Title by Debbie :
My former classmate has more letters after his name than anybody I know or heard of. He is a brain surgeon at Singapore General Hospital. We met recently in the KopiTiam foodcourt at SGH.
“Good to see you, man,” I cried, “Big Time Brain Surgeon!”
We then sat down after the greetings, me to my laksa, and he, to his wonton mee. I watched his hands that hold the power of life and death in surgeries go through the motions of eating wonton mee. They remind me of a concert pianist’s hands. Strong, yet supple. After swallowing the first few very satisfying mouthfuls of my laksa, I popped a question that has sometimes tugged in my mind.
“When you were an intern doing night shifts, did you ever see any supernatural things?” I asked.
“Like ghosts, you mean?” he smiled.
“Yah, after all, lots of people die in hospitals and all that…”
“No, I must confess. Never saw any ghosts. But I did come across a fairly recent case that has never faded from my mind.
“Her name was Grace. She had a walloping big brain tumour, the biggest I had ever come across in my 20 years as a brain surgeon.”
“You operated?” I asked, my attention drawn.
“Not at first,” Prof Ben Kwek said, spooning another wonton. “First, I tried shrinking the tumour with Lucran injections. And that was when I discovered how strange the case was.”
“What do you mean?”
“That tumour in her brain, I am now convinced, was a form of sentient life!”
I stared at him, suddenly oblivious to the chatter and hum of a busy foodcourt.
“You mean the tumour was a kind of intelligence?” I was incredulous.
“Hey, don’t quote me or I will lose my job or be referred to the Institute of Mental Health,” Prof Kwek laughed.
Continuing, he said, “But I have thought about it a great deal and that seems the most scientific explanation.”
My jaw had dropped with the first bombshell and now remained wide open. My tau pok, poised between my chopsticks, forgotten.
“Well, to begin at the beginning, Grace was referred to me by a GP. She had been complaining of headaches and a feeling that there was someone, I repeat, not something but someone, in her brain!”
I kept quiet, not knowing what to say.
“Well, as I was saying,” Prof Kwek said, looking decidedly sheepish and even apologetic, “she came to me with this headache and I sent her for MRI scans…”
“Magnetic Resonance Imaging?” I tried to sound knowledgeable.
“Yes, gives an accurate computerised image, even in slices and sections.
“So the MRI showed this humongous tumour, occupying a big chunk of her brain, near where the Old Brain stalk is.
“Besides the headaches, Grace claimed that sometimes, she could feel the tumour communicating with her.”
“Like talking to her?” I asked sheepishly.
“Not so much that. Grace said that it only communicated ‘Wants’ and ‘Don’t Wants’. By that, she meant that if she wanted a drink of wine, for example, her tumour would strongly say, “Don’t Want!”
“So it was alive?” I said in a voice barely above a whisper.
“Maybe. What is life? We are all composed of carbon molecules, with sprinklings of sodium, chlorine, hydrogen and oxygen molecules, etc, but if you take the same amounts of these elements and mix them up, no matter how you mix them up or try to catalyse them, you don’t get a living person.”
“So what is life?” I asked.
Ignoring the question as though he did not hear it, he thoughtfully continued, with a faraway look in his eyes, “Or, to put it another way, a body can be on life support system and the body is breathing, heart beating, lungs oxygenating, but the brain could be dead and therefore the life, is not there.”
I remembered the poised tau pok and now lifted it into my mouth.
“Did the Lucran injections work?” I enquired.
“That was what convinced me the tumour was a separate living thing. Grace told me her tumour had been trying to prevent her from drinking wine, of which she was fond, and each time she even thought about drinking wine, her tumour protested with powerful thoughts of “No, no, no!” But I didn’t really believe her until I tried to give her her first Lucran injection.
“I am now convinced that when the tumour realised that the Lucran injection would shrink it, by narrowing the blood vessels feeding it, it would die and therefore fought against being given the Lucran.
“I had had the syringe all ready with the Lucran inside when Grace swung her right hand and knocked it flying out of my hand across the room. She immediately used her left hand to restrain her right hand, as though one hand was controlled by the tumour and the other still by her.
“It happened twice more before I could inject her. It was damned strange.
“Later, I decided to try a small experiment. I asked her to draw a circle with her left hand while simultaneously drawing a square with her right hand and guess what?
“She could draw a perfect circle with one hand while simultaneously drawing a perfect square with the other. Damned strange. I don’t think any ordinary or normal person can do this.”
“Did the Lucran injections work?” I asked, not knowing what else to ask.
“No, each time the Lucran shrank the blood vessels to the tumour, new ones grew almost immediately. The MRI scans showed that. Damned strange again. This had never happened before to all my other patients on Lucran.
“So I operated. I took out the tumour. Sent it for biopsy and the results came back. It was composed of a kind of brain cells I had never seen before and neither had any of the other doctors. I sent samples to research hospitals all over the world and nobody there has a clue what kind of brain cells this tumour was.”
I digested this information even as I was digesting my laksa.
“Where’s Grace now?” I asked.
“Oh, sad case. The operation was a success but shortly after that, she was found dead with a stab wound in her heart, self-inflicted apparently. Inflicted with her right hand.”
3 Mar 06, edited 5 Mar 06, edited 6 Mar 06
Story 2, titling right to Yan Ting.
Title by Yan Ting :
The expansive Singapore Botanical Gardens is greened by lush tropical trees, shrubs and flowers everyday and peopled by joggers and relaxed crowds especially on Sundays, where many maids picnic on their hard-earned day-off. I often wander there with my digital camera, snapping shot after shot of the landscapes mostly.
Then, once home, I would upload the images into my computer and file away the good takes while deleting the bad ones.
My favourite spot of all is a stretch of beautifully landscaped woods near the Vanda Miss Joaquim orchid garden. [Vanda Miss Joaquim, an orchid, was picked as Singapore’s national flower years back. A joke goes that when the Director of the Singapore Tourism Board wanted to pick a national flower, he went to a flower vendor and chose a beautiful orchid. The vendor wanted $10 for a stalk, which is daylight robbery, if you ask me. The Director refused to pay, telling his aide that, “The Vendor Must Be Joking!” He later found out that that was pretty close to the real name of the orchid and that was how Vanda Miss Joaquim became the National Flower of Singapore].
Although this had never happened to me, I have heard a strange story about this corner of the Gardens. Apparently, it first happened to a Chinese-Singaporean man there with his family. He was happily snapping pictures of his two children and then uploading them to his laptop computer when he saw in 4 of his photos, a young Indian woman caught in the photos together with his 2 children.
There was nobody else besides his 2 children when he took the photos.
Certainly not an Indian woman. It was a ghost.
He emailed the 4 photos to the Botanical Gardens, together with a short description that said that he was very sure that there was no Indian woman in his camera frame when he took the shots and that therefore it must be a ghost.
The Botanical Gardens emailed back and said that there was no Indian woman in the 4 photos. What Indian woman was he talking about?
He then emailed them again and asked them to email back the 4 photos he had sent.
They did. He looked at the 4 jpegs and saw that, indeed, only his 2 children were in the photos. No Indian woman.
Then he checked his folder for the original 4 photos. The Indian woman was clearly there.
Thinking that there was some inexplicable computer glitch, he re-sent the 4 photos with the Indian woman.
Again, the Botanical Gardens replied that there was no Indian woman in the new set of 4 photos he sent.
Angry by now that he was beginning to seem like a nut case, he brought his entire laptop to the Botanical Gardens staff he had been emailing and proved that indeed, there was an Indian woman in his computer photos.
The staff, a youngish man, was a little cynical, probably thinking that this persistent man had been digitally removing and pasting the Indian woman back and forth and so on.
But his older colleague had been overhearing the conversation between the man and the staff and, with a strange look on her face, asked to look at the photos of the Indian woman.
“There was,” she said, “a robbery-murder some years back in which an Indian woman was killed, right in the area where the photos were taken.” That could have been her ghost captured in the photos.
The man was delighted at being proved right and to have caught a ghost on camera and showed it to all his friends.
The story did not end there. When the rumours circulated, many superstitious gamblers made their way to that corner of the Gardens to pray to the ‘powerful’ Indian woman ghost to ask for lucky numbers to punt in the lotteries.
I don’t know if her ghost was so obliging as to give winning lottery numbers but I myself did try to capture her on my digital camera.
