Bewildering Stories

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A Distant Island

part 1

by Omar E. Vega

Its name was Olympus. It was the most beautiful human colony that existed within thirty lights years, and the Olympians, as its people were called, knew that and felt very proud of it. With a total population of no more than one hundred thousand souls, it was really a small spot of humans surrounded by many cubic parsecs of dead planets and empty space. The sense of fragility, of being just a dust speck in the black and cold loneliness of the universe, was extremely hard to ignore. But the beauty of the place helped somehow to overcome the solitude.

Gliese 59 was the star of this system of four planets which housed the Olympians’ spatial cities. At just 53 light years from Sol, G59 — as it was known — was halfway between Earth and its farthest colony, a hundred years light years away.

G59 had planets that resembled Jupiter, plenty of huge satellites capable of hosting human activities. Around the planets, in empty space, huge pressurized structures, some of them rotating to generate artificial gravity, were the material expression of man’s spirit of conquest. Here, in the most devastating loneliness, humans created an isolated city; a tangible proof that life can survive even in the worst conditions imaginable and that human spirit can withstand every challenge it confronts.

In such an environment everything was artificial, because nature denied almost everything for survival. The only things available were light and raw materials, such as water and minerals, and nothing more. All the rest, from food, to plastics, to manufactured goods, had to be made in the colony itself.

Life was good for the pioneers, but boring; extremely boring. They lived isolated in a place located at more than four light years from the nearest colony, and more than fifty from Earth. News, inventions and fashions arrived many years after they had become obsolete in their places of origin. Interplanetary commerce was almost nonexistent, because a trip between colonies, even with the most advanced technology of the time, took more than forty years to complete.

With such distances then, how did the colonists first arrive there? It was done by the frozen bodies of twenty pioneers and 20,000 embryos, which travelled for half a century to found Olympia, 300 years earlier. Carried by antimatter ships, they were able to cross empty space in a record twenty-four years from a neighbouring star, travelling at 25 percent of light speed, at huge expense. For reasons of economy, no commercial ship had ever traveled faster than 10 percent of light speed.

What else to do to break the isolation? It was the question every Olympian asked. Robert Fuchs, a mathematician of the Science Lyceum of Olympia had an idea, but he had to sell it. So he spoke with his friend George Lime, an important tribune of the Colonial Senate while taking lunch in a public restaurant just downtown Olympia.

“What a great place we live in, isn’t it, George?”

“A great place, indeed. Everyone has the assurance of food, health, education and housing for life, all of the best quality; protected by robots from cradle to grave. What else could anyone to ask for?”

“Yes, my dear friend, but there is something else many people want: commerce.”

“What about commerce, Bob? As far as I know, commerce is alive and well in the colony.”

“Well, if you mean intellectual property sales, by using interstellar short wave and laser communications to exchange music, architectural drawings and math in exchange for electronic cash, I think it is not good enough.”


“It is not fast enough. We have to wait for decades to receive news from neighbouring colonies. We cannot exchange ideas, goods, or people. It is like living in hell. We need more interaction in order to make our interstellar civilization bloom.”

“What else do you want, friend? You know that Einstein defined the speed of light as the limit at which anything can travel in the universe. Nothing can travel faster than the speed of light. Nothing whatsoever!”

“Damned Einstein!”

“Yes. I agree with you. He really ruin the dream of easy space colonization. What can I say?”

“Well... Do something about it, of course!”

“But how, Bob? How can I change the laws of the universe?”

“Because there is a way to trick those laws.”


“Don’t you know the EPR paradox?”

“What? That crazy idea of quantum mechanics that says an interaction with a particle can affect another one located very far away, in the opposite side of the universe, and instantaneously? I thought this was a problem solved a millennium ago. Physics says that the effect exists, but you can’t use it to send information.”

“They are wrong, George.”

“What are you saying?”

“Einstein and all those famous scientists were wrong. Dead wrong!”

“You are kidding, of course. Aren’t you?”

“No, George. I can prove it.”

“Well. If you can prove it, I would like to know about it.”

“Let’s meet at my lab at 2100 hours, and I will show you exactly how to achieve faster than light communication.”

“I will be there.”

Later that night — the artificial night of that residential habitat inside the internal ring which was the city of Olympia — George left the magnetic transport, took the elevator to climb the hundred meters separating the service area from the internal ring, and walk another three hundred meters to Bob’s residence.

It was a nice place he had to admit to himself: arranged mathematically to look beautiful. The math of beauty it was called, and he knew it was related to Phi, and other esoteric names, which controlled colour association, geometry, rhythms and other weird things proper of the aesthetic of art. Of course Bob knew more about it than he did. After all, Bob was the mathematician. George knocked twice and the door opened right away.

“Hi, George. You’re early. Does it mean you are interested? Eh?”

“Well. Let’s say that if there is the smallest chance that you can send information faster than light, I would like to be part of the people who make this dream come true.” “Let me show you, right now.”

They entered to the lab immediately. It was a small room crowded with ancient instruments that looked as if they had been bought at a junk auction. However, they were all, surprisingly, working in harmony, producing the effect of an ancient pulp fiction movie.

“What do you have in here?” asked George.

“It is my small lab for generating quantum entanglement phenomena. In simple terms, it is a race track. I force a laser beam to compete against a quantum entanglement phenomenon. The rest of the equipment measures the effect.”

“But, Bob. It seems to be the kind of quantum experiment that the students do in high school. Aren’t you doing a Bell inequality experiment? The one that appears to produce faster than light communication between two entangled particles? If so, that is nothing new at all, Bob!”

“Wait! Just wait. You are right, up to a point. As you have already noticed, the equipment distribution is similar to the Bell inequality experiment but a lot more complex. Instead of splitting just one ray of light, in here we have a hundred particles entangled in a special arrangement.”

“Why so?”

“Very simple. With the Bell inequality experiments there is no way to recover information from the particles. The internal state is hidden by the Uncertainty Principle from any human snooping. Well, I discovered a particular set of equations for a system of entangled particles that allows recovery of information from quantum phenomena. In other word, I can send information faster than light.”

“You are breaking a natural law, Bob. Is that what you’re saying? Aren’t you playing with an impossible dream like the perpetual motion or the time travel machine?”

“No, George. It is just like using imaginary numbers, and that’s where I got the idea. As you know, if you multiply two imaginary numbers together, you get a real number. In the same way, when you manipulate systems of uncertainty, in some particular interactions you can recover precise information.”

“How do you do it?”

“Sorry my friend. I can’t tell you how I do it. I have not patented it as yet. Besides, even knowing how smart you are, George, I doubt you could grasp it. You would need to know some math that at this time is learned and studied only by specialists.”

“Well, if it works, it doesn’t matter to me if I can understand it or not.”

“Of course it works. Let me show you.”

Bob turned the gadgets on. A strange arrangement of laser beams illuminated the room.

“I will make that red laser beam race against the entangled particles. I will send information for both systems and demonstrate that the data transmitted by the quantum phenomena was faster than the one carried by light. Let me press this button and you’ll see.”

The room was full of colours. There was an array of green coloured lasers which contrasted with a lonely red coloured one. Ten seconds later the experiment stopped.

“Did you see it?”

“See what? What was I supposed to look at?”

“Sorry. Never mind, I’ll explain. Look at this monitor.”

To be continued...

Copyright © 2004 by Omar E. Vega

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