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Code dependency

31 May 2001
Matt says it's time to upgrade.

The liner's rocking only slightly as I settle into my cabin for the night. The fire alarm that wakes me shortly before sunrise is not as piercing as it could be for which I am grateful, and I dress quickly making my way still slightly dazed to the lifeboats which are deployed rapidly thanks to repeated and effective training. Perhaps the lifeboat will remain near here by the holed and slowly sinking liner, cupping its occupants on the surface of the water with no sense of urgency as they wait patiently for the life guard to surely arrive. Or perhaps the small boat will be carried by the tide and washed and slopped by the current round the coast a little way, past a head and into a cove that has had no human near since the dawn of time, no explorer within five hundred miles, a cove that the Creator never expected anyone to see, and consequently never finished. The rocks, the sand, the blue cold water, the air blend into a bland grey nothingness, unhewn matter, a distinct presence of a hole, a lack of reality, the edge of the universe, right here, on the coast in Alaska.

That was the first.

In an underwater lake recently discovered in Antarctica we find the second. A creature distantly related to jellyfish has a tiny time measurement organ based upon the resonance of a ring of modified nerve cells. On study of the genetic code, the structure of the organ, and the species' nearest relatives we find that this tiny feature simply cannot be. There's no way for evolution to produce this -- too many knots and self-references and mutual dependancies -- and no way for external interference in this lake for many many times the length of existence of the species. At this point we have over seven hundred years experience in understanding and manipulating DNA. We know. This organ simply cannot exist. Yet it does.

There's a logical contradiction in the scientific structure of the universe.

A third: An edge case in partical physics where in very particular circumstances there's a loophole in quantum uncertainty. Suddenly we have access to the hidden variables of the universe, although it's such a convoluted situation these variables aren't useful. This should never ever ever happen.

We think these are bugs in the universe. Errors in the code. Mistakes of the Creator. We weren't expected to get this far, to investigate in this much detail. It's funny really. For so long science has made the case that there is no god, and suddenly. Well.

A fourth: A certain isotope of potassium machined into a certain shape to within billionths of a millimetre comes into contact with a certain intensity of a certain wavelength of light... and it spontaneously disappears, no residual mass, no residual energy. Nothing left. Just a vague grey hole, an absence of anything, in the same shape of the material, that the surroundings gradually close over.

We think it's the subroutine crashing. We think that behind the scenes somewhere whatever's dealing with this potassium isn't written well enough to cope with this case, and it just gives up. Bombs.

After thousands upon thousands of years of smooth sailing it's taken only a hundred or so to find these cases. They aren't common, but there are many more. Mostly in out of the way places it was incredibly unlikely we'd see. There's a hole, a tiny one, on Jupiter. I could give you the coordinates if you like. We weren't looking for it but saw it anyway on a recent expedition. It was random where we sent the probe in, and the hole is vanishingly small compared to the size of the planet. What the odds? Exactly. So it's understandable there are bugs, but equally you understand our concern.

Example number five. There are shops open that have been running in families for generations. Taxes are paid, children are supported, rent and rates payments are made with income from the shops. But when we looked closely at the actual revenue and expenditure of one, there's no way this shop could survive. Somewhere along the line it'd been supported, massively. So we checked the audit trails, the accounts, the lines of money all the way to the top. And we're not sure. Somewhere along the line less than enough becomes more than enough, and it's impossible to tell where.

We looked harder. And it turns out that there's no way our economy can run -- could ever have run in fact. It's not obvious. It's far from clear, actually it's very very close to the line whether there's enough happening to keep our society going. But we've done the calculations, and they took several decades and the latest computers, and ever so slightly it all doesn't work. It. All. Doesn't. Work.

Creation is littered with examples like this, at all kinds of levels. Numbers that simply have to add up, but just don't. In mathematics, in flocks of birds, in geography: It all appears to be the same. That in certain very exact situations things stop working as they should and vanish into a kind of grey absence of reality (if they're physically visible), or a numerical fudge that nobody can quite pin down (if they aren't).

