Human Nature

Most mothers find that the most irksome aspect of parenting is not the cleaning up of their offspring’s multitude of messes, but in the lack of gratitude that they receive for doing so. Most would gladly double their workload if it meant even an occasional “thank you” from their children. OK, that was an exaggeration; I’m being told the actual figure is closer to “A 20% increase, at most”. But the point is that mothers are woefully underappreciated these days. And for no mother is this truer than Mother Nature herself. For, as much as people appreciate the breathtaking majesty of her creation, woefully few appreciate the tremendous effort that goes into keeping it maintained.

Most think of nature as a thing that “just happens”. The cycles of day and night, weather and climate, life and death, the heavens and Earth, all run on some kind of cosmic clockwork, wound up eons ago and kept in perpetual motion. They think this, despite knowing it impossible; they understand perpetual motion to be a myth, as there is nothing in this universe which does not fall prey to some manner of friction. Mother Nature and her countless helpers, like myself, tirelessly work to combat this friction. We work primarily through water, which is why it does so many things that, scientifically speaking, it shouldn’t. Like clouds, for instance. Though some erroneously believe them to be made of water vapor, they’re actually made of liquid water or ice, which is denser than air. So how do they stay afloat? It’s simple: we hold them there. And you know how glaciers move around a bit each year? That’s me. I do that. I’m the guy who pushes the glaciers. You might think it’d be hard to get them to move, since they’re so big, but the real challenge is actually getting them to stop. As any high school physics teacher will tell you, ice is frictionless. And yeah, I know I just finished talking about how everything experiences friction, but water’s a special case. Nature kind of jerry-rigged its properties to make life possible, which is why it exhibits some behaviors that aren’t exactly chemically legal, such as expanding when it freezes.

Anyway, the reason I’m telling you all this is because I’m concerned. It seems that, recently, the ungratefulness of humans has evolved into open hostility, as you invade the land once belonging to nature and infect the land, seas, and sky with your pollution. Maybe this is just some rebellious teen phase that you’ll grow out of, but I suggest that you do so quickly. Mother nature is not herself lately. Her hair has begun to grey, and she’s developed a cough unmistakably similar to that of a lifelong smoker. So I implore that you reconsider mankind’s actions, for your own sake, if not for hers.

The Shadow Planet

The most surprising thing we learned about physics once we developed interstellar travel was that it was all wrong. In particular, the assumption that spacetime is homogenous, which we had taken as an axiom, was proven to be utterly and horrifically false. The homogeneity of spacetime essentially says that the rules of physics are the same throughout the universe. No matter where you go, an object in motion tends to stay in motion, every action has an equal and opposite reaction, ect. You know, The Works. We figured that, just because these laws were true everywhere we went, they must be true everywhere. But we have since discovered that this is no less naive than expecting the laws of the US to protect you in North Korea. And nowhere is the inhomogeneity of spacetime more apparent than in the inter-filamental voids, the International Waters of the universe.

A particularly well-known example of how little our rules mean outside our local neighborhood is the planet Nyx, more commonly called “The Shadow Planet”. The star that it orbits, Erebus, is quite unlike anything that can be explained by conventional physics. Rather than emitting light, it exudes darkness, cloaking the planet in night. However, just as light can be absorbed by an opaque object, so too can this darkness. Nyx is illuminated only by shadows, swaths of radiance which cut through the gloom like sunshine. As Einstein famously (didn’t) say, “Darkness is just the absence of light.” On planet Nyx, the reverse is true. The invisible landscape is dotted with lights of unnervingly familiar shapes. Brilliant shadows, too similar to the human form to be chalked up to coincidence, flit across the surface. Yet we cannot know with any certainty whether or not humanoid beings inhabit Nyx, as the shadows never intersect. Without the illumination of other shadows, they remain cloaked in darkness from cradle to grave. Perhaps this is merely an unusual custom of theirs, but one cannot discard the possibility that they know they are being watched.