Every time I visit the Botanical Gardens, I would make my way to that Vanda Miss Joaquim corner and snap away. Each time, I would immediately review my shot in the tiny LCD display to see if I had captured the ghost. Invariably, I would be disappointed. No Indian woman. The closest I got were some bright blotches in the photos. No Indian woman.
I sometimes pray to her and ask for lucky numbers to punt in the next draw. I haven’t won yet.
Maybe the next draw.
5 Mar 06
Story 3, titling right to Kai Seng.
Title by Kai Seng :
There was an old man with no less than 16 clocks in his 4-room flat. I jest not. There are such people who would acquire 16 clocks and keep them all in one flat. And keep adjusting them regularly for accurate time, as clocks are wont to be a little off, either too fast or too slow.
Maybe he has a lot of time.
Maybe he has hit the big time.
And maybe it is time I tell you more about his clocks.
There are the big battery-operated analogue clocks hung high in his living room and kitchen.
There are the small battery analogue ones he has in every one of his bathrooms.
There are digital clocks in his bedrooms and study. These tell world-times, the calendar and even the temperature.
He has time on his hand, too, in the form of a digital watch, with even more functions, including stopwatch, countdown timer and data memory for dozens of names and telephone numbers.
But there is one clock he never displays, an old mechanical winding clock. This one, he keeps in a locked cupboard drawer. An antique clock he sometimes shows to friends, he having no wife or children.
It is rumoured that he winds up the clock unfailingly every day and that if he ever forgets to wind it and it stops, his life would also stop.
I know the son of one of his friends. He would sometimes tell me about this old man. One conversation with him I will never forget.
We were in camp for reservist training, being national servicemen, and we got to talking.
“Did you say that if his antique clock stops, he will die?” I asked.
“That’s what people say.”
“How old is this clock? If we know, then we will know when he was born or got the clock,” I asked.
“He never says.”
“But then, did he ever mention any event or people that will give a clue to how old he is?” I persisted.
“I don’t know. I remember once that he told my dad he experienced a big volcanic eruption that happened nearby in Indonesia,” my friend replied.
“There are so many. Which one?”
“My dad says he said the ‘Kaki Tua’ one,” he replied.
So I went to my computer and Googled “kaki tua volcanic eruption” obtaining this result :
Results 1 - 10 of about 206 for kaki tua volcanic eruption. (0.64 seconds)
I looked through the pages of results with some excitement, which faded as none of the results gave any exact indication of a “Kaki Tua volcanic erupton” or when it occurred.
Our reservist training over, we both left camp and went our separate ways to separate lives. Back to the workaday life that is the lot of us mortals who have to work to eat.
Then one day, I happened to be at the National Library, the old one since torn down, at Stamford Road. I had spent more time there during my schooldays than I spent on schoolwork. I suddenly remembered that once when I was there after school, I had trawled through some old micro-films of the old newspapers in Singapore and came across a report about the violent eruption of a volcano in Indonesia that darkened the skies over Singapore for days.
The name exploded into my mind with the impact of a bomb in a church.
I literally ran to my computer and, with trembling fingers, typed into Google: “krakatoa” and obtained :
Results 1 - 10 of about 959,000 for krakatoa [definition]. (0.25 seconds)
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Krakatoa (Indonesian name: Krakatau) is a volcano near the Indonesian island of Rakata in the Sunda Strait. It has erupted repeatedly, massively and with disastrous consequences throughout recorded history. The best known of these events occurred in late August, 1883.
The 1883 eruption ejected more than six cubic miles (25 cubic kilometres) of rock, ash, and pumice , and generated the loudest sound ever historically recorded by human beings — the cataclysmic explosion was distinctly heard as far away as Perth in Australia, and the island of Rodrigues near Mauritius. Atmospheric shock waves reverberated around the world. Near Krakatoa, according to official records, 165 villages and towns were destroyed and 132 seriously damaged, 36,419 people died, and many thousands were injured by the eruption, mostly in the tsunami which followed the explosion.
Was that the 1883 eruption the old man mentioned?
That would make him something like possibly even up to 200 years old!
From what my friend told me, the old man could go about his flat, even going out to buy groceries, cook, etc, in other words, seemed no more than about 70 years old!
A few years later, again in reservist camp, I met my friend again. I excitedly told him about my discovery. He was nonplussed. He said that the old man had died and that his father was one of those who went to his flat to see off all his belongings and effects, etc.
“Did he see the clock?” I asked breathlessly.
“Yes, my dad said it was quite an ordinary clock except that it had an hour hand, a minute hand, a second hand and what seemed like an alarm-set hand except that the clock had no alarm!
“The clock was still running except for that strange fourth hand, which had stopped. I don’t know to make of it.”
I have never since looked at clocks quite the same way after that.
5 Mar 06
Story 4, titling right to Debbie.
Title by Debbie :
“BABY FACE”, a synopsis for a possible movie script
My friend’s brother was a retired Physics teacher formerly at Anglo-Chinese School [Independent]. He liked to tell the story of his former Physics Lecturer in the National University of Singapore Faculty of Mathematical Sciences.
That lecturer, whom his students nicknamed Baby Face, was apparently a most brilliant mind. He had graduated from Beijing University at the age of 15 with a First Class Honours in Mathematics and then went on to write, or rather, re-write some aspects of Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity, challenging, expanding and even controverting Einstein’s theses on Time. His Papers,
Beyond Einstein 1: Continuations to the Continuum;
Beyond Einstein 2: A Light Possibility to A New Gravity; and
Beyond Einstein 3: Time to Relook Time
were so far ahead of their time when first published, the entire academic world remained silent of comment for a full year before the first tentative accolades began, then swell, as if finding conviction and strength in numbers, until it was generally acknowledged that here, indeed, were true extensions of Einstein’s concepts.
Anyway, Einstein told us that time is not absolute, like a river of time flowing at constant speed only one way. He told us that time is relative and depends on the observer, where he is and how fast he is travelling relative to the object he is measuring against and its speed and position. For example, if a space ship can travel close to the speed of light, then its inhabitants will age far slower than people travelling at slow speeds. In other words, Time slows as you travel faster. And the closer you travel to the speed of light, the slower Time is for you and thus, you age far slower. That’s why even Time is relative.
But, brilliant as he was, Baby Face was not well liked by his students. He was often abstracted and did not look his students in the face or even at them. He would talk in a monotone, and his English was accented with a strong Northern Chinese accent. Thus, he could not really explain clearly to his students at NUS. He also gave the impression that he was not really interested in his students. Also, he was clearly hopeless in the academic politics that suffuse all universities. Thus, his career there would be short.
I once asked my friend about his brother’s lecturer, “If he could not politick, then why didn’t he ask for a post in research? That would be less political. After all, politics is inevitable. Put one man in a room and there is no politics. Put another one and politicking begins. It’s almost second nature.”
“He did,” replied my friend, “after he was heavily complained against by his own students, both in feedback forms and privately to Admin.”
“So what did he do?”
“He was given a project to commission an atomic clock for the varsity.”
“Sounds simple enough,” I said, “was he happy there?”
“Ah, this is where the plot thickens. Baby Face researched all the caesium clocks available then and concluded that there was an inherent defect in all of them that prevented true or what he called, Absolute Time Fidelity.
“I do not understand the math and neither did my Physics brother but apparently, he wrote to all the companies producing caesium clocks and asked them for their underlying concepts and, in an exchange of letters over 6 months, proved that all the concepts they used had an anomaly. Something he termed a One-Off Anomaly that prevented truly accurate timekeeping. In other words, there was a flaw in the mathematics of the caesium atomic behaviour. It was brilliant.”
“So we never bought an atomic clock?” I asked.
“Ah, this is where it gets interesting. Since nothing was good enough, Baby Face decided to build his own. After much justification and waiting, he got the research grants and spent a year struggling – even he had to struggle sometimes. I say this to avoid any misunderstanding that a genius finds everything easy. Sometimes, even a genius struggle and explore wrong paths before hitting upon the right solutions.
”He worked mostly alone. At first, he had several graduate students to help out but they dropped out one by one. He was not easy to work with. He was painfully shy with people and was intimidated in company. He also did not explain enough. Either that, or the things he was doing were so difficult and groundbreaking that his students were left far behind and lost. So, in the end, he worked alone.
