never happened.. I remember nothing of what happened on the mountain.. I remember nothing of what you did to me.. "I never did anything to you!" Laura protests.. "Then why are you calling me?".. Laura hesitates for a split second.. She's just inhaling to respond when Benj continues:.. "This is over.. I have a life, you should get one.. Reverse-engineer my spells if you need them.. You were supposed to be the best mage in the world.. "I told you--".. "Yeah, you told me you couldn't do it.. You told me that a bunch of times, like it was supposed to be a compliment.. So, well done, I guess, on finally figuring out.. when to stop.. Laura bites her lip, trying to somehow manufacture a sentence that will placate Benj, but she can't do it quickly enough.. He concludes, "Don't call me again.. Natalie Ferno spent her undergraduate studies strictly pacing herself.. She made a point of getting one hundred percent of Pure Magic locked down before letting herself advance.. She did this out of an arguably rational desire to miss nothing: no important principles, no critical little details.. It felt like running on the spot.. Now she's through her master's degree and into her PhD, and for the first time in her life she's found academic traction..  ...   drops down the pointy roof to the narrow and very short circular path which runs around this uppermost turret's roof.. In the buildings below her, she can peel away the bricks and see stored memories arrayed in rooms and halls.. They are laid out and visible like specimens in glass boxes, like satellite photographs of the past.. There is the black, red-hot slice of mountain, and the fat white spaceplane, and the other locked-off doors and the glass person.. There are systems under construction, works in progress.. The saying is "Sleep on it"; these are thoughts on which she is sleeping.. And overhead, the Dehlavi lightning galaxy spins disorientingly.. She hurries clockwise around the circular path, and immediately runs into someone coming the other way.. It's Nick.. "I don't know what's happening," he says.. He genuinely doesn't.. Laura has the Tanako dream weekly now; she'd miss it if it went away.. It's not part of her psychosis, it's a routine component of her mundane life, like regular dreams and hair care and scrubbing the toilet.. But she never takes magical equipment to bed.. For one thing, there is the risk (however slim) of randomly vocalising some significant spell; for another, her equipment consists for the most part of uncomfortably cold, hard metal.. A Tanako shift without any magic behind it is a paper-thin hologram illusion, with no energy to give it weight or significance.. A Tanako shift without a power supply is just a confusing television show in a sleeping mage's head.. And so, Nick has never been here before.. A shift with power, though, carries danger.. Not just danger, but it can carry bystanders with it.. And invariable consequences.. "I've done this before," Laura says, trying to sound confident.. "On purpose?" Nick asks, and it's the critical question.. Laura dodges it, and backs up, making room between them.. Nick runs after her, worried.. "Laura, what are you doing?".. Laura backs further away from him.. The path around the tower parapet, formerly just a two-metre-wide circle, expands to make room for her to retreat around the corner.. She turns and soon she is running flat out, out of eyeshot of Nick, who is still chasing her.. At this point, Laura does the thing that she has been trying to do.. And just like that, she catches up with Nick from behind.. He is standing there, facing away from her.. She turns him around to make sure of his identity.. "Laura?" he says.. Behind her, there are running footsteps.. Laura!.. " cries a distant, identical voice.. Laura smiles wryly but does not look back.. The running footsteps behind her are getting no closer.. In fact, they're fading.. It's not as if her boyfriend is running in the wrong direction.. It's just that she doesn't want to be found now.. The space between them is lengthening faster than he can cover it physically, and he doesn't know the trick to skipping through the spaces.. Laura takes the arm of the facsimile man in front of her, and turns him back around to face away from her, mimicking reality.. She says, "Here we go.. The world rolls left again and Laura neatly breaks her own line of concentration, bringing the spell to a perfect halt with no stall.. She's lying behind Nick in bed still, magic rings inert again.. Nick breathes in and out once more without stirring, but she can tell just by holding him that he's wide awake now.. And he's smiling.. He says, "This was an extraordinarily bad idea.. " There is no disapproval.. He merely seems to be making an amused observation.. "He'll be safe," says Laura.. "Shunting bodies around I can't do yet, but shunting minds I've done three times now and I can do it a fourth time any time I like.. Nick is safe.. But I genuinely don't know if I can bring Mum back.. And I can't take not knowing either way.. "I want a deeper form of magic.. I want to surpass my mother by an order of magnitude.. I want you to explain this.. system.. Do you understand?".. Yes.. "Who are you?" she prompts.. "Ra," says Ra.. To be continued.. Back to Ra.. Back to Fiction.. Discussion (22).. 