Tag Archive: science


** A note from the vagabond: I posted a flash science fiction piece here a while ago. I ended up liking it somewhat and decided to try and expand it to 8 or 9 thousand words. I eventually finished it about a month ago will be posting it in small chunks here for the coming month or two as I go through and edit it further. The following section is a rewrite of that which I posted before, followed by some new stuff. Thanks for reading… **

Under This Dome of Pretence

That’s the way it was with him. Always running, never fighting. “Welcome to Lat Khean” said a sign standing to one side against a backdrop of empty sand and sky. He was on a slow march over the eroded path which rose and fell over the landscape. He wasn’t sure what made the cities like Lat Khean so appealing to the masses of other settlers of this graveyard planet. He savoured the depth of disgust he had for them as he lifted his foot off of the terra in a puff of light yellow-brown dust. Locke lifted his eyes from the patch of ground immediately before his feet for the first time in a few indiscernible hours to inspect his surroundings more closely. He was looking for the glint, the glint which would guide him like a directional star, toward his object of hate, and his mantle of redemption which lay somewhere inside it. The sharp light from the low-lying sun which dominated the sky above with its immensity made it difficult to see as the photons bombarded Locke’s eye’s with too much brilliance for his unmodified eyes to handle. The rays refracting off of the desert around him had him squinting so hard that his eyes were almost closed. He knew more from his experience than from his observations. The stretch of empty desert behind the welcome sign didn’t fool his subconscious. His quickening heart beat was an observable measure that told him he was headed toward more than just dry landscape and sizable craters though this is all one less experienced would find if approached with an un-searching eye.

Locke dug his hands into his worn pant pockets; the memory of where precisely he had put the crumpled piece of paper had escaped his tired mind. The bits of lint left over in the depths of his pockets drifted off with the hot breeze as he pulled the softened from age paper into the harsh sun to look at. “Lat Khean, Soi Sam, tell them Joe sent you” said the paper in faded ink. He flipped it over, “Soi 4, Sala Daeng”. Locke stumbled onwards; searching for the glint of the glass like city dome he knew had to be appearing soon. He glanced back down at the patch of yellow dust before his feet because his eyes were sore from the brightness of the day. The reflection off of its gleam made him close his eyes momentarily and he felt his steps take him left of his intension as his tired body groped for balance without guiding sight. The few seconds of relief were bliss as his headache eased in the dark behind his eyelids. He flicked a hydration capsule into his mouth and it exploded into liquid as he bit down.

When he opened his eyes again the brightness was intensified until his pupils constricted again and he reduced his eyes to slits – barely open, but open enough to catch the glint he had been searching for. The city dome was just ahead. Locke pulled on his cloak and let the sleeves run back down to his wrists. 20 minutes later he glanced back over his shoulder, he was approaching the now obvious dome ahead. His fear of heat stroke now eclipsed completely by his peaking agoraphobia. The translucent invisibility of the dome from far was an obvious distortion of light from up close and octagonal grid patterns on the hazy dome criss-crossed across its surface. Locke paused where the yellow path he’d been on for 3 planetary days met the dome. “Joe sent me” he croaked into the hard glass-like surface before him. There was a pause and then a ripple in the dome propagated from a point on the surface before him and he stepped forward, ducking his head through the rippling wall…

Locke’s left arm twitched and he gave it a glance, just before his body slipped through the surface of the shimmering dome, to ensure none of his ill acquired tech was showing beyond his sleeves. Lat Khean’s air-conditioned atmosphere met his bone dry skin with a cool embrace, wrapping him in a moist body wrap due to the psychrometrically cooled air. As if the atomic weight of the heat itself was lifting off of Locke’s shoulders, he stood up straight, but what truly greeted him this side of the dome was an old hated companion. A featureless face in his subconscious, a personality behind his eyelids who would look at him out of a crowd of blank faces. The voice was always a whisper in his ear – you’re a coward it would say Run home to where it’s safe. He didn’t want to be in the city but circumstances were no slave to his desires and his past had forced him to travel the 200 miles to Lat Khean, this serpent pit of poisoned motives and poorly disguised intentions. But this was for her… and so he had no choice.

He felt as if there were knives poking at his heart, he knew the feeling well, it was the anxiety he felt for the people he would soon have to handle. Locke sunk into his coat and tried to avoid the eye contact of the impending crowd he had emerged into this side of the dome. “Cities…” Hespoke it like a swearword under his breath. “People…” he swore again.

“Keep walking, head down, breath slow…” he told himself as he moved past the congestion of conversing people.

Locke glanced backwards at the dome and then moved forwards again noting the tall skyscrapers surrounding him. He was moving through a bustling crowd of Lat Khean’s people on the sidewalk of a dirty street. He moved past street stalls selling tech, food, and many nefarious items for which he had no desire. He was single minded and moved deliberately, not even pausing to acknowledge the hawker’s calls of promise telling him that “I have all you need just down this soi”. Locke needed to get through this mess of people and find Joe before one of the knives poked a hole in his pounding heart. The signs on the side walk guided him through two lefts and a right, down a flight of eroded stairs and then up to a wooden door in a graffitied wall. Locke hit the intercom button and waited.