“The last student to leave him mentioned to others that Baby Face was mad. He said that Baby Face once told him that it was possible to reverse Time, to make Time go backwards. A Field Effect that derived from his Paper Beyond Einstein 3: Time to Relook Time.
“Baby Face had said that Einstein had already proved that Time is relative and depends on position and speed. Therefore, if a special condition in the continuum can be created, a Null Point, he called it, within that Null Point, Time could actually go backwards when viewed from all the other points. And that Null Point could exist for a mathematical infinity.”
“Hmm,” I could only say, as all this was way beyond me, having only a Certificate In Education, Technical [Woodwork] from the then Teachers Training College. “Did he make his atomic clock finally?”
“No,” my friend said, “He worked so hard and with such intensity that he fell ill often during the project. He often worked weeks in a row without sleep, catching only the odd nap in his armchair. He became increasingly oblivious to his appearance, didn’t even bother to comb his hair, shave, change his clothes or, I believe, even bathe daily. He often ate Burger King burgers every day for months, the exact same takeaway orders brought back by his personal assistant. He was weird.
“Then, one day, he vomited over his assembly of wires, circuits and gas chamber. His Director had to order him to see a doctor and take a week off and to get some sleep.”
“Was he all right after that?”
“No, he was diagnosed with throat cancer, terminal stage, and the prognosis was he had only 6 months to live. Such are the vicissitudes of genius. Even nature, let alone Man, conspire to stifle it. Ah, jealous Man and even jealous Nature, that would not allow genius alone.
“But he outlived his prognosis by a long time, actually. From what I heard.
“For example, my brother bumped into him, literally, in a KTV lounge a year or so after he was diagnosed with the cancer and he was singing away lustily an Andy Lau song, “Defiant Laughter At The Sea” I think it was. No sign of throat cancer.”
“What was he doing in a KTV lounge?” I asked, “That doesn’t sound like Baby Face at all. After all, KTV is for the younger set.”
“Right. NUS had released him on full pay on compassionate grounds basically for him to live out his last months. But my brother did bump into him at that KTV lounge more than a year after that. He seemed well. No sign of throat cancer at all. Even singing “Defiant Laughter!”
“Where is he now?”
“Don’t know. The last time my brother saw him was years later, this time in Beijing. That would be well over 6 years since he left NUS and his atomic clock project. I believe the meeting was not accidental. That Baby Face deliberately chose to meet my brother. Anyway, my brother was part of a Physics Teachers Group Tour of Beijing University and when the Group came to the Physics Lab, he came face to face with Baby Face. My brother was struck by how well Baby Face looked. He looked younger and full of health. In fact, my brother said he looked 10 years younger.”
Then, my friend paused, as if struck by a thought. He was silent for a moment and then shook his head ever so slightly, as though dismissing the thought.
I did not see my friend again for some years. When we met again, as is inevitable in such a tiny city as Singapore, it was in Ngee Ann Shopping Centre in Orchard Road.
After the exchange of pleasantries, he suddenly remembered something and drew me aside and spoke excitedly, “You remember we talked about my brother and his former lecturer, Baby Face?”
“Yes,” I replied. How could one forget a story of a true life genius?
“My brother saw a picture of him on the Internet a few months ago. He looked about 10 years younger than when they met at Beijing University! Almost a teenager, in fact. My brother swore he could see acne on his face!
I almost recoiled physically from this revelation. Suddenly, everything my friend had told me about Baby Face sprang into my mind and I could almost remember word for word everything he had told me.
Continuing, my friend said, “You remember that Baby Face had told his last student once that Time could go backwards? What if he found a way to do it? During his experiments into his atomic clock. Maybe he diverted some of his project into creating his Field Effect, or whatever he called it? Maybe he succeeded and created his Null Point and with it, grew younger and younger every day? So, instead of dying from his throat cancer, he will now be about the age of a teenager, but with the mind of a 40 year old!”
Now, that is a lot of maybes for a former Woodwork teacher. I kept silent. Finally, I brought myself to say, “If that is so, wouldn’t he become a baby one day? Wouldn’t that be horrible?”
“I thought so, too. But my brother said maybe not. Baby Face is so brilliant that he may well have solved that problem, too! For example, he could have engineered Time so that he could live in a loop, so to speak, so that once he reached his boyhood again, he could jump back into his 20s and again begin living backwards!”
I must confess all this was getting a bit heady and I was feeling that I had had a glass too many of potent maotai. I kept silent.
“See,” he persisted excitedly, “it makes sense. All of us would live only once, forwards but Baby Face, with his genius, would live backwards but not only that, every time he reaches back to boyhood, he would, before he gets too young, get to his Null Point or whatever, and jump back into the future, as a young man – before he had throat cancer! See? It makes sense!”
I wasn’t so sure about what sense is any more. After that meeting, I lay on my bed thinking. That would indeed, as my friend said, make sense. Some sense. For example, it would explain why Baby Face is so brilliant – it’s because he is living and reliving all over again and like everything in life, you get better with practice. It’s what makes tennis champions like Sharapova. It would explain why he can graduate from Beijing University with a First Class Honours in Mathematics at 15. It would even explain why he has a youthful baby face. It would also explain why he had to keep near an advanced Physics lab so that he can do his Time jumps. Those were my last thoughts as sleep claimed me. When I woke the next day, I went about my mundane life as ever, living forwards as we mere mortals must do.
Author : Robert HO
Address: 28 Bukit Batok Street 52
#20-03 Guilin View
REPUBLIC OF SINGAPORE
Email : firstname.lastname@example.org
Telephone : (65) 68989553
Handphone: (65) 90127417
This Draft completed 5 March 2006
If you like this story, or want to see others like it, please drop me an email. Please also forward this to Mr Steven Spielberg for his consideration. Thanks.
Story 5, titling right to Yan Ting.
Title by Yan Ting :
The Nobel Awards Committee had never seen such heated exchanges. Usually, it is a staid gathering of distinguished old men going through the mundane task of sieving through nominee papers and finally selecting the final ones for the awards. Not unlike a Human Resource Department of a large corporation choosing between job applicants.
Today was unusual.
At issue was the question whether a non-human entity can be bestowed a Nobel Prize.
“We cannot do things the usual old way any more,” said Olaf. “Ever since IBM’s computer, Deep Blue, beat Kasparov in chess, the human race had had to face the fact that a computer can be better at thinking, even if only a limited form of chess thinking.
“And today’s computers are thousands of times more powerful than Deep Blue. With the development of neuro-coding, computer programs can practically think like Man. Except better! There is no reason why we cannot give the Nobel Prize to Darwin 21.”
Darwin 21 is the latest computer program running on the new Hypercomputer Series, the successor to the 20th Century’s supercomputers. The 21 in “Darwin 21” refers to the 21st Century. Darwin 21 employs a new kind of computer program, termed “neuro-coding”. Neuro-coding was developed, paradoxically, not from computer science advances but from the field of biology.
Advances in biology had been rapid in the early years of the 21st Century, again paradoxically, in turn, thanks to computer science. The more complete understanding, access and manipulations of human genetic code, for example, owed a great deal to computers.
When the great supercomputers of the older era, the final years of the 20th Century, were used to understand, manipulate and study complex biological processes and human DNA, the science of biology, especially neuro-biology, made giant strides. This understanding, in turn, allowed great progress to be made in computer science. Thus, computer science advanced neuro-biology and neuro-biology advanced computer science, leading to a virtuous cycle that reinforced each other’s advances extremely rapidly until, in the early years of the 21st Century, the first hypercomputers were developed and the parallel advances in computer programming allowed for the development of neuro-coding.
Neuro-coding was a new computer programming language that mimicked the way the human brain works. Unlike the previous computer era of the 20th Century, neuro-coding used intuition, much like human intuition.
Where the old era’s computers and computer programmes were essentially stupid, having to be programmed in such a way that human programmers had to anticipate every step and process, failing which the computer would glitch or hang, or worse, produce totally incomprehensible rubbish, neuro-coding running on the new hypercomputers, mimicked the human brain in intuitively seeking out the desired results and then calculating the answers.
This is close to how our brains work. Our brains do not calculate every possibility because then, it would be overwhelmed with possibilities, and if every possibility is equally likely or desired, then there would be simply too many possibilities to calculate that we would not be able to complete even the simplest task, even a task as simple as pouring a cup of Newater.
Thus, the human brain intuitively rejects the thousands of possibilities and focuses only on the few that we would really want. It is essentially this ability to focus and concentrate on the most desired outcomes that makes our very lives possible. In short, it is what makes us human.
Neuro-coding works the same way. Unlike the old era’s programs, it does not have to have every possibility anticipated by the programmer and told which to choose under which set of conditions. Like the brain, neuro-coding eliminates the less desired actions and possibilities and only focuses on the most desired outcomes. Thus, this makes the computer thousands of times more powerful because much of the useless or not so useful processing time and operations are eliminated. Hence the term, “hypercompters” – because they are so much more powerful than the supercomputers of old. Not because of hardware but because of the new neuro-coding software.
Neuro-coding cannot create human intuition, which is still the best. But it gets pretty close by a process termed “intelligent prioritising”. Google in the 20th Century had already done the basic work in the field of prioritising such that Google search engines usually produce search results uncannily like what a human mind would. Thus, neuro-coding can be said to be an extreme version of the science of prioritising.
Olaf leaned backwards as his chief antagonist spoke to counter him.
“We just cannot give a Nobel Prize to a computer,” he wheezed asthmatically, his 83 years of age showing in his halting speech. “We have always used the Nobel Prize to honour men and women who have advanced our knowledge and understanding of the world, or who have achieved great feats of the human mind, or sometimes, when we want to make a political point or stand, we give the Peace Prize. But we cannot give a Nobel Prize to a computer!”
Olaf smiled. His opponent was a very powerful and influential man and he had to be careful. “OK, but can we give a Nobel Prize for Biology to this nominee, then?” He pushed a document to his adversary who took it, put on his reading glasses, and pored over it. [The document follows].
BEYOND DARWIN, OUTLINE FOR A STATISTICAL PROOF OF A NEW DARWINISM:
1. Darwin's Theory of Evolution is one of the biggest ideas in the
history of mankind. It explains, in one elegant [the best ideas are
always elegant] stroke, how the world came to be and how we came to
2. Today, I would like to append a small idea to his big idea.
3. I read decades ago, that the bat's sonar navigation is so advanced that when scientists strung a wire across the path of flying bats, not a single bat flew into that thin wire, proving that their sonar could indeed detect even the thin wire.
4. The big question is, how did the bat develop such an amazing
5. Think about it. For this advanced bat sonar navigation to be so
perfect, several things had to happen simultaneously, the absence of
even one of which would prevent this marvellous faculty from being
6. For example, bats do have eyes, but probably very inferior ones,
so the first requirement for a bat to develop sonar is to have a
reduced use for 'normal' eyes. This is quite plausible by assuming
that sometime back, bats started living in dark caves where there is
little light to see by with normal eyes, and so, bats needed to
develop an alternative 'sight'. However, the question remains, why
couldn't the bat develop better eyes that can see in the dark, even in dark caves? We know that many animals can see in the almost dark, such as hunter animals like the big cat predators, that have highly developed night vision. So, why did the bat develop sonar instead of night vision eyes like some of the big cats? Thus, Mr Darwin fails here. [It is possible that sonar is better than eyes for catching flying insects in the almost dark].
7. For the second requirement, the bat has to develop an ultrasonic
squeak that could effectively 'bounce' back from objects [like the
thin wire], the echoes being then received by the bat's highly
sensitive ears, which must be responsive to the sound frequencies of
the bat's squeak -- these ears being the third requirement. Meaning
that the bat's ears had to develop or evolve in tandem to its sonar
squeaks, so both together function like a radar or sonar location
8. The fourth requirement is for the bat to develop a brain function
that could process the echoed squeaks and create a picture of the
terrain highlighting the obstacles [like the wire] to avoid and
probably even prey flying insects to catch for food.
9. Here comes the punchline : all 4 faculties must be
developed/evolved SIMULTANEOUSLY for the sonar navigation to work.
Even if 1 of the requirements is missing or developed/evolved later,
the bat's sonar navigation will not work.
10. Now, that seems almost impossible if you assume that natural
selection is a hit or miss affair, that is, there are many genetic
changes in every creature and that some of these genetic changes then
prove to be useful for survival and so are preserved by the creature
passing onto to offspring, thus keeping the favourable genes in the
gene pool while unfavourable genetic changes doom the creature that
has it thus leading to an early death or inability to mate and pass on this gene or set of genes.
11. If I remember my Darwin correctly, it does seem that Darwin
postulates that evolution is a hit or miss affair, with favourable
genes being passed on and unfavourable genes dying out, both
naturally, that is, by hit or miss.
12. Could mere chance result in the bat's sonar navigation? Remember
that for the bat to evolve this faculty, at least 4 requirements have
to be developed SIMULTANEOUSLY. Even if 1 of the 4 evolve later than
the others, the faculty would not work and thus, according to Darwin,
the bat/s possessing this would die out and not produce progeny that
would further pass on or refine such a faculty.
13. I now come to my little idea. Which is that evolution is not a
hit or miss affair or due to blind chance but guided by an active
impulse. What I am postulating is that, evolution is not just mere
accidental genetic changes that result in survival advantages to the
bearer and are thus passed on, into the gene pool, but that every time a creature develops a set of skills good for survival, this set of skills or abilities get passed on, even if in a general way.
14. To give an example, perhaps a poor one, what I am saying is that, if David Beckham develops a fine set of footballing skills, and this happens to be good for his survival, these footballing skills get passed onto his progeny. It does not mean that his children will be talented footballers like him, but will possess better than ordinary physical attributes such as hand-eye coordination, physical reaction times, balance, excellent leg skills, etc.
15. I would go further than just physical skills like learned and
mastered football skills. I would even postulate that even cultural
skills such as singing or dancing or PhD research skills also result
in changes to the set of characteristics in the bearer of such skills, and thus get passed on to progeny.
16. There is one simple way to test this hypothesis. If a simple
survey is done, and I am right, it would show that a man who fathered
children when young [meaning that he has not mastered any important
skills important for survival] would have pretty ordinary children
compared to say, a PhD scholar who had children long after he had
learned and mastered his faculty/faculties. To use Beckham again, if
Beckham had fathered children when in his teens, say, and again
fathered children after he became a top footballer, then his children
from AFTER his mastery of footballing would be better physical
specimens than his children fathered when Beckham was young and had
not achieved his peak, all other things being equal.
17. A quick survey comparing the children of old fathers to the
children of young fathers would show, if I am right, that old fathers, who would have had more time to master a physical or intellectual or even a cultural skill like music, etc, produce children more gifted in the same general area than young dads.
18. Note that I use the example of fathers. Not mothers. There is a
reason. A woman, even from the day of birth, already has all the eggs
that she would ever produce. This means that her egg-carried genes are fixed already from the time of her birth and therefore cannot carry 'learned' skills like footballing [in Beckham's case], even if the woman egg-carrier were to learn to kick footballs as well as Beckham.
19. On the other hand, males keep producing and expending millions of sperm all the time. This means that, according to my hypothesis, males are responsible for the rapid evolution of the human race, and not females. When a male masters a skill or learns to use his brain in a new way, his sperm changes to carry that new skill or brain achievement. Perhaps not by way of genetic changes in the sperm but in some as yet undiscovered X-Factor, maybe even in the proteins that seem to hold much of a person's character and even physical development. If I am right, males hold the key to evolution and not females.
20. From Cave Man to Modern Man is just about 10,000 years, or about
200 generations, if we take a generation to be 50 years. 200 generations is very, very short to develop from Cave Man to Modern Man. Yet it has been done. Could hit or miss blind chance evolution depending on accidental changes to genes accomplish this feat? I don't think so. If I am right, each time a Cave Man learns something new, like, initially, a better way to hunt animals, or later, a better way of using his brain, etc, this even cultural skill gets passed on to his progeny to become part of the gene pool.
21. If I am right, there is not only hope for mankind but also some
suggestions of some important policies for governments. For example,
if learned attributes like say, a talent for music composition, or
mathematical skills, etc, can all be passed on to future generations
in a general way, it does seem good to encourage all individuals to
excel in some areas, whatever it may be.
22. Incidentally, my theory does explain why many skills are seen in
the children of exceptional parents, usually the fathers. Again,
another simple survey could help prove my point, which is that many
cultural skills tend to be passed on from fathers, not mothers. A
survey could show whether children of gifted fathers tend to be more
gifted than children from gifted mothers.