2012-12-21 17:00:43 by theTrueMikeBrown:.. Pretty interesting.. Does this mean that Ra is the same person who wrote the Quine in the first place?.. 2012-12-21 17:26:27 by Sam:.. Ra is a big thing, and the thing Laura is talking to right now, which is the same thing that possessed Benj between What You Don't Know and Thaumonuclear , is not the whole of it.. You remember that that was just a person, with no special ability outside of knowing some cleverer spells.. Something much bigger is going on here.. 2012-12-21 17:49:27 by eneekmot:.. I love how her sister tells her to use scientific methods and stop playing like she's on an adventure, and then Laura goes off and does something ridiculous and incredibly dangerous like this.. What could Laura accomplish if she was sane?.. 2012-12-21 18:26:05 by Silhalnor:.. Laura does have problems but she is in such a hurry that she wont stop to work them out.. She really should ask permission before shunting someone's mind into Tanako's World and putting another mind into their body.. I wonder if her mother did this to her father? Maybe she should go find a brain dead patient to do this to.. I find it amusing that Natalie tells her that she isn't the protagonist when she technically is.. It isn't nice to be acting like a protagonist around other people though since, as far as they are concerned, the world isn't *her* story.. 2012-12-21 18:29:19 by Silhalnor:.. Wait, does this mean she can't speak to Ra from within the dream? Or does she want Ra's help in casting some spells?.. 2012-12-21 21:42:53 by Sam:.. Or she just made a mistake.. 2012-12-22 08:01:14 by Travis:.. I just started reading your Ra series for a few hours yesterday while at work, and then absolutely HAD to finish reading all of it today.. It's obviously incomplete, but what is here is so fantastically well-written, and clearly geared for more advanced minds, that I find myself wishing we were already several years in the future, at a time when this book is already complete published.. Creative work such as yours is a great refresher from the mundane drivel so abundant today, which generally just tries to appeal to the lowest common denominator.. Spectacular work.. I sincerely hope you do complete the story (at least enough for one book, and hopefully more), and that it is published across the world over (as I am in the US, and would otherwise have to order it internationally).. PLEASE keep up the good work!.. - Travis.. 2012-12-22 09:37:53 by Treblemaker:.. Oh, dear.. First thing I thought of after reading this was Oul's Egg.. 2012-12-22 10:07:58 by Carlington:.. Oh.. Oh dear.. I really don't think this was a good idea, Laura should have listened to Natalie.. Hmmm.. Unknown entity with orders of magnitude more power than me.. Manifest it in the real world? Why not?.. 2012-12-22 10:20:10 by IanO:.. It's very rare that a writer can craft a story that really gets me feeling anxious or nervous.. I feel such a feeling of dread for Laura.. I am entirely disappointed and shocked at her rashness.. But now you've got me all emotionally involved with this story.. Why bring someone into the world who basically tried to destroy it earlier!? And poor Benj.. 2012-12-22 17:15:55 by Plivd:.. I'm starting to think Laura is going insane.. 2012-12-22 17:51:40 by Sam:.. Notice how even Ra himself tells Laura "This was an extraordinarily bad idea", and Laura doesn't even realise.. She assume he's talking about locking Nick in Tanako's world (which is, admittedly, inadvisable) when actually he's referring to the fact that she basically summoned a demon into her bed.. I'm glad I've finally got this to a place where people are being drawn in by Laura's story.. As many of you know, my stories are typically more driven by fictitious science than they are by characters, because I enjoy fictitious science and because I find it harder to write a character the more he or she differs from myself.. The problem is that for a character to behave like me is boring, because I am quite a boring person.. I'm methodical, I reason things out, I avoid risk.. These things don't make for a great story, so I had to put in some effort in and make Laura not behave perfectly rationally.. It also drives the story a lot faster.. 