Future Views Magazine
University Fees and Debt
Who is the main beneficiary of university education, the student, the employer or the nation?
Units of measurement and the end of space.
Six Point Pollution Solution
Part One: "Flowers In The City"
brighten our cities with many tiny garden?
Six Point Pollution Solution
Part Two: "The Transformation of Waste"
Instead of landfill, waste could be a valuable resource.
Hidden blueprints for the new cities of the sea.
Arabian Mights & Maybes
Plans for the future carefully copied by Brenda.
Arabian Might May Raise The Sea
Desalinated reverse rivers powered by nature
The Unpublished Manuscript
A hint as to what may lie in the future.
A curious twist to the laws of perception.
The Slop House
an alternative to the traditional public house
You Are A Winner
A willing victim is the best victim.
Maybe our prisons are not as wonderful as all that.
The Bright New Pants Manifesto
The hilarious solution to invevitable change
A raging argument is discovered
Our (remarkable) Planetary Neighbours
An idiosyncratic look at our solar system and a reappraisal of the universe.
Present: Rick, Euan, Arri, scientists: Zak, Clive, Mike,
As I sat on the floor squeezing my headphone against my ear and adjusting the controls on the Nagra, that old joke came to mind about no one ever having seen a sound recordist standing up.
Euan, arms tired from holding the boom mike, rested it on the floor and my levels went to pot. I hissed at him and he raised it back into place. Acey looked at me, I nodded and he cued the presenter to say a few more words.
Arri, fingers on the focus control, muttered, "let's just shoot the beast and we can all go down to the pub."
Acey heard him and called for a take.
The presenter was Mike, a sprightly fifty year old scientist. He stood in front of a roller blackboard covered in old fashioned chalk sketches and mathematical equations. He was beaming with enthusiasm.
"Here in the Royal Institute of Cognitive Technology we have been conducting a series of experiments into perceptual shifts. Many of you will be familiar with the experiment where subjects wore prismatic spectacles that turned straight lines into broken lines and how the brain was able to convert these back into straight lines again."
He picked up what looked like a bicycle helmet encrusted with gadgetry. Knowing the institute, that is probably exactly what it was.
"Here we have taken matters a step further."
He donned the helmet, his eyes disappearing behind a pair of lenses. Microphones were located by his ears and home-made boxes with lots of wires were on the top.
"Light from the lenses is converted into sound, and sound from the microphones is converted into light." He turned his head slowly this way and that. "As I turn my head, I see the sounds and hear the views of the room. The experiment is designed to find out how the brain copes with such a conversion."
He turned and walked a few paces.
"Over here," he continued, "we have a monitor showing you what I am seeing." He reached out and switched on a computer monitor.
The camera panned across.
"As you can see, I am able to locate the monitor because of the audio-signals I see in my viewer, even though everything looks rather different."
I glanced over to the monitor, the sounds from the stereo microphones had been translated into a remarkable pattern, every time Mike moved his head the pattern changed. Although incomprehensible at first glance, I could imagine how, with practice, it may be possible to interpret the patterns sufficiently to enable normal navigation. That, after all, is what bats and other creatures have been doing for millennia.
"At this point the programme would switch to the direct feed giving viewers the same sound and picture as the scientist. The web-stream would offer stereophonic output through headphones and a stereoscopic viewer."
"Cut," the take was over.
Acey waved his finger in the air indicating a break for lunch.
I rewound the tape and stood up.
We made for the canteen.
A screen filled a wall, every second the picture changed. Around the edges coloured sound-waves flickered and changed constantly, it was evident they came from many different sources. A title bar explained, "THESE ARE THE RADIO WAVES IN THIS ROOM". I paused to watch.
There were two microwaves, some drawers containing a fork, a bent kitchen knife and two plastic spoons. There were also a couple of mugs and bowls and a sink with a boiling water dispenser.
Lotte and Eta came in 'bearing gifts,' that is, two plastic bags with Indian take-aways. They even had plastic forks.
Mike the scientist joined us, Arri Euan and me, together with two assistants or colleagues. They had pot noodle, microwave food and a lunch box.
Mike, sitting opposite me, leaned forward and, with a glint in his eye, hissed, "don't let him talk," jabbing his finger in the direction of his colleague.
The man, a tall, black haired thirty-something, grinned and held out his hand, "hi, I'm Clive, and that's Zak our assistant. We've been working with Mike on this for seven years."
"On and off," Mike added.
"When we get grants," said Zak, extending his hand in greeting.
Pleasantries concluded, Euan, Arri and I wrestled with the wrapping on our lunch packs.
Arri launched into his favourite subject, the theories written up by his uncle in his as yet unpublished manuscript.
The three scientists ate quietly and let Arri talk. Euan and I (and most of our crew) had heard it all before.
Euan seized a moment when Arri was busy eating, "I don't suppose I could get a shot of your fancy hat," he said.
"After lunch," said Zak, "come with us."
"Can you translate smell, taste or touch?" I joked.
Clive leaned forward and said softly, "we can do a lot better than that."
Mike gave me an, 'I told you so,' warning look while Zak pulled a face and looked away.
