Archive for alchemy

Programmable Matter

Posted in Alternative Energy, Classic Sci-Fi, Lucerne Village with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on September 15, 2012 by javedbabar

Everything was possible with the 3D printer. AMP co.’s prototype had so far produced another printer, a worm, a baby girl, and a 4D crab, and a variety of holy objects including Moses’s Tablets of Law, Buddha’s begging bowl, Siva’s drum and Thor’s hammer, though they couldn’t be sure if these holy objects could be equated with the original items. At best they were period copies, and at worst, accurate reproductions.

They were thinking of how to fabricate the original mythic elements of Creation – often expressed as water and clay – and ultimately, the dot of pure potential from which the universe evolved.

Alfred said, “This printer is more versatile than I thought. We have to be careful how we use it. It’s taken fourteen billion years for us to reach this point of creation.” He stopped and thought for a moment in his habitual fashion, staring at the cogs and levers of the large photocopier sized machine. Then he said, “Recreation.”

They both remained silent. They glanced around the workshop in which so much had happened since they’d met by chance and begun working together. The Bible says that God created the world in a week. It had taken them three weeks to reach the point of recreating it.

Alfred said, “I don’t think we should go too far. We shouldn’t test the limits yet. Who knows what might happen.”

Sami nodded. “You said that you wanted to monetize your invention. Why don’t we focus on that? Let’s see how we can apply what we’ve learnt to commercial purposes.”

“That’s the hardest part! How to benefit from your own work?”

“I’ve had a thought,” said Sami. “The problem with stuff – all stuff – is obsolescence. Whatever the item, it still ends up in landfill, or is recycled eventually. The first is totally wasteful, but the second isn’t much better. The amount of energy required to collect, sort, process, redesign, remanufacture, and redistribute is huge. If we could…”

Alfred nodded along enthusiastically and then interrupted. “Use fluid particles to make flexible matter. We have found a way of making anything we want; we just need the right materials and data. But all things are made of the same material – atoms! The only difference is how they are put together. If we can retain the energy inherent in an object, stored in the form of materials, we just need to change the data. We can reprogram the object to become something else! I was wrong before when I said we can’t create gold. We can create anything. That’s what the ancient alchemists were saying.”

Sami was delighted by this chain of thoughts. He developed the idea further, saying that they only needed to fabricate the object once with the 3D printer, but could encode it with multiple possibilities. Then the owner could decide which item he needed, and activate accordingly.

After a month of experiments they had it – a bed that becomes a chair, then a desk, then a table, and then a bed again. It was perfect for students living in studios. Their next model was a backpack that became a sunlounger, then a sailboat, then a paraglider.

“We should probably build a stretcher option into that model,” said Alfred. “We can do many things