Years ending and beginning... December's Thought for the Month is gonna have to be about time and entropy, so I thought I'd preface it with a bonus blog on the science behind the Nulapeiron trilogy. (It's pronounced Null-ap-ee-ron, by the way. If you read Resolution and pay attention – and care, I suppose – you'll find out what the word means.)

The following is the first draft of the "Author's Slightly Technical Note" which I've just written for Resolution. In it, I don't give anyone else credit for the physics ideas. Well, hardly anyone. That's because I've written a second note ("Author's Acknowledgments and Shameless Self-Promotion", not shown here) to follow it.

There are no spoilers here. It won't affect your enjoyment of Resolution. As usual in the Blogverse, phrases that will be italicised on the printed page are enclosed in *asterisks* here. Off we go...

The weird science underlying the Nulapeiron tales is speculative but real. I began with the one-destiny model of quantum physics (which is different from the superimposed-possibilities interpretation and the parallel worlds stuff – I mean, come *on*, guys, that is *so* 1920s). Then I linked it to cosmological expansion, all by myself. But physicists in the field are forming similar speculations: the more I scour original papers, the more I smile.

Humility is all.

Stephen Hawking once thought the future lies in the direction of a bigger cosmos; then he changed his mind. Not everyone agrees: maybe time and expansion *are* bonded together. In Paradox I referred to this as the Gold-Sakharov model: the philosopher Horace Gold argues for it on the basis of symmetry; so did Sakharov, known in the West more for his dissident politics than his physics.

The ability of the Seers relies (like the Zajinets and the Anomaly) on something different: the Calabi-Yau dimensions. This is a possible geometry for the additional dimensions – inaccessible to humankind – required by superstring theory.

Similarly invisible to us – *perhaps* forever – is ninety percent or more of all the mass in the universe. Currently this is called dark energy or quintessence, and it has a (counterintuitive) repelling effect which makes the universe expand faster.

Does this mean the universe can never slow down and contract?

Quintessence can be modelled as a scalar field – meaning that like temperature (but unlike gravity) it has strength but no intrinsic notion of direction – and that field can change. It can decrease; it can flip from positive to negative.

What was repulsive becomes attractive. (I mean, Buffy used to *hate* Spike, before she got down and dirty with him.)

Besides, the Collegium needs only create volumes of spacetime that act *as if* the universe were contracting.

Incidentally, cosmic expansion doesn't mean the stars are moving away from each other in an empty vastness. It means more empty vacuum is coming into existence every second. And did I mention that every single photon has a birth and a death, but no time passes for it in between?

End of lecture. There was no extra charge, so if you skipped it, there's no loss either way. It's the *story* that matters.

Always the story.

...And that ends the Author's Slightly Technical Note. The previous two paragraphs veer away from the science, and make more sense when you're reading the note having finished the book. (I'm intending the Notes to appear at the end.)

Resolution concludes the story which began in Paradox and became deeper in Context. If you've been kind enough to follow Tom's story through the first two books, then Resolution's ending – I hope – is gonna blow yer socks off.

Also, the back story about the Pilots is more involved (and involving) than in the previous volumes. Those McNamaras – not just Ro: you'll recall she gave birth to two sons, Dirk and Kian – gave me a few surprises. (As Stephen King says, when I'm writing a book, I'm its first reader!) And you'll find out why they're so important to Tom Corcorigan and 35th Century Nulapeiron.

Do I know what I'm going to write next? Yes... But I can't talk about it yet, so I'll give you the tantalising hint of just 2 initials: NJ. You read it here first, my good friends.



John's Thought For November 2003

The subtitle indicates a monthly contribution of some sort. A first draft consciousness-dump about some randomly chosen topic. Shall we give it a whirl, and see how long this lasts? What shall we talk about first? How about... the nature of written stories. It's an appropriate start. And I think I'll use a physical metaphor dressed up as a simile, if you don't mind.

Consider a photograph.

More importantly, think about the negative: reversed, it becomes a transparency, the kind of thing we used to put into slide projectors before we all bought digital cameras and uploading and downloading images became as commonplace as transferring consciousness to a sleeve in Richard Morgan's universe. (You haven't read Altered Carbon or Broken Angels yet? Shame on you, unless you live in the US... in which case, they're coming soon.)

On a black and white negative, each point holds one piece of data: the brightness of the corresponding point on the original image. (If the twentieth century becomes remembered for anything besides the mass slaughter of innocents, it will be for modelling physics as information. Oh, and the idea of atoms. And DNA. And... Hmm.) By adding more chemicals to the mix, we can also store the colour.

No, I haven't got there yet.

I became fascinated with holograms as a kid, though my attempt to build a laser from scratch – blowing glass cylinders in the school chemistry lab, inserting electrodes, all that stuff – came to a sorry end. What a hologram stores is brightness, colour... and depth.

It's an interference pattern, between a reference beam and the light reflected from the original subject. To view an ordinary slide, you simply shine light through it. To produce a real or virtual hologram, you shine something very like the original reference beam through the interference pattern. The combination of reference light plus beam re-creates the original image... with depth. Three-dimensional.

A virtual holo lets you view from different angles, but appears to be inside the film which holds the pattern. A real holo is a solid-looking image you can walk around. You can get one of each simultaneously if you do it right.

Of course, as with 2-dimensional movies, a series of snapshots presented quickly enough gives you realtime motion. Prototype holomovies were created in the late 1960s.

Now, here's another idea. (And let me add, for any would-be writers, that my best stories always come from the tension between two wild ideas: one just ain't enough.) There's no such thing as a single personality. Any writer who's written a few novels knows that sometimes the characters just take over. But they're neural groups, or emergent properties thereof, within the writer's brain... So be afraid.

This is worth a small essay in its own right. One of my collection of books on neurology and consciousness – sorry, I can't remember which one – declares that famous actors tend to misbehave and self-destruct (terrible term: shouldn't it be self-destroy?) because of a stressful dichotomy. The personality which accepts awards and tries to live an everyday life is not the same one which acts before the public gaze, on camera. The more conscious personality loses any notion of self-worth, feeling that they don't deserve the awards being showered on them.

A written story is the interference pattern which lies between the events shining in the writer's mind and the part of that mind which observes the tale unfolding.

This definition should nicely piss off the literary establishment, who have no understanding of physical reality and think it's all beneath them. Americans may be less familiar with C.P. Snow than British readers, so I'll paraphrase his famous diatribe against the humanities generally: that a scientist who's never read Shakespeare is considered ignorant (and there aren't many like that!), while a literary figure ignorant of the 2nd law of thermodynamics is not even remotely embarrassed. And they bloody well ought to be, because it describes a fundamental feature of the world, as most people reading this page will know.

People who read science fiction get the parallax view, the three-dimensional reality which brings a notion of how the universe – miraculously! – works, as well as its vast scale in space and time, alongside the aesthetic consideration of those who appreciate a rich and rigorous art form

Post-modernists, eat your hearts out.

Oh, yeah. This explains why reading isn't just a passive activity. It's the laser beam of the reader's mind which lights up and brings to life the fresh and exciting story unfolding all around them; the words on the page are a scrambled pattern until the illumination occurs.

Exercise your laser today. Don't let anyone get in your way.