23. One aspect of Darwin's theory is that of survival of the species, not just the individual. We have come very far in just 200 generations. Imagine where we would be in another 200 generations. My theory suggests that such active impulse in improving the species is what brought us here so fast. My theory is different from Darwin's in that Darwin suggests blind chance as the key to our development while I suggest that an individual's active impulse is the key to the individual's as well as his species' survival and triumphant development. Ultimately, my theory is a theory of hope. It says that the fate of mankind is in our hands, not blind chance, not hit or
miss. And if you think about it, isn't this the most important development in our species' survival and triumph, that this 'active impulse' is exactly what the human race has developed as the ultimate survival mechanism? And what brought us here so far so fast?
27 Sep 04 1320
Olaf’s adversary read and re-read it very, very slowly while the distinguished gathering waited patiently for him to finish, which he did after an inordinate interval. Few would dare to hurry, let alone contradict this Old Man.
Finally, he raised his head from the document and said thoughtfully, “I have read it 3 times and I think that certainly, this Watson Crick, if he is proved correct by the surveys he outlines, could certainly be worthy of a Nobel Prize.
Olaf then distributed copies of the document to all the gentlemen at the table and they all read it. “Do you all agree?” he asked.
There were murmurs of agreement all round. Few would dare to contradict the Old Man.
“Well, then,” smiled Olaf, “Darwin 21 gets the Nobel Prize, then!”
There were gasps of astonishment, first, then followed by murmurs of understanding as the truth sank in, then some titters of laughter as the assembly realized that the Old Man had been outwitted.
Watson Crick was a pseudonym. The document said to be written by him was actually written or rather, generated, by the computer program named Darwin 21, running on a hypercomputer. The Old Man couldn’t even tell apart a document written by a human and one generated by a computer program.
It was a testament to how far computers had advanced.
7 Mar 06
Story 6, titling right to Kai Seng.
Title by Kai Seng :
The lights went out and the projector sprang into life, displaying a projection video of what looked like a typical scene from the monkey enclosure of a zoo.
“As you can see,” said Debbie Lam, “this is the chimpanzee enclosure in the Singapore Zoo. And these are the 24-hour video cameras that capture every move and sound within this chimpanzee enclosure. Every chimp there is coded with a name and an identity. Indeed, we have gone further and are able to distinguish each chimp’s voice from all the others. Each is uniquely identified so that when one speaks, our computers are able to identify the voice and link it to the chimp speaking. Thus, all the chimp conversations are recorded, tracked and traced to the individual chimp, and we can then analyse what each chimp is saying or said.”
Debbie is a philologist. Years ago, she embarked on the unusual path of analysing language and linguistics through primate speech. She studied many primates but eventually, for a concomitance of reasons, settled on the chimps in the Singapore Zoo.
“You used the words ‘conversations’ and ‘speak’ when talking about the chimps,” said one member of her audience, “Do chimps really talk, like us, I mean?”
Debbie smiled. It was a common question and one she had answered many times. “Let me ask my colleague, Kai Seng, to answer you.”
Kou Kai Seng stood up. “First, let me say that I am not a philologist like Debbie here. I worked in machine speech translation for many years and I have only joined the research here in the last 5 years. Previously, I worked in the popular machine translations in Babel Fish and WorldLingo companies.
“Let me give a bit of background. In Babel Fish and WorldLingo, we do not programme computer translations between pairs of languages, like say, English and Chinese. Or French and Spanish. Or Korean and German, for instance. Actually, that was what we did when we started. We would pair all the words in English with all their equivalents in Chinese and then code in all the rules for translating from one to the other and back, such as the rules for each language’s grammar and syntax, etc. But that was far too much work and inflexible. Because then, we had to code the computers individually to translate from each pair of language and back and then repeat all that over again for a new language. For example, in the old days, we would code for say, French to English and when we wanted a new language such as French to Korean, we would have to code all over again. We used to do that, at first, coding translations for each new language into each new language pair.
“Then we discovered that all languages had an inner core that was very much the same in all languages. For example, the English sentence, “I love you” has exactly the same format in Chinese – “Wo ai ni” and “Saya cinta awak”in Malay. That is, noun, verb, noun. So we began to translate all languages into this core language, from which we could then draw forth any new language we want. Thus, we would, say, translate English into this core, and when we want a translation of that language segment from English to French, we simply use that core to derive the French translation. Or Italian translation. Or Japanese translation. This discovery made our translations so much easier. Today, our Babel Fish or WorldLingo websites can translate over a dozen languages, from any one into any of the others. All through first translating any chunk of one language into this core language.
Debbie broke in, “And because Babel Fish and WorldLingo discovered that all languages have this similar core, our study of the origin of language and speech made great strides. For example, one Paper by my colleague, Yan Ting, pointed out that languages are very easy to invent and practically every group of humans in history had its own language, even if geographically only a short distance away from other tribes. For example, in the sub-continent of India alone, there are well over 100 different languages. Similarly, in the longest continuous civilization of China, there are many dozens of dialects even though Emperors of old had tried to standardise the language.
“Then where do the chimps come in,” asked another of the audience.
“Ah,” smiled Debbie. “We figured that if all languages were based on a core structure, this reflected not so much on the individual tribe speaking that language, it reflected more on something more basic. Such as our very humanity. Languages must be something very basic and common to all Mankind. It must be the very way our brains are wired, that we all invent the same approach to language, the core language, although in different sounds and slightly different rules. If there are aliens from another civilization in space, they may well and probably have, a totally different approach resulting in grammar and syntax totally different from our. Basically, since we cannot recreate this invention of language in a laboratory, we thought we could study how primates speak and from there, glean insights into human language inventions.”
Kai Seng then added, “We thought of videoing the chimps and trying to ascertain how they communicated. At first, it was too much work to track each chimp ‘speaker’ and then trying to decipher what it said by the context of its behaviour and situation. Then, we had a former NSA programmer who had experience with the Echelon program. The Echelon program, as we all know, is a stupendous program that captures almost every single electronic communication in the whole world, from telephone conversations to email to faxes, etc, in every language in the world, and analyses these for specific leads, such as terrorists planning an attack.
“Thus, Echelon would filter every communication captured, through key words, which were then narrowed down for human analysts to read and turn into actionable information. For example, Echelon did not prevent the 9/11 airplane attacks on the World Trade Centers but after a few of the conspirators were captured, Echelon very quickly traced all the others who had communicated with these capturees and tracked them down as well.
“Thus, using the principles of Echelon, we can now pinpoint each chimp, identify it and record its speech. Then, we can analyse its speech for the core language that we have spoken about earlier.”
A member of the audience spoke up, “So, do chimps also use a core language like humans?”
Debbie went to her laptop computer and fiddled with the buttons for a minute and the projector began to play a loop of a close up of a chimp shrieking to another, “eeee yorrrrr goooocheee norrrr, eeee wupp, wupp, heeee, norrr!”
“What does that mean?” asked an audience.
Solemnly, Debbie translated, “When is that idiot zookeeper coming with my lunch?”
At that, the audience broke up in laughter. Then, the chimp in the video could be seen holding up its middle finger to the camera. It was the crowning moment of over a decade of research.
12 Mar 06
Story 7, titling right to Debbie.
Title by Debbie :
For a moment that could transform the world, the lab experiment setup was exceedingly simple : just a soundbox producing sounds of variable frequencies, a tube of water or, in this case, acetone, a light detection box and a few other very simple detectors. Indeed, this experimental setup for sonoluminescence had changed only a little from the time it was first discovered at the University of Cologne in 1934. Indeed, even the tiny Pistol Shrimp, or Snapping Shrimp can produce sonoluminescence simply by snapping its pincer sharply in water.
Dr Ramanujuan and his graduate student assistant, Morris, were the only 2 in the lab when it happened. They had done this experiment so many times over the last 3 years, with differing results and success rates that today’s readings were just another set of numbers.
Only, this time, the numbers were unusual.
Dr Ramanujuan looked at the readouts and entered these into the computer. Then excitedly motioned Morris over to look at the results. For the first time, the results were positive. They had achieved nuclear fusion, practically nuclear fusion in a jar.
“What do you think?” asked Ramanujuan. Morris felt only slightly elated. After all, they had had so many false positives in the last 3 years that this could just be another.
