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Sunday, September 07, 2014

Science fiction and the two-in-one state solution

I can't help thinking of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict as I read Star Trek: Titan: Absent Enemies (only $1.99 in kindle :). In this story, the crew of Titan, commanded by Admiral Will Riker, is sent on a peace mission to a planet with a small island land mass that is in contention between two different resident alien species. The armed conflict between the aliens has been going on without respite for many decades and numerous Starfleet peace missions over the years have had no effect, so when Riker and his team beam down to the planet, they don't have high hopes for making a difference, but they're surprised to find the hostilities ended and only one of the alien races extant. Eventually they discover what the remaining aliens don't yet know .... that the missing race has put its whole population out of phase.

"I wonder if you even realize what you have done here," the Vulcan said. "You've happened upon a way for two rival parties to share the same coveted geographical location at the same time. Blood has been shed by countless billions who could not find a way to coexist. But you have taken coexistence to a new level. Or, more precisely, to a new quantum state."

What does it mean to be out of phase? I'll shift from Star Trek to Stargate and let Samantha Carter explain ;) ...

MITCHELL: 'Out of phase' -- what does that mean?

CARTER: It means we may have shifted to an alternate dimension.

MITCHELL: And there are an infinite number of alternate dimensions.

CARTER: No, no, no. That's alternate realities.

MITCHELL: So when the other SG-1 showed up ...

CARTER: Completely different problem. You see, according to M theory that unites the other five Superstring theories there are several spatial dimensions. Eleven, actually, that exist in parallel to our physical realities. Now, these higher dimensions ...

Mitchell waves his hand to stop her.

MITCHELL: No, I'll take your word for it. That was alternate reality, this is alternate dimension. Hell, all I need is a good time travel adventure and I've scored the SG-1 trifecta. Now how's Jackson supposed to help us with this?

CARTER: Well, a similar thing happened to him a few years ago.

Mitchell tries to recall the mission as he sidesteps another officer.

MITCHELL: PX7 377, the crystal skull!

CARTER: You really did read every report from every mission we ever went on, didn't you?

MITCHELL: I was in that hospital a long time and they were all riveting.

Carter smiles.

CARTER: Anyway, Daniel was out of phase and no one could see him except for his grandfather, Nicholas Ballard.

MITCHELL: And because the same thing happened to Ballard in Belize, Jackson should be able to see us because we're all part of the same club.

CARTER: Right.

Mitchell clicks his fingers, pleased.

MITCHELL: Perfect.

Ouch - now my head hurts ;) I don't know how this will all work out in the book I'm reading, but it reminds me of another book, The City & the City by China Miéville. From Wikipedia ...

The City & the City takes place in the cities of Besźel and Ul Qoma. These two cities actually occupy much of the same geographical space, but via the volition of their citizens (and the threat of the secret power known as Breach), they are perceived as two different cities. A denizen of one city must dutifully 'unsee' (that is, consciously erase from their mind or fade into the background) the denizens, buildings, and events taking place in the other city – even if they are an inch away. This separation is emphasised by the style of clothing, architecture, gait, and the way denizens of each city generally carry themselves. Residents of the cities are taught from childhood to recognise things belonging to the other city without actually seeing them. Ignoring the separation, even by accident, is called "breaching" – a terrible crime by the citizens of the two cities, even worse than murder.

The twin cities are composed of crosshatched, alter, and total areas. "Total" areas are entirely in one city, the city in which the observer currently resides. "Alter" areas are completely in the other city, and so must be completely avoided and ignored. Between these are areas of "crosshatch". These might be streets, parks or squares where denizens of both cities walk alongside one another, albeit "unseen." Areas that exist in both cities usually go under different names in each one. There is also Copula Hall, "one of the very few" buildings which exists in both cities under the same name. Rather than being cross-hatched, it essentially functions as a border. It is the only way in which one can legally and officially pass from one city to another. Passing through the border passage takes travellers, geographically (or "grosstopically"), to the exact place they started from – only in a different city.

From a physical standpoint, little differentiates the two cities, other than slight differences of architecture, vehicles and styles of dress which citizens and visitors are trained to recognise. Those who do not know about the separation might naturally view the two cities as one. Because of this, an extra power is needed to keep the separation in place: this organisation is known as Breach. When a 'breach' takes place (used here in the sense of 'breaching' the barrier between the two cities), Breach comes to take care of it. Members of the Breach organisation use their powers to take the breacher captive, and bring them to an unknown punishment. "Breachers", as they are called, disappear and are never seen again. Children and tourists, however, are treated more leniently: children may be forgiven for a small breach; if tourists breach, they are bundled out and banned from both cities forever.

Most breaches are taken care of by Breach immediately, but its surveillance capabilities are not absolute. Sometimes Breach must be specifically invoked to investigate a crime that seems to be a clear-cut case of breach, such as a smuggling operation that involves breaching to transport the smuggled goods from one city to the other. To invoke Breach, the police must present their evidence to an Oversight Committee composed of 42 members, 21 from each city. If the evidence presented is convincing enough, the Committee performs whatever other investigation into the matter it deems appropriate to resolve any remaining doubts its members have. If its investigation concludes to its satisfaction that a breach has taken place, then and only then will it invoke Breach. Invoking Breach is a last resort because it is an alien power to which some consider that Besźel and Ul Qoma surrender their sovereignty at their peril.

If only real life conflicts could be peacefully resolved in one of these ways.


Blogger Dina said...

With the worsening situation here in the Middle East, I think I'd like going into that alternate dimension for a while.

1:28 PM  
Blogger Dina said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

1:28 PM  
Blogger Dina said...

Sorry, my same comment posted twice. Maybe it has to do with my going out of phase. ;)

1:30 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

Hi Dina :)

I guess phasing into different dimensions is possible in theory but who knows when if ever science will figure out how to do it. Nice idea, though. I hope the current cease fire/truce lasts this time!

1:48 PM  

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