And we're concerned. We're worried that there are these bugs. It means that everything was assembled by a fallible being. I mean it's good that we have proof there really is a Creator, finally after all this time, but these bugs, these mistakes, these crashes, these errors in the basic code and programming, what do they mean?

What we're really scared of is a reboot.


Previously on upsideclown


Current clown:

18 December 2003. George writes: This List

Most recent ten:

15 December 2003. Jamie writes: Seven Songs
11 December 2003. Dan writes: Spinning Jenny
8 December 2003. Victor writes: Rock Opera
4 December 2003. Matt writes: The Mirrored Spheres of Patagonia
1 December 2003. George writes: Charm
27 November 2003. James writes: On Boxing
24 November 2003. Jamie writes: El Matador del Amor; Or, the Man who Killed Love
20 November 2003. Dan writes: Rights Management
17 November 2003. Victor writes: Walking on Yellow
13 November 2003. Matt writes: Disintermediation
(And alas we lost Neil, who last wrote Cockfosters)

Also by this clown:

4 December 2003. Matt writes: The Mirrored Spheres of Patagonia
13 November 2003. Matt writes: Disintermediation
23 October 2003. Matt writes: Topology
2 October 2003. Matt writes: Haunted
8 September 2003. Matt writes: The Gardener's Diary
21 August 2003. Matt writes: The Starling Variable
31 July 2003. Matt writes: Two stories
14 July 2003. Matt writes: What is real?
23 June 2003. Matt writes: Mapping and journeys
29 May 2003. Matt writes: Extelligence
5 May 2003. Matt writes: Religious experiences
17 April 2003. Matt writes: Seeing the Light
27 March 2003. Matt writes: Flowering
10 March 2003. Matt writes: Climax state
10 February 2003. Matt writes: The Role of Cooperation in Human Interaction
20 January 2003. Matt writes: The same old subroutine
2 January 2003. Matt writes: New beginnings
9 December 2002. Matt writes: Packet Loss
18 November 2002. Matt writes: Wonderland
31 October 2002. Matt writes: Having and losing
10 October 2002. Matt writes: Trees of Knowledge
19 September 2002. Matt writes: The online life of bigplaty47
29 August 2002. Matt writes: Divorce
8 August 2002. Matt writes: How to get exactly what you want
18 July 2002. Matt writes: Eleven Graceland endings
27 June 2002. Matt writes: Listopad, Prague 1989
3 June 2002. Matt writes: Engram bullets
6 May 2002. Matt writes: Sound advice
15 April 2002. Matt writes: How it all works: Cars
21 March 2002. Matt writes: Proceeding to the next stage
25 February 2002. Matt writes: Spam quartet
31 January 2002. Matt writes: Person to person
7 January 2002. Matt writes: All for the best
13 December 2001. Matt writes: Life
19 November 2001. Matt writes: Giving is better than receiving
25 October 2001. Matt writes: Ludo
1 October 2001. Matt writes: Gifts, contracts, and whispers
6 September 2001. Matt writes: The world is ending
13 August 2001. Matt writes: The Church of Mrs Bins
16 July 2001. Matt writes: Things I Don't Have
25 June 2001. Matt writes: Fighting the Good Fight
31 May 2001. Matt writes: Code dependency
7 May 2001. Matt writes: Up The Arse, Or Not At All
5 April 2001. Matt writes: The increasing nonlinearity of time
19 March 2001. Matt writes: Hit Me Baby, One More Time
22 February 2001. Matt writes: Space, Matter, Cities, Sausages
29 January 2001. Matt writes: Truth in Advertising
1 January 2001. Matt writes: Six predictions for tomorrow
7 December 2000. Matt writes: You must reach this line to ride
16 November 2000. Matt writes: The truth about the leopard
23 October 2000. Matt writes: Shopping mauls
28 September 2000. Matt writes: Heavy traffic on the road to Utopia
4 September 2000. Matt writes: Sixty worlds a minute
17 July 2000. Matt writes: You, Me, and Face-space

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