“I will double-check the numbers later,” replied Morris. “We could have achieved fusion.”
Dr Ramanujuan was to be away for the next 2 weeks but much was to happen during his absence.
Unknown to him, his assistant Morris was an NSA agent. This is not in itself unknown or surprising. The NSA kept most university academics under surveillance, especially those engaged in research that may have an impact on weapons development or even straight science that may have an impact on energy security.
Days after the last experiment, Morris contacted his NSA handler. “I think this is it,” he told 007, Morris’ nickname for his handler. “I think Ramanujuan has achieved fusion.”
The NSA man was silent for a moment. “You know what to do?” he asked.
“Sure,” replied Morris.
If fusion in a jar could really be achieved, the ramifications were profound and would transform the world. It would mean unlimited, clean energy and freedom from oil, which was one Achilles heel troubling the US and many other governments. It would be safe and clean energy and probably cheap, since it is achievable with just simple lab equipment scaled up. It would transform the entire geopolitical balance of the world, a world in which energy from oil is fast depleting and in which wars would be fought over the remaining reserves.
Shortly after, 007 put his gameplan into operation. Several professors in Physics were to try to replicate Dr Ramanujuan’s successful experiment and fail. They would then denounce Dr Ramanujuan as either a charlatan out to falsify research results for personal vainglory or a simpleton who couldn’t even do simple experiments properly leading to misleading results.
In the next few weeks, Dr Ramanjuan came under academic attack from his professorial colleagues. They could simply not duplicate his experiments to achieve his results, thanks to Morris doctoring some of the experimental conditions and procedures.
Morris even swapped 2 critical detectors used in the original, successful experiment. Even Dr Ramanujuan himself, could not now duplicate his own results, thanks to the swapped flawed equipment. He was to be roundly denounced by his peers. After a while, Dr Ramanujuan himself would begin to doubt whether his results were genuine and could withstand scrutiny as well as being duplicable.
“Well done, 007,” said the President. “We have thoroughly suppressed the experimental results, haven’t we?”
007 nodded, “Affirmative, Mr President. And as you wanted, I told no one, not even my superiors in the NSA. And I have brought the only copy of the successful experiment. No other copy exists and not even Dr Ramanujuan can duplicate it now.”
The President smiled expansively. “Good, now if you will excuse me…”
The President then walked down the hall to the Vice President’s Office. The VP was in. He then put the entire stack of papers from 007 into the shredding machine. He then smiled at the VP, “That ends fusion in a jar, I think.” The only copy of the experiment was now shredded beyond retrieval. Morris would have ensured that no ‘correct’ digital copy exists either.
The VP smiled back, “Do you think we could get a couple more millions from Oakhill Energy for our re-election campaign? After all, if fusion in a jar becomes a reality, they’d go bust in no time. And they are our biggest contributor every election.”
It was not for nothing that the P and VP comprised what is often joked about as the ‘Oil Presidency’. A Presidency of Oil interests, by Oil interests, for Oil interests.
Dr Ramanujuan walked up the stairs past his bedroom to his study. It was a spring day but still quite cold compared to the sunny New Delhi he had just vacationed back from.
He took out a very small notebook computer from his safe and switched it on. He opened it to his sonoluminescence research program. Once loaded, he looked through the program steps to scan whether his data was intact. He then moved his cursor to a key field and added a zero to the field. Then sat back to see how his extra zero replicated across the entire program until the final figures appeared. No mistake here, he thought. This is fusion in a bottle, proved beyond doubt.
He then inserted his thumb drive into the USB port of the computer and copied over the entire program and results. He had just finished when his doorbell rang. It was the courier, come to collect his thumb drive, now sealed in a courier bag, addressed to his contact in New Delhi. The contact will very quickly hand over the thumb drive to the Indian government and fusion research would quickly result in working large-scale energy plants, first in India, then shortly in the rest of the world.
Ramanujuan reflected on how he had had to do some hard bargaining with the Indian government. Eventually, they agreed on his terms. What was more, they had agreed to add another zero to his paycheque.
He will not get a Nobel. That would go to some Indian scientist. But Dr Ramanujuan did not care. He was set for life.
14 Mar 06
Story 8, titling right to Yan Ting.
Title by Yan Ting :
From: Jorge Orwell
Date: Mar 15 2006 2.55pm
Subject: Robert HO book submission
I have read the manuscript you have recommended for publication and I have decided not to publish it. It’s simply no good. Random Mouse is in the publishing business to make money, not support aspiring authors, especially authors with absolutely no talent. So, on behalf of RM, please send Robert HO the usual rejection slip.
From: Bernadine Shaw
Date: Mar 15 2006 3.67pm
Subject: Robert HO book submission
Please reconsider. I think Robert HO is worth publishing and will turn us a profit, although it will probably be small beans. I know that his writing style is unusual and I here paste some paras from his email to me :
>I agree with you that my writing style is unusual but that is because
>I am inventing a whole new genre, what I call “MicroStories” or >“synopsistic stories”. From the word “synopsis”. In other words, I >write extremely SHORT stories, without characters, without >atmosphere, without exotic settings, etc. My stories are bare bones >outlines. In the hands of a more capable author, my stories could well >be expanded into full novels or the usual long short story. But I believe >that with the modern and hectic pace of life, there is a market for >stories that can be read in a minute or two. On a train or bus. While >waiting in queue for a seat at a restaurant, etc.
>In other words, when a reader reads my stories, it is almost like
>reading a synopsis, only fairly nicely strung along, so it is not as
>crude as a real synopsis. Call it Minute Stories, if you like, just like
>thick reports nowadays have at the beginning a One Minute Summary
>to help busy executives grasp the essence of the whole report in a
>minute. I believe there is a market for these “synopsistic stories” of >mine.
From: Jorge Orwell
Date: Mar 15 2006 4.16pm
Subject: Robert HO book submission
Balderdash! This Robert HO simply is no writer. He simply cannot write, period. All this excuse about “synopsistic” stories is because he CAN’T write the usual stories, short or long. So he invents this new term, “MicroStories“ or “synopsistic stories” to cover up for his shortcomings as a writer. We don’t need Minute Stories because only people with time to read will buy our books. If they have no time, they won’t read, period, whether the stories are short or not. They won’t buy our books. By the way, what is his background? Which university and which courses, etc?
From: Bernadine Shaw
Date: Mar 15 2006 4.51pm
Subject: Robert HO book submission
I believe he didn’t go to university so he probably never attended any writing course. But I like his ideas. In fact, his stories are all chock full of ideas from beginning to rollicking end. Sometimes, quite riveting, even. I believe that he spent a dozen years or so as a copywriter in Singapore. He even suggested that we could subtitle the book, “A Book of Story Ideas”.
From: Jorge Orwell
Date: Mar 15 2006 5.23pm
Subject: Robert HO book submission
That’s what we don’t need! An advertising writer who wrote crap for 12 years trying to write literature! No wonder he cannot write like our normal authors, he wrote only short texts to fill up the advertising art director’s designs! From Singapore, you say? No wonder he uses odd sentence constructions and odd terms and phraseology! Sometimes, he doesn’t use proper grammar and syntax at all! When he writes conversations, he has only ONE voice! No matter who is supposed to be speaking, it all comes out from HIS one voice. There is no attempt at all to differentiate the voices according to the characters! Besides, he cannot write love and sex, which are essential to sell books. Probably because he cannot handle romance and sex well. Without a love interest, who will read his book? His story titles are weird, too! They must have been written by elementary school kids! OK, this has taken enough of my time – and yours. Send him the Rejection Slip. MicroStories, indeed!
From: Bernadine Shaw
Date: Mar 22 2006 10.57am
Subject: Your manuscript unsuitable for Random Mouse
I am sorry that your manuscript is found unsuitable for Random Mouse to publish. However, I have taken the liberty of sending it to Steven Spielberg, whom I approached through a mutual friend. My friend said that Steven liked some of the ideas in some of your stories and is considering buying the rights to your entire book. He particularly likes the brevity of your stories and their powerful ideas. When transformed into a blockbuster movie, Steven’s contribution will be as great as yours, unlike some of his blockbusters like, for example, “I Robot”, where many filmgoers wonder if the movie is great only because all of it is from a great book. The brevity of your stories means there is room, plenty of room, for Steven’s directorial and scripting skills. If he buys your book, you can expect a big payday, with many zeroes – before the decimal point. I take this opportunity to wish you and your family good luck with this possible movie rights, and good health. With my regrets from Random Mouse,
15 Mar 06
Story 9, titling right to Kai Seng.