2012-12-22 21:15:34 by Toph:.. Magic doesn't happen in space? That's interesting.. Earth magic isn't the same thing as waste magic.. Earth is the only place where magic exists.. Hypothesis: Something in the Earth (possibly Ra) has rewritten the laws of physics in order to create the magic system.. And now Laura has God in bed with her.. Sam, you write a hell of a good horror story.. 2012-12-23 11:29:30 by ignacio:.. I think they meant No magic in space was a rash conclusion, because of the small number of observations.. Laura better start looking for a new boyfriend as well as a job.. 2012-12-23 23:40:26 by TJSomething:.. This sounds like it's getting Faustian fast.. 2012-12-24 09:22:06 by linkhyrule:.. Ohhhhh dear.. To be fair, though, the scientific method, while generally much more safe and effective, tends to be slow, unlikely to produce leaps of progress, and most importantly, tends not to make a good story :p.. 2012-12-30 08:43:58 by Carlington:.. Also, just wanted to add, nice touch with the switching from left-align to right-align for the jump into Tanako's world.. That's really subtle, and I like it!.. 2013-01-07 09:39:27 by Senevri:.. I just got curious - where does the name 'Laura Ferno' come from? It feels.. iconic and catchy, although maybe that's just the power of repeat.. Sort of like 'Lina Inverse'.. 2013-01-07 09:44:51 by Sam:.. A colleague of mine at work has the surname Furneaux (pronounced the same), which I stole (with permission), because it sounds cool and I find it difficult to come up with cool names.. Laura is from nowhere in particular.. 2013-01-07 19:34:34 by Greg:.. Hi Sam,.. I've just finished reading your Ra series - until this point I mean.. Love it.. Please think again about my proposal: free translation in French against the authorization to mirror the translations (not the originals) on my website.. All the best.. 2013-01-10 03:18:02 by Tyler:.. Why is it that the two best science/magic stories (the other one being 'Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality') are incomplete! I'm dying for more.. 2013-01-30 02:23:07 by TheOne:.. I just started to really get into this site with this story.. It's so good.. I stayed up all night reading it, and I began to forget the real world existed because I was so engrossed.. This reality became real.. And of course it stops right here! Now I'm checking every day for the next part.. 2012-12-21 Sam Hughes..

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  • Title: The Seventh Impossible Thing @ Things Of Interest
    Descriptive info: Meditation is part of the workload of a professional mage.. No employer wants to pay for its people to spend ten percent of the working day dozing off in the lotus position in quiet, well-lit, boringly-painted rooms which could be better used for office space; nor, despite appearances, is "dozing off" what happens in there.. Meditation is mental exercise: heavily structured, exhausting, time-consuming, headache-inducing even under perfect circumstances and one hundred percent necessary.. A mage whose brain is not properly aligned with the work is a mage unable to work.. Laura is one of fifteen in Meditation 1 at Hatt Group that Monday morning, and has been sat down for barely two minutes when she has the revelation.. It's a bad thing for a mage to have revelations while meditating.. This is not a religious pursuit, and the achievement of enlightenment is not the aim of the game.. Unbidden, distracting thoughts are a sign of a wandering mind, which is the exact opposite of what's supposed to be happening.. Laura does what she's supposed to do, suppressing the enormous and life-re-routing fact which has flared up in her forebrain, filing it away for later.. She hurriedly starts her meditation cycle over, flattening her mental processes out again in the prescribed way.. After another three minutes, an automated chime rings, signalling everybody in the room to move on to the second stage in the fifty-minute cycle.. Laura imagines a magnifying glass, held to give perfect focus.. She is back on track.. She isn't.. There are too many dots connecting up.. There was no final spell.. There are fourteen other mages in the room, all men, of almost uniformly scattered ages between twenty and sixty-five.. Laura's mind is reeling and she can't lock it down.. She fights the instinct to bolt outside and find a white board and scrawl calculations.. She needs to triple-check the Atlantis telemetry and, if at all possible, she needs to ingest something which'll warp her brain sufficiently to force herself through the damned dream again.. But she