There was a commission inside, behind the door. Footsteps and gun fire, Locke jumped aside and the door burst open like a crate of fireworks, the wooden door splintered sending planks, cement and bricks exploding in all directions, except in the direction of Locke who stood with his back to the wall adjacent the now gaping hole with his eyes and fists clenched shut.

Next, people exploded out of the hole in the wall and Locke opened his eyes just in time to watch two men and a lady, follow each other in a staccato blistering sprint out of the charred hole. The last in the line of three out of the graffitied wall paused momentarily only to slip a glance through her visor at Locke, before putting her head down and recommitting to the chase. Her face was hidden but to Locke it almost appeared as if she was considering approaching him instead of disappearing with the others, why had she paused when she looked at him? Almost as if she had recognised him. The way she moved… Locke almost felt the same way about her, but he was left behind, surrounded by a pile of rubble. The girl and the other runners had disappeared into the street.

 

** part 2 will follow next week, come back if you found this vaguely amusing**

Advertisements

For a long time I have considered myself an introspective person, and I have attributed what wisdom I posses to this attribute. Others have noted before me that the self is the greatest opportunity to understand the social world and its behaviours for the reason that the self is always around to be observed. In fact of all people, we cannot escape only ourselves. Of course any scientific observation of an n = 1 sample group may be questioned – but we can escape this paradox if we apply experiment on what we have discovered through introspection to others in our world. Social experimentation. Interaction with people as a way to prove hypotheses of human behaviour theory.

I have been considering self-control and the role and extent of autocracy of the personal will on one’s own behaviour. As such I began looking for research material on the subject, which lead me to BF Skinner and the work I will start to summarise and perform exegesis upon below.

But first a short word on Burrhus Frederic “B. F.” Skinner:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/B._F._Skinner

B.F. Skinner – Harvard Professor of Psychology

 B.F. Skinner was an american psychologistbehaviorist, author, inventor, and social philosopher. He was the Edgar Pierce Professor of Psychology at Harvard University from 1958 until his retirement in 1974. Most notably, Skinner invented “radical behaviourism” and even more interestingly the “Skinner Box” or what is more officially called the “operant conditioning chamber”:

 “The box had a lever and a food tray, and a hungry rat could get food delivered to the tray by pressing the lever. Skinner observed that when a rat was put in the box, it would wander around, sniffing and exploring, and would usually press the bar by accident, at which point a food pellet would drop into the tray. After that happened, the rate of bar pressing would increase dramatically and remain high until the rat was no longer hungry.”

Credits to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/B._F._Skinner

Now some thoughts on the book itself.

Chapter one has some interesting ideas. It begins with the question “Can science help?” and goes on to elucidate on the goods and bads of the scientific era (these past few hundred years) in which there has been an exponential increase in scientific discovery. Skinner’s position is that natural science has developed so fast as to leave the science of human nature behind – thus causing imbalance in our world.

Humanity develops its understanding of technologies which have major effect on our social world and it discovers and defines laws and relationships in the natural world by which we can predict the effects of natural processes (enabling such things as atomic bombs and aeroplanes through nuclear fusion and fluid mechanics in aeronautics) but we do not apply the same drive and energy into discovering and defining the laws and relationships in the world of human nature with which we could predict the outcomes of our scientific creations (such as Hiroshima, 9/11, etc).

Skinner goes on to argue against those who rebel against the idea that human behaviour can in fact be understood through defined laws and relationships. On a side-note, it amazes me that the world has come so far and yet our common understanding of human nature is still mostly agnostic. We all agree on principles such as gravity but we don’t all share agreement on what motivates human decisions.

Why is it that advances in the hard and pure sciences such as mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology are pursued so vehemently and yet the very thing that drives those motivations and the thing that will inevitably make use of them remains esoteric? Psychology, philosophy and religion have much to say on these questions, but their consideration is diminished in light of technological advancement. Perhaps science will slow down in a century or two and a renaissance like age of psychology, philosophy and religion will emanate instead. The utopian satirist author Samuel Butler plays on this idea in his novel Erewhon, where ‘the instruments and products of science were put into museums – as vestiges of a stage in the evolution of human culture which did not survive.’

The question still remains however, is human nature subject to behavioural theory and prediction? What percentage of human behaviour is a categorical response to external stimuli and what percentage is not? Experiments like Skinner’s box and Pavlov’s bell suggest some relationship. Skinner’s next chapter begins to dig into this “Science of Behaviour” as he tries to show the extent to which the study of people’s actions are subject to the same methodology as is used in the hard sciences.

I aim to determine from his theories the relationships between and key principles behind free will and self-control.

Lastly, here is a brief interview with Skinner:

**author’s note: as per usual, the below story is unvarnished, but that’s what drafts are for, enjoy it**

The man with the iron fist

That’s the way it was with him. Always running, never fighting. “Welcome to Chit Lom” said the sign. He was taking a slow walk down the surreptitiously marked out path and wasn’t sure what made this piece of dirt any different from the last he lifted his foot of in a puff of light yellow brown dust. Locke lifted his eyes from the patch of ground immediately before his feet or the first time in a few indiscernible hours to inspect his surroundings more closely. His experience told him that he was headed toward more than just the current empty stretch of Karoo-like desert and sizable craters would initially suggest to an un-searching eye.