"Your 'stars' theory makes more sense than Clive's planets," Zak joked to Arri.
"We study the electro-magnetic spectrum," Clive continued, "everything radiated by our sun."
Mike immersed himself in finishing off his tuna salad sandwich while Zak strummed his cheek with his fingers, looked the other way and pretended to be whistling.
Euan and I listened, giving Arri a short sharp nudge in the ribs when he tried to resume his 'star seed' theory.
"What we call light'" Clive was saying, "or, 'the visible spectrum' extends into gamma and radio waves and, we propose," Mike stabbed a finger suggesting Clive was alone in this, "that 'Matter' too is an extension of that same electromagnetic spectrum."
Zak caught Arri's eye, grinned and twirled his index finger by his temple to say, 'loony'.
Unperturbed, Clive continued.
"Everything in our world corresponds to one chunk of the great spectrum of energy radiating from the sun. All life on earth and most matter is likewise attuned to the same segment, so to speak."
Euan and I exchanged glances, neither of us were sure we understood.
Clive smiled and drew a folded paper from his pocket, "look," he said, pointing at a diagram of the electromagnetic spectrum, "here we have radio waves and down here at the other end, beyond gamma and X-rays, we have solid matter."
Alongside he had drawn several planets showing each one aligned with a different part of the spectrum.
Clive put the paper away and continued, "there is a principle so simple it hardly warrants a mention: If we know something exists, then it exists, but if we don't know, who can tell?"
I had to concur. Mike rolled his eyes and scowled, pretending to be engrossed in tidying away his lunch box.
Euan nodded, "television, FM radio, electricity," he said.
"Nuclear power," I added.
Clive was encouraged.
"Everything on our earth is 'normal' to us because we are attuned, as a planet, to certain frequencies of the sun's overall radiation. Instead of saying that our earth is precisely located to benefit from optimum heat and life supporting qualities, we could turn the equation on its head and say that our world is manifested to our senses because of the way we are synchronised with the sun's electromagnetic rays."
He paused as if waiting to see if we had spotted something, "what is life?" he asked. Mike and Zak exchanged glances and evidently decided to bite their tongues. "What is consciousness? Ha - we do not even know what light is, not really. Light behaves both like particles and like waves, scientists can't figure it out." Clive was grinning.
Zak went over to the sink and made himself a coffee. He waved empty cups at us and we nodded
"Nuclear physicists have found that the tiniest element that makes up all matter is not a 'bit' or a 'thing' but rather, a spark of energy orbited by another flickering spark of energy. What we call 'elements' here on earth, hydrogen, helium and so on, are made up of frequencies rather than items, chunks, bits or whatever you care to call them."
Euan, Arri and I listened, fascinated.
"Other planets like Mars, Venus, Jupiter, Saturn are 'synchronised' to entirely different aspects of the sun's energy. Their 'elements' run at different frequencies. Just as our eyes cannot see gamma or radio waves, our senses cannot detect energy configurations that are composed of parts of the solar spectrum that are similarly shifted from our world."
I had to think about that one.
"When we see riverbeds on Mars," Clive continued, "we are not seeing something left over from earlier times, we are seeing the bed of an actual river. That part of Mars is within our cognitive range but the 'river' itself, 'Martian Water,' is invisible to us because the substance is made up of elements that function at frequencies wholly unfamiliar to ourselves."
Arri nodded, "if we could 'retune' our senses, Mars would be as populated with plants and creatures as Earth."
"Venus, on the other hand," Clive continued, "is shifted in the other direction, therefore while Mars appears to us dry and desert-like, Venus seems hot and moist."
"Different part of the spectrum," Euan said, "one direction is more dry, the other more wet, yeah, that makes a kind of sense."
"To Martians, Earth is hot like Venus, while to Venusians, Earth is dry like Mars," Arri chirped.
"What you are saying is that there are beings like us on both of these planets, sharing their world with animals as we do here?" my voice rose with incredulity.
"Spectrographic shift analysis may prove the theory," said Clive.
Mike could take no more, he let out an explosive snort almost like a bark and stormed across to pour boiling water onto his lemon tea.
Zak placed a tray of coffees with a carton of milk and some sugar bags on the table, we helped ourselves.
Zak kept still, watching our reactions with interest.
"Exactly the same but completely different," I said, stirring my coffee, "that's what they say makes a good follow-up feature," I laughed.
"Venus and Mars," Clive continued, "Mercury, Jupiter and Saturn, all the other planets in our solar system: they're exactly the same as Earth and yet completely different."
"Unimaginably different," Euan said, "who can tell what they might be like? How could anyone even make a guess?"
Mike sat down, "if this gets out they'll cut our funds."
"You mean, you're working on this?" Arri was quick to pick up on his manner.
With a grimace of denial Mike barely nodded.
Zak put a finger to his lips and looked at each of us in turn.
I nodded, Arri and Euan followed.
"Never heard a word," I said, "apart from what we caught on tape."
We smiled; their secret, though shared, was safe.
The others were talking louder now that they had finished their food and the room was growing noisier.
Zak put his hands to his ears and his eyes reminding Euan that we had a funny sort of bicycle helmet to try on.
We finished our drinks and left the room.