can't move from her spot.. It's eight oh five in the morning and everybody in the room has work to do.. Everybody in the room.. is working.. You don't break a mage's meditation.. It's like sticking a tree branch through a bicycle's spokes.. Laura is off track.. She's not going to be able to think about anything else.. Above her head, she conceives the Atlantis orbiter, upside-down, its nose pointed directly at her forehead.. Above the orbiter and its tank she imagines green numbers on a cosmic seven-segment display.. Minutes and seconds and decimal places.. The decimals are rolling up and up.. Five seventeen point nine nine.. Five eighteen point zero zero.. Laura believed that her incessantly repeating dream sequence cut out at the instant that the Atlantis External Tank exploded, five minutes and eighteen point nine seconds into the mission.. She believed this because the mission timer was visible from her usual perspective in the seat of Mission Specialist Elaine Barry, and "00:00:05:18" was the last visible numerical readout before she woke up.. She believed this despite always waking up without feeling the final explosion.. She believed this despite never dreaming - or at least never remembering dreaming - the slightest foreshock of the vehicle's breakup.. But what if she was wrong?.. What if she felt no foreshock because the dream ended a split second earlier? Eighteen point one, say.. So why would that happen?.. Laura moves into hypothesis.. By comparison with her regularly scheduled lucid session, this is a blobby child's watercolour, but coherent enough to link up the knowns.. It would have happened incredibly quickly.. When Rachel Ferno's shielding collapsed, she - along with Atlantis - was fifteen miles above the Atlantic Ocean and moving at Mach 1.. 41.. Unprotected sudden exposure to moving air at such a speed was like being hit by a crowbar, and instantly fatal.. Her body was blasted into the wake behind the vehicle's trio of shattered main engines, then pulled upward into the opaque stream of liquid oxygen and hydrogen pouring out into the vehicle's contrail.. When the tank detonated, at T+5:18.. 9, she was atomised.. Rachel Ferno is dead.. This is not part of any dream.. This is a real thing which Laura now knows must have happened.. These are knowns which Laura has known the whole time.. The real, serious question is what took her so long to put the picture together.. There wasn't supposed to be a final spell.. She'd already done what she needed to do.. The dream doesn't end because of the explosion.. It ends because Mum ran out of mana.. That was the plan.. The chime chimes for stage three.. In stage three, Laura works out her next six months.. Edward Hatt's alarm clock drives him out of bed like a lightning bolt.. He hits it within the space of one beep, fast enough that his wife doesn't even twitch.. He's a ludicrous man, one of those individuals with the ability to live without obvious sleep, with more interest in getting to work and making things happen than in honest human things like staying in bed and hibernating until noon.. Elapsed time until he's out of the house is in the ten-minute range.. He'll shower and change once he's cycled to work and he'll have breakfast after a few hours of work, if he actually remembers to eat.. At this time of year his journey coincides with dawn.. Even with gear, his fingers and ears are brittle with cold by the time he gets to the site.. He's at work before there's anybody on reception.. He eschews coffee.. He gets the whole organisation to himself for a little while.. He.. enjoys this.. Once in his office, Hatt has two hours, plus or minus, of relatively undisturbed silence.. He has a substantial stack of files in his In tray and a substantial backlog of electronic mail.. Minor distractions, signature jobs and one-off questions can wait until he has five minutes free between one meeting room and the next.. He filters for what he calls the big fish: periodic production reports, financial performance analysis, short-, medium- and long-term strategy, international news with a direct or indirect bearing on supply chains.. He selects for everything with substance to it.. He spends the two hours, plus or minus, processing data without a break.. The first shudder which passes through his office is mild enough that he doesn't consciously pick up on it.. When his assistant arrives, just before nine, she knocks and enters and tells him (as she does every work day) that the canteen is open and that he should probably eat something.. This fact, as it does most work days, registers as "small fish" and fails to connect.. She then adds, "Did you feel that just now?".. Hatt doesn't look up.. "Feel what?".. "A couple of minutes ago.. I swear the whole place moved a little.. I was coming up the stairs and they shook so hard I almost dropped my coffee.. "Probably equipment being moved down in the factory," says Hatt, barely caring.. "An early delivery.. I pray they didn't drop something expensive.. "It was a big one.. I almost spilled my coffee," repeats his assistant, whose name is Sally.. "You can drop as much coffee as you like as long as you're paying for it.. "I will indeed as long as you're the one who pays the cleaners to clean it up.. Hatt gives her a look which says "I am no longer paying attention to this conversation" - this is, in fact, the first time he's looked up at all - and immediately resumes reading.. Outside, the rising Sun is blasting mist off the scenery.. The view from Hatt's office is the best in the building but still little better than "boring": mostly runway, surrounded by flat green fields and the occasional tree and canal.. The greenery is turning brown over the course of October.. The view is best at this time of day, with blue sky and red sky ruffling and blending out to the east.. But in the years since he built and then moved into this office, Edward Hatt has never once bothered to watch the sunrise.. He keeps the Venetian blinds closed.. Mainly, that's because the sunlight reflects off his computer monitor into his eyes.. But another reason is that he rather prefers the view he invented.. The building shakes again.. "Sally?".. Sally looks in.. "Phone Chris Wester and find out what's the hell's going on.. "I think he's on holiday.. "Well, phone the duty manufacturing floor manager's phone and ask whoever answers.. Time passes.. Sally leans through again, with a phone muffled against her shoulder, and says, "He says he just opened the shop up and it's nothing to do with what they're doing.. "Who is that?".. "Chris Wester.. Hatt does not care why it is that Sally thought, incorrectly, that Chris Wester was on holiday.. "Chris," he shouts at Sally, "where's the noise coming from, relative to you?".. Sally goes to relay the question, but the man on the other end of the phone is already answering.. "Underground," she reports.. "Fucking work it out, one of you?" Hatt pleads.. Sally goes back to the phone.. "Yeah, I think he's just trying to work," she says.. "Can you get someone to check the basement circles or something? Okay? And call me back.. Thanks.. Hatt closes the door.. Sally goes back to her own work.. Another few light tremors pass, at intervals of a few minutes each.. A little before nine, nobody has called Sally back.. The Big One makes her entire desk jump and does indeed spill what's left of her coffee.. Sally has barely reacted before Hatt emerges from his office at a furious stride.. "Someone's pulling my company down," he says as he passes.. "You've got your first thing in fifteen minutes," Sally.. Hatt hears her, but doesn't acknowledge her.. He already knows, and is inclined to skip it.. Bigger fish.. The most prominent feature of Hatt Group, when viewed from above, is the runway.. The second most prominent is the manufacturing floor, which is bigger than the rest of the site's buildings combined, and large enough to have nominal buildings of its own inside it.. After that, in descending order of size, are the car parks, office blocks and loading bays.. Then come the circles.. "Circle" is the least precise name.. Different elements of the magical engineering community, depending on regional preference and source textbook, refer to them as pitches, gyms, circles, grids and mandalas.. They are flat concrete expanses with dense, multicoloured geometric outlines painted on the ground and robust weather-resistant components sunk into intersections between the lines.. Sometimes, instead of concrete, they are surfaced with asphalt or astroturf.. Rarely, as long as it's flattened and manicured to the level of a professional cricket pitch, actual grass is used.. The line patterns guide the placement of magical and mechanical equipment for the purposes of spells, enchantment operations, hardware tests, maintenance and, weather permitting, sports.. The answer to any question about magic is almost always "it depends" and the reasoning behind the geometry of a magic circle is no exception.. The very earliest circles resembled traditional Hindu Rangoli patterns and were laid down in India in the Seventies and early Eighties, long before numbers had been crunched and the actual necessary dimensional symmetries had been derived.. Some of those, including the first one ever built by the Vidyasagar enclave, are still maintained, for historical and aesthetic value and occasional special demonstrations.. But actual science got in the way of free-floating experimentation and creative freedom.. Not much time passed before most of the interesting questions about pattern effectiveness were resolved to enough decimal places to end the discussion.. New circles - those used for real-world magic with any kind of serious purpose - now invariably conform to the standards specified in ISO 31300, the "flower book", whose latest version lists eight basic designs of increasing scale and a hundred and five specialist variants.. The designs, made entirely from circular arcs and straight lines, are dense, heavily interconnected and heavily annotated.. Installation precision is a significant factor.. Between Hatt Group buildings there are three C-class circles.. Laid along the middle of the runway, big enough to test a rocket engine, is a full-sized, rarely-used A-2X.. Inside the manufacturing floor are more circles, some of which are routinely blocked by machinery or stock, and therefore unusable.. And there are three underground.. The Hatt Group basement is rarely seen by customers and has a distinct "backstage" atmosphere to it.. Fewer of the walls are painted, more of the pipe work is exposed.. The fluorescent lighting is brighter to make up for the lack of natural light.. Meditation 1 and Meditation 2 are down here.. So are rooms D10A, D11A and D12A: private D-class circles.. It's the third of these which Chris Wester and the site's security manager Adrian Middleton can't get into.. "Of course you can't get in," says Hatt when he arrives behind them.. "I'm the only one who has access.. "Try it," suggests  ...   and spins to a stop on the floor next to his head.. It's at this point that Hatt realises that the ring was warm.. The rest of his skin is frozen, almost to the point of cracking as he moves, and the walls are like dry, sticky ice, but his right hand, in which he was holding the ring, is still lukewarm.. This is because inside the ring, none of this is happening.. Laura attacks the monster, smashing it in the head twice, hard enough to shatter its skull on the first blow and scatter kidney-like organs across the floor on the second.. Headless, it still tries to thrash its way towards Rachel Ferno, until Laura lands on top of the thing's torso and snaps its arms using her staff and the principles of leverage.. She breaks its chest open.. Hatt struggles upright, his nose and fractured humerus healing rapidly.. From his perspective, the observable universe amounts to just a few hundred cubic feet.. Beyond the tiny red circle of light, there's steel in every direction except one.. In that last direction, the other half of the container is thick darkness, out of which two more identical blood-things are already striding.. Laura launches into them, but even as she does, a third appears behind them.. Hatt can't see the far end of the container.. There might not be one.. There might be infinitely many more blood-things lined up in the dark.. It's unwinnable.. It is the darkest, inescapable corner of the nightmare.. Hatt realises that Rachel Ferno's eyes are open.. She's staring at him.. "Magic doesn't work here!" Laura cries, not looking back.. She wants Hatt to help out, engaging the monsters physically.. The nightmare is already so crowded with burst carcasses that it's hard for her to manoeuvre without slipping over.. Her staff is too long: its far end clanks against the wall or ceiling.. She tries to unscrew a piece of it to make it shorter, but she can't do it and fight at the same time.. Another two waves and they'll both be dead for real.. "Ed, help me! I'm trying to save her life!".. Hatt rubs the.. on his wrist.. He flips his Montauk ring up with one toe and catches it.. He takes a step forward over Ferno's mother's body, and drops the ring smartly over Laura's head.. And he takes his True Name back.. Eilo fib thalath dulaku.. STOP.. Laura fights him.. She pushes Hatt away with a well-practiced flick of the bo, which Hatt simply rolls with, allowing himself to be thrown, sprawling.. Laura pulls the ring back over her head, but it's too late.. Tanako's nested world has completely switched off.. Mana flux has stopped.. The abstract yantras in the ceiling crumble and dissolve.. The room is back.. Flat on his back, Hatt stares up at the distributor lodged in the ceiling, now disabled and spinning down like the rest of the equipment in the room.. "Are you done?" he asks aloud, and looks between his toes at Laura.. Laura is bright red with anger and frustration.. She breaks her staff into two pieces and holds them in one hand while gathering her paperwork from the music stand.. She takes the mislabelled ID card and throws it at Hatt's chest.. "This is yours.. No spell is clean.. The amount of