Locke dug his hands into his worn jean pockets; the memory of where precisely he had put the crumpled piece of paper had escaped his tired mind. The bits of lint left over in the depths of his pockets drifted off with the breeze as he pulled the softened from age paper into the harsh sun to look at. “Chit Lo, Soi Sam, tell them Joe sent you” said the paper in faded ink. He flipped it over, Soi 4, Sala Daeng”. Locke stumbled onwards; searching for the glint of the glass like city dome he knew had to be appearing soon. He glanced back down at the patch of yellow dust before his feet because his eyes were sore from the brightness of the mid-Martian day. The reflection off of its gleam made him close his eyes momentarily and he felt his steps take him left of his intention as his tired body groped for balance without guiding sight. The few seconds of relief were bliss as his headache eased in the dark behind his eyelids.

When he opened his eyes again the brightness was intensified until his pupils constricted again and he reduced his eyes to slits – barely open, but open enough to catch the tint he had been searching for. The city dome was just ahead. Locke pulled his cloak more tightly around his shoulders and let the sleeves run back down to his wrists. He glanced back over his shoulder as he approached the now obvious dome 10 minutes of walking later and his fear of dehydration was replaced by his agoraphobia. The translucent invisibility of the dome from far was an obvious distortion of light from up close and octagonal grid patterns on the hazy dome criss-crossed across its surface. Locke paused where the yellow path he’d been on for 3 Martian days met the dome. “Joe sent me” he croaked into the hard glass-like surface before him. There was a pause and then a ripple in the dome propagated from a point on the surface before him and he stepped forward, ducking his head through the rippling wall…

**authors note: I wrote this introduction to the rick-rack rhythm of the rail road, hunched up in a seat designed for a Thai person half my size, in the last car of a train trekking from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, Thailand. I had 16 hours to spend with only my moleskin notebook and tablet keyboard to keep me entertained. At about the 8 hour mark, giving up on sleep, I pulled out my pencil and moleskin and began to write. Thus Locke was born.

I have another 3000 words to this story following the above which I will put up in due time. I’m not sure just how long this story will be in the end yet but I am hoping to finish it in the next 3000 words. It feels like a 6000 word story**

** Writers note: I promised the internet and myself long ago that I would post some Sci-fi “flash fiction” short stories on this eclectic blog of mine. Well it has taken way longer than it should have for me to get anything up. This small piece should hopefully start a trend of more stories to come. 

This specific piece is just an idea that came out of the ether as I tapped away in a coffee shop earlier this year, when I write it’s usually not planned – not at first anyway. I tend to come up with my best stuff when I stop thinking and planning and just let my fingers go on the rapatap rhythm of the keyboard. A stream-of-consciencness sort of process. I get the same feeling when I do this as that when I’m rocking a set of drums and when I’m blazing an electric guitar – the tactile rhythm, the unthinking reactions relying on a consciousness deeper than what is placed on the surface for observation at other times – such as in conversation.

Take this for what it is, an idea – with no pretense. And if you are able – enjoy it and let it inspire ideas in you. You also may not understand what I’m getting at with it. That’s ok, I’m not sure yet either . **

Meta-gods

Agromorphus awoke to the sounds of anarchy. Nothing new here. his father was releasing his rage in the form of targeted psychological mass hysterias in the people of the Araes. Agromorphus could guess what had triggered this rage – some illogical meandering of some misfortunate fool down on the planet surface. Who was it this time? Probably Pheminon, the top of the Araestic food chain and the bottom of the planetary cesspool as far as anyone with any concept of dignity could possibly be concerned.

“What is it”, Agromorphus heard his father musing, “that makes it possible for these types to reach such heights of political prosperity when riding on such whimsy life-boat principles? Their very words the holes which sink their platforms of thought in the ocean of all that makes real sense. Springing leaks like a sieve out at sea. This man is an intellectual sieve – empty for 95% of his life. Only able to hold onto something worth anything for a few moments. Then empty again.”

Arepergus ended his rant with one last poke at the Araens with his long, crooked index finger – the people in Araes responding in madness. Arepergus had power over sanity – a cruel joke initiated by his father before him. Arepergus had the gift of understanding, the ability to know truth fully, he sailed it’s expanses as an old captain does the ocean, his curse was to ever guard the gates to the sea of sense from “those who would piss in it with their blunt ideas”, as he was apt to say to Agromorphus, his son and heir.

Agromorphus was a younger being. Having only sythesised into being a few decades ago. What his role in this hyper-world he and the other gods resided in was still uncertain to him, though his father seemed to know where sense would take him…

**writer’s note, I am pleased and proud to call you, dear-reader’s attention to my friend TUE once again with regard to Science fiction. His first published sci-fi short story is soon to be available for public scrutiny in an anthology of African Science Fiction called AfroSF– check out his blog and the fb page for information.**

%d bloggers like this: