20 days ago

The World of Webb

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Webb is a telescope deployed about a million miles from the earth to give us better picture of the world beyond. Using features, it is now possible to see the beginning of time starting with the Big Bang if it ever happened. This is possible through using the time lag for light to travel in space. With passing days, we can see more as more light can reach us from further distances. It is amazing how science opens up doorways to the heaven and beyond.

Not long-ago, science fictions were elements of imagination close to fantasies. When HG Wells wrote about time travel, we were not sure how much of that was related to the real world. We have moved a long way since then, as science has progressed, to the possibility of moving back in time to see things as they happen. There can be restrictions on ability to engage, lest it affects later happenings as beautifully portrayed in the film 'Back to the Future'. Many theories now abound from multiple universes to our milky way being inside a black hole. 'Hitchhiker's Guide to Galaxy' by Douglas Adams is a book of later years that talks about such options to the extent that one can travel from one star to another to perform a chore and then return home in one earth day. In today's term this would be something like going to Cox's Bazar for dinner and return home at night.

As Adams foresaw, not too far in the distant future, the world would be divided into empires consisting of celestial bodies drawn from different stars, planet earth being a member of one such empire. Each empire would be akin to the globe that adorns our tabletop. In a quirk of fate, it became necessary to demolish the planet earth as it stood on the galactic pathway connecting elements, not different from the way houses are demolished today to build roads. As usual the earthlings were served notices about the plan. Not a big deal, earth being a tiny 'dot' among so many other components of the empire. The book is about the travail of Mr Dent, a resident of planet earth, who was not happy with the way he was informed. Yet Mr Dent must relocate. He would need a flying saucer to do that. He was being helped by a neighbour Mr Ford, of the last fifteen years. Mr Ford was able to hitch a hike with help of a friend from his mother planet in the star system Betelgeuse.

The whole incident is portrayed by Mr Adams in an amusing and yet realistic fashion. Alpha Century is our nearest star at a distance of about two light years. Betelgeuse is quite a long way. Each star has earth-like planets in the habitable zone able to sustain earth-like life. Mr Dent could relocate to one such place. This would be a long journey passing the entire solar system and then the interstellar space. No wonder this is a favourite book of Mr Musk who is now busy with SpaceX trying to fix courses to the Mars.

My introduction to the world of Sci-fi began with HG Wells and his Time Machine. Those were school years almost a century after Mr Wells' Time Machine was written, on how it was possible to move through this fourth-dimension riding on a machine. The childhood days were amazing where we fantasized the implication of such possibilities. Once I dreamt of a fishing hook dangling on my window sill. The hook was thrown by an alien trying to fish in the ocean of air from an airboat floating on a cloud in the sky. Those were wonderful days fuelled by amazing science teachers at the school. That unease is not completely gone as science brings in new ideas all the time. I get puzzled by things that vanish from the tabletop to reappear after a while. Can this be due to a slip in one of other dimensions that Mathematicians claim exist in our world?

Another scary thought is the control of a planet by two equally powerful species, one being a creation of the other that has gone berserk a la AI. Arthur Clarke's short story "A Walk in the Night" is a powerful portrayal of this eerie scenario. An astronaut having lost his way to the base station is delayed. As night descends, a powerful creature shows up from nowhere to the peril of the astronaut. This is how Wells perceived such a planet being controlled by two different species, one humanlike and the other machines created by the human. The human loses control over the machine in course of time, who in turn dominates the planet in the dark when the human is not as able. This is tomorrow's world of Robots that began with the journey of HAL in Space Odyssey 2001. The year may need correction, but the possibility is as real.


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