thaumic energy - mana - put into a spell is never the amount of useful work done by the spell.. There is waste heat.. And there is waste mana.. High-energy spells have been cast by mages on the Hatt Group site for more than a decade.. The total amount of waste mana produced amounts to hundreds of gigajoules.. The waste mana is undetectable.. Theory and simple arithmetic show that it must exist, and that it must obey the same laws as all other mana, but it is mageless.. It is, therefore, useless.. Installed below D12A, sealed in cement because there was no reason not to, is a bilge: a battery of two-metre Montauk rings.. Montauk rings drain free mana out of the environment.. Hatt had no way to prove that the battery was collecting anything, let alone to retrieve the collected mana in a usable, mage-owned form.. But he lived in quiet scientific hope.. He started his stockpile in preparation for a possible future in which it would be worth something.. His private reserve.. Laura Ferno broke into it and drained ninety percent of it using a mind-breakingly convoluted True Name aliasing technique which only she, her sister and her mother knew was possible.. That wasn't even the hardest part.. Adrian Middleton's opinion is that Ferno should be removed from the site immediately, and everything else worked out later.. Hatt overrules him.. He dismisses Wester and brings Middleton and Ferno to his office.. Middleton stands in the corner, observing.. Laura sits upright in the middle, with her knees together.. Defensive body language.. No ID pass.. Hatt starts with: "You have the bizarre dreams.. "Like many mages, you end up in Tanako's world quite often.. You know how to go there and come back.. "You see things there.. "Often, you see your late mother.. "Today, you were trying to bring her back from the dream.. You were trying to bring her back to life.. Laura says, "Kazuya Tanako's world is real.. "It's not," says Hatt.. It's not a dream.. It's not a shared dream.. It's not a common dream state that mages share.. It's a.. place.. where we can.. go.. It's.. real.. It behaves like another universe.. If you put enough magic in one place, you can go there.. My mum's there.. The last thing she did before she died was to burn enough mana to burn those final events into the.. the glass recording.. It worked like a signal flare.. It was a recovery beacon intended for me in the future.. And if you put enough magic in one place, you can bring things back.. Hatt says, "All of that is groundless, if well-worded, metaphor.. "You showed it to me! You showed me that you can bring things back from Tanako's world--".. Hatt produces the forged boarding pass.. It's the same one.. He produces it from thin air, without one word of magic.. "It was sleight of hand.. I was bamboozling you with unbelievable scenes to get you on my side.. I don't pull the trick for everybody, but I did it for you.. Watch my fingers.. One.. two.. One, two.. Do you see?".. Laura can't speak.. Hatt hands the boarding pass to her, then opens a drawer and, from a thick pile of miscellaneous paperwork, retrieves a flat sheet of twenty more identical passes.. They're just the same, waiting to be sliced up.. He continues, "You can't bring physical objects back from a dream.. You can't walk home from a dream.. Staring at the boarding pass, Laura says, "But you can.. I've done it.. Embarrassed, for lack of anywhere else to look, Ed Hatt pulls the blinds open and looks out of his window.. There's nothing he deems worth looking at.. The sunny weather earlier that morning was a false start.. Fat grey rainclouds are now moving in from every significant direction.. It's shaping up to be a really miserable day.. He closes his eyes momentarily, imagining his preferred panorama.. "You know a great deal which nobody else in the company knows," he says.. "Including a lot which, possibly, nobody else in the world knows.. Like how you got the bilge mana to actually work for you.. I'd love to know how you did that.. "But you're also a security risk.. And you're not doing the same job as the rest of us.. We're working on magic-based spaceflight.. You're working on something totally other.. So--".. "My mother can tell us--".. we'll just have to crack the bilge mana problem ourselves.. And the other problems.. Because it's not worth it.. "I can still do this," says Laura.. "I know what I need to do now.. I need the Ra codes.. "What do you know about Ra?" Hatt asks.. He immediately realises his mistake.. He's given something away by not measuring his words properly.. Laura spots the completely new expression that momentarily crosses Hatt's face before he can control himself.. Was it alarm? For an instant, Laura considers the possibility