Title by Kai Seng :
“FRIDAY 13TH CURSE KILLS ANOTHER 6” screamed the Daily Mail frontpage headline. “6 DIE IN UNLUCKY FRI CAR CRASHES” moaned the more stately Independent newspaper. “M1 ‘BERMUDA TRIANGLE’ KILLS 6 IN 3 CRASHES” intoned the Guardian newspaper.
Traffic Supt Lewis Caroll looked up as London Mayor Ken Livingstone walked in. “This is the 3rd year of Friday the 13th car accidents. And how many killed? Something like 23, I think. I want you to get to the bottom of this and stop it. This cannot go on, obviously.”
Supt Caroll sighed. “We have investigated every single car crash scene very, very thoroughly. The reports are a foot high. But it is still happening. Almost without fail every Friday 13th. On the very same stretch of straight road, almost. The M1 highway near Shrewsbury. Many drivers are now avoiding that stretch of road whenever it is Friday 13th. But still, car crashes are happening. And not a single crash is due to drink driving or doing drugs. All good drivers with unblemished records.”
It began 3 or 4 years ago. The first spectacular car crash, a BMW, went off the road on the M1 Highway near Shrewsbury on a Friday 13th, killing all 4 people. Subsequent Unlucky Fridays also saw cars veering off the road to crash spectacularly, usually killing all in the cars. The road in question is extremely straight, without any dangerous bends or curves at all that could explain the crashes. Hence the press’s imaginative terms for that stretch of highway.
It always happened near midnight, give or take an hour either way. So much so that that stretch of M1 road was now termed by some newspapers as the “Bermuda Triangle of M1”. The real Bermuda Triangle is, of course, that stretch of the Atlantic Ocean bordered by Bermuda, Puerto Rico and Fort Lauderdale [Florida], in which many ships have been mysteriously lost and even a fleet of airplanes which wandered into it during a storm.
Supt Caroll picked up the phone to call his lead accident investigator, M. Hatter. “Hatter, sorry to trouble you on your day off. Livingstone’s just popped in and he wants the M1 Curse solved and solved quickly. I need answers pretty soon or we’ll all be the Curse’s next victims.”
Hatter put down the phone and sighed. He looked over to his 5 year old daughter, Alice, watching a Japanese anime cartoon.
Then, it happened.
One moment, Alice was happily on her little throne, idly kicking at the coffee table and clutching her teddy bear and the next moment, she was on the floor, eyes closed and little body shuddering in a fit or seizure.
Hatter leapt to her side and clutched her. But it was over in seconds. Alice opened her eyes to see the alarmed face of her dad and asked, “Daddy, what happened?”
“You had a fit, honey,” he said. She never had fits before.
To be safe, Hatter took Alice to the doctor’s.
Only to find that there were several cases exactly like Alice’s.
Clearly, it was a mass phenomenon. Being a trained investigator, Hatter soon found the answer. That TV programme that Alice had been watching was also watched by all the other children. A few phone calls and questioning of the children, and Hatter had the answer. All the children who had the seizures had been watching the same Japanese anime cartoon programme.
Then what in the programme triggered the seizures? Apparently, it was the continuous flashing of light during part of the programme. The flashing lights, not unusual in a cartoon, had triggered off a brain auto reaction that led to the seizures. When the brain is stimulated by a certain frequency of say, light flashes, it triggers off an auto brain response that results in seizures.
The next moment, Hatter himself almost had a seizure when the solution to the M1 Curse flashed into his mind. He took out his handphone and called Supt Caroll.
“Caroll,” Hatter said excitedly, “I know what caused those M1 car crashes. It is the same light flashes at a certain frequency that triggered my daughter’s fit.”
“But there are no flashing lights at that stretch of road,” replied Caroll.
“True, but don’t forget that there are street lamps, all at the same height, equally spaced apart and all equally bright. If you drive past these lights at a certain speed, you will go past the bright lights, then past the dim spots, then the next bright lights and so on. Exactly as though the lights were flashing in your field of vision.”
Caroll was quiet for a moment, digesting all this. “But why only on Friday the 13th?”
“The same reasons why many believe in the Bermuda Triangle,” replied Hatter.
“Whenever there are no scientific evidence, or even sometimes, when there is, people prefer to believe in the fantastic rather than a simple scientific answer.
“When you drive along the M1 highway at night, you see an endless stretch of straight road alternating in bright lights and between them, darkness. These lights then appear to you as bright then dark flashes. At a certain speed, these ‘flashes’ will reach a certain frequency that triggers off your auto brain response, which is seizure. When you get a fit while driving, you lose control and crash. That’s why so many car crash fatalities.
“When the Friday 13th stories appeared in the press, many drivers avoided that stretch of road so with less traffic, more cars could speed at the limit and at a certain speed, the flashes will trigger the brain reaction. The cars don’t crash at other times and in crowded traffic conditions because only at night on uncrowded straight roads can you speed at the right speed so as to get the flashing lights effect.”
So the speed limit on that stretch of M1 was reduced, permanent speed cameras installed, warning signs put up and the phenomenon widely reported in the media. The crashes stopped and Ken Livingstone was a happy man.
16 Mar 06
Story 10, titling right to Debbie.
Title by Debbie :
Dr Chee, Professor of Neuro-Psychology at the University of Georgia, smiled at the Republican political strategist. “It’s ready. Would you like to watch it?”
Dr Chee played the political ad on his computer. It looked straightforward enough. And innocuous enough. A 30 second commercial that showed the Democrat Presidential candidate talking and meeting with ordinary voters. With a Republican voice over that basically said that the opponent Democrat Presidential candidate was ‘weak on national security’.
Then Dr Chee, smiling knowingly at Kove, hit some keys on his laptop and the transformation began. The commercial was the same as before, except that now, whenever the Democrat candidate appeared, a superimposed picture appeared on top of his image, a picture of what can only be described as a vile, evil-looking face. A visage of utter evil. Simultaneously, the music and voice over layer was superimposed by a powerful voice shrieking, “EVIL, EVIL, EVIL…”
“I’m impressed,” Kove said, “But will it work?”
Dr Chee nodded. “I have tested this out secretly and surreptitiously in focus group tests. We took groups of 12 men and women who are strong Democrat supporters and by the 4th showing of the ad, about 11 of the 12 voted Republican instead of their original intention of voting Democrat. Believe me, it works. This is the most advanced subliminal advertising anybody has ever created.
“Subliminal advertising was invented decades ago but today, yours truly here is the world’s foremost expert. I have found, for example, that the success rate for positive messages is pretty low but negative messages like the one you just saw, is pretty effective. That is why you should use only negative ads in your Presidential campaign. And when you add in my little black magic, your candidate will most likely win. I can almost guarantee it.”
Kove handed over the briefcase he had brought and opened it. It was filled with stacks and stacks of dollar bills. “This is your payment. All cash. Untraceable. But a warning here. Even if you were to go public about this, I will deny I ever met you or even knew you. I already have an alibi for our meeting today. I am officially in Las Vegas, meeting some friends for a game of poker.”
Dr Chee winced. Obviously, Kove had had him under surveillance goodness knows for how long and knew his very Chinese weakness for gambling. Probably knew he had run up $600,000 in gambling debt in Las Vegas. The $300,000 in the briefcase would be very gratefully received and would pay off half his gambling debts.
At first, he had reservations in putting his academic skills to such ‘practical’ use. But the gambling debts kept mounting and there was no relief in sight. Until a phone call from Kove. Kove had assured him, that “Cheating is a habit that grows. It is like making love -- it is always easier the second time! The first time there may be pangs of conscience, a sense of guilt. But once embarked on this course with constant repetition you get more and more brazen in the act.”
Kove was right. He had had his scruples at first but soon felt as comfortable with this election cheating as though wearing his favourite T. But Kove’s payment met only half of his debts. So how?
He had an idea.
It was the most astounding election upset in the entire history of America. At first, fewer than 20% of the households in the country tuned in to the election result news. Then, as state after state results were declared, and the same astounding result was confirmed, the rumours and news broke through to most households. Every ordinary programme was interrupted frequently by the breaking news of the election upset.