that Ra is a deep secret of Hatt's, which she's not supposed to know anything about.. No, it was amazement.. Ra is a mystery which Hatt's been pursuing for some time.. Just like she has.. Laura says, carefully, "What do you need to know about Ra?".. Hatt replies, "I need to know what you know.. A pause.. Laura says, "Am I fired?".. "You were fired twenty minutes ago.. "That doesn't answer my question.. Am I fired right now?".. Hatt glances at Adrian Middleton, who, in the corner of Laura's eye, shrugs.. "You know my position," he says.. Hatt chews for a moment.. Eventually, he gives Middleton a reluctant, curt nod.. Middleton opens the office door, and holds it for Laura to go through first.. She leaves, working out the rest as she goes.. Next:.. Discussion (17).. 2012-11-11 22:50:40 by Sam:.. Believe or not this one isn't late because of laziness.. I was working on it almost continuously since Space Magic.. It took a long time to come together.. We're finally getting to the meat now.. 2012-11-12 00:03:17 by eido:.. Incredible! I've been waiting for this for quite some time.. More, please!.. 2012-11-12 00:14:41 by YarKramer:.. Yeah.. in hindsight, it makes sense that she'd end up having to do this alone rather than for a company.. I just wasn't expecting her to go full-on rebel and a loner and decide that stealing her boss's ID card, uh, could possibly end well.. On the plus side, she's done at least one impossible thing so far (using the waste-energy as actual fuel), and when you ask her about ra she can say What do you want to know? , so I'm sure that SOMEONE out there could tolerate her.. eccentricities.. Assuming they don't actually share her interest in a chat with Rachel Ferno to begin with.. 2012-11-12 00:23:37 by Sam:.. It was an all-or-nothing gambit on Laura's part.. In Laura's plan, she would have finished the spell and successfully retrieved her mother by around midday, been hailed as a hero, explained everything that happened to the necessary people, and then gone after the seven astronauts with the full support of Hatt Group and/or NASA.. Too bad for her that the shocks gave her away.. 2012-11-12 00:35:15 by Adrian:.. I wish there was something worthwhile I could say, but I can't think of anything.. This stuff is so captivating that I noticed the changed alignment only a couple of paragraphs before they get out of Tanako's World (by the way, the alignment thing is a really neat trick).. Thanks for making my day!.. 2012-11-12 08:12:35 by Tom:.. i often check in hoping to see a new chapter,but it was well worth the wait.. great work sam!.. 2012-11-12 11:50:28 by scotherns:.. Well worth waiting for, great stuff!.. 2012-11-12 12:14:37 by Baughn:.. Yeah, okay, so.. He lied to her.. That lie is a direct cause of this scenario.. I'm not going to claim I have any sympathy for him, now.. 2012-11-12 16:15:08 by Omegatron:.. I wonder how well she got her staff assembling spell going and if she finished her degree.. 2012-11-13 08:06:58 by Toph:.. I like that she (nearly) managed to bring stuff back from Tanako's World on the basis that she didn't know it was impossible.. Great story, you've got me hooked!.. 2012-11-13 17:36:24 by linkhyrule:.. More than that.. She knew it was.. possible.. She literally walked home from a dream back in.. Thaumonuclear.. By the way, Sam - does she still have that super-staff she made? Or was she the only the thing that came back, for whatever reason? Or did she just get up off the lava, and not remember it? (Or is it still a mystery?).. 2012-11-13 19:10:08 by Sam:.. No, she doesn't have the 3-metre staff from Broken 'Verse.. She also doesn't have the clothes she built for herself, and nor does Natalie.. All of that got lost in the blur in the final part of Thaumonuclear.. (If they'd come back with physical evidence, there wouldn't be the uncertainty that there is in the latest chapter.. In fact, even if she had brought the staff back, it would have evaporated immediately because it was made of mercury.. Which would have poisoned her ;).. 2012-11-13 19:11:28 by linkhyrule:.. Also, I just realized - we just found out what happens when two people with the same True Name conflict.. I wonder if there's anyone with the True Name ra ?.. 2012-11-13 19:12:19 by linkhyrule:.. Ah, I see.. Huh.. Lost in the blur, indeed.. I wonder how she got back, but not her items.. 2012-11-15 18:27:28 by eneekmot:.. You're getting better, Sam.. 2012-12-16 14:32:20 by Sparky:.. Interesting, how long would it take her to make a magic circle at a volcano?.. 2012-12-17 11:31:56 by mithrandir:.. All i want for christmas is the next update in this, incredibly suspenseful.. 2012-11-11 Sam Hughes..

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