People called each other to tune in to watch the election results, so much so that telephone lines and cellular phone networks were jammed. News commentators, normally composed, started shouting into their microphones. All over the world, those watching the results on satellite news channels watched the drama unfolding with total disbelief.
Dr Chee’s magic worked only too well. The commercials he prepared for Kove worked as planned. They turned voters against the Democrat candidate as intended.
But unknown to Kove, Dr Chee needed another $300,000 to fully pay off his debts and so did exactly the same for the Democrats. For $300,000.
So his magic also worked on voters, who were subliminally led to vote against the Republicans. Just as his earlier work for Kove led voters to vote against the Democrats.
That was why, of the 3 Presidential candidates, the Republican and the Democrat cancelled each other out, leaving only the independent candidate, Nalph Rader, as the winner. The greatest unpredicted election upset in the history of the world.
The election could not be nullified even though both the Republicans and the Democrats knew what had happened. They would be foolish to admit cheating in the elections. It would have been the end of their entire party’s chances in all future elections. Indeed, it would be the end of their party. So both the Republicans and the Democrats kept quiet and promised to work with President Nalph Rader.
It was an election night that would be talked about for years to come. And Dr Chee, by equalising his misdeed, had thereby undone the harm that would otherwise have happened. It was quite a Confucian outcome, well balanced and fair.
17 Mar 06
Story 11, titling right to Yan Ting.
Title by Yan Ting :
I am a secretary in the White House and below are the notes which I have taken over the years. For this record, I have omitted all that are not strictly relevant to the Bird Flu pandemic. Below, my diary entries :
2006 Mar 18 : Meeting today on possible bird flu arriving in US. The Secretary for Health briefed President Shrubs. Apparently, the first recorded instance of the H5N1 bird flu was in 1959 in a Scottish chicken at a Aberdeen farm. Since that outbreak in 1959, there had been 21 outbreaks that affected the world. The current outbreak probably began in April 2003 and this latest outbreak, unlike the early ones, has proven to be quite fatal to humans and can infect humans.
2006 Apr 2 : President Shrubs met with his neocons and decided that the bird flu could be a positive factor in helping the US maintain its hegemony over the rest of the world. If a bird flu pandemic broke out, countries with poor medical, health and social infrastructure could collapse. Although a bird flu pandemic will kill hundreds of thousands in the US, it would wipe out China and India, the 2 biggest rivals to US hegemony in the world. The neocons decided that firstly, the excellent medical, health and social infrastructure in place in the US could probably prevent the bird flu from arriving. And even if it did arrive, the health services could contain it and there will be minimum disruption to the rest of the country while in China and India, the pandemic could wipe out a huge percentage of their populations and thus reduce their rise to challenge American hegemony.
2006 Apr 15 : Homeland Security Secretary briefed President Shrubs. He said that the US is now practically airtight at air and sea ports and the advanced screeners in air and sea ports can catch anyone with a raised temperature, an important indicator of bird flu viral infection. He said it was unlikely that any person suffering from bird flu could enter the US and infect Americans. All meat animals arriving by sea or air would also be screened at the ports of entry. America is airtight, he said. Even if a few cases happened, the doctors have the medicines and the facilities to treat and contain it.
2006 Apr 28 : President met with the neocons again. The neocons suggested that the US produce the vaccines to vaccinate every single American, after which the US would no longer be vulnerable to a bird flu pandemic and could ‘sit it out’ while China and India collapsed. This means legislating that this American vaccine be produced and used only in the US and there will be no sales or technology offered to the rest of the world. This would ensure America’s continued dominance of the world after China and India collapsed.
2006 Jul 3 : The vaccines are ready. In 6 months, almost every American will be vaccinated against the H5N1 bird flu. No vaccine may be sold or exported outside the US. This is to ensure the survival of the US alone while China and India collapse.
2007 Feb 13 : Bird flu pandemic is now raging across the world. Almost every country except the US is stricken. Total deaths now passed 2 million in 38 countries. It is spreading faster and faster and soon, no country will be left untouched. We are safe. Thanks to our vaccinations.
2007 Apr 4 : In the rest of the world, the death toll has exceeded 3 million, mostly in the poorer countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America. China and India have each lost well over a million and it is continuing unabated. The pandemic is growing faster and faster exponentially.
2007 Jun 25 : So many millions have died from the pandemic that nobody’s counting any more. China and India have lost millions. But the pandemic there seems to be tapering off. It seems to be slowing.
2007 Sep 4 : Something strange has happened. The pandemic is tapering off and fewer are dying. Many infected people are actually recovering, often without any treatment at all. The fatalities in China and India are slowing to a crawl. The worst is over, it seems. Same thing in the rest of the world. Could the deadly strain have mutated? The immediate isolation of infected people seems to have helped China and India to arrest the pandemic. Maybe, as one theory goes, “A living thing that kills its host before it has a chance to propagate isn’t good for survival” and so the mutation into something less vicious? Symbiosis is a more practical arrangement than a fatal flu that kills the host before it can spread to other hosts.
2007 Dec 25 : This is one Christmas no American will ever forget. Yes, the H5N1 deadly strain has mutated. It is now less virulent except that it has arrived in America, through migratory birds or deliberately spread by Osama’s suicide carriers passing through our airports and seaports, nobody knows. It seems that our prior vaccination is useless against this new mutated strain. It is now spreading like wildfire across America. Our hospitals and medical staff can’t cope. Hundreds of thousands have already died. The country is collapsing. Doctors are now saying that the vaccinations have caused a particular antibody to develop, which hinders the body’s development of the correct antibody to fight the new mutation of bird flu. Thus, every vaccinated American cannot now develop the antibody to fight the new mutated strain. Doctors estimate that almost everybody who had been vaccinated is particularly at risk. Many millions of Americans will die and there is nothing we can do about it. This is the end of America as we know it. In China and India, millions have died but there are over a billion of them each, so they can overcome this and continue. In America, almost everyone will die, due to the combination of the vaccination and the new mutation.
2007 Dec 31 : I am now feverish. I must have caught the flu. All the hospitals are full and cannot accept anyone any more. The White House is strangely quiet. Maybe many others got it, too. I feel lousy. I am going to die. Every American is going to die. This is the end of America. So much for the neocons’ Project For A New American Century.
18 Mar 06 ; edited 19 Mar 06
THEORY OF GOD
1. Dedicated to Deborah LAM Ka Hei, a little girl who believes in God.
2. Gord sighed, if sigh could describe the ennui of an interminable life, for Gord's race had long conquered death and the rejuvenation of bodies and so, technically, nobody ever dies on the planet of Hareven, located in what we would call the region of Andromeda Galaxy. Gord's planet of Hareven has 3 suns, hence sometimes called The Trinity.
3. Although nobody ever dies on Hareven, since bodies could be rejuvenated by the sciences of Gord's advanced race, some minds do go blank, a kind of mental death, which Hareven's best mentalists studied and confirmed was due to a lack of purpose in life, for just existing forever was a kind of torture. So everyone was encouraged to find fulfilling purposes in life, if only to keep mentally heathy and avoid the early era deaths of sheer boredom.
4. Gord sighed again. His grand experiment was going well and success was at hand. He could rest after 6 cycles, having created a little world of his own. But what would he do then? Eternity is a long time of uncountable cycles. He would need to create other worlds, maybe.
5. Gord consulted himself [for his race had mastered the fusion of several or many into one and so there was no such thing as "I" and "you", "us" or "them". Each could be one or a plural and Gord was a fusion of three beings.
6. This was going better than his last creation. In that one, Gord had also made beings after his own image but they degenerated after many cycles and became extinct. With this world of creatures he created, he would build in a flexibility that would allow his creations to evolve according to its environment and thus assure lasting success. Thus, having learned his lesson, he would both create his creatures as well as allow them to evolve.
7. Like him, his creatures would have a moral sense, a sense of right and wrong, and much of the better natures of his race, for his race had long evolved into superior moral creatures, away from its early development of endless wars and brutal methods. A race as highly developed as his could not have been without the wisdom of aeons of development. This wisdom would be in every one of his creations although with the ability to evolve, it could change.
8. And so, on the seventh cycle, Gord rested. He surveyed his creations and found it good. With that, Gord went on his way, satisfied, perhaps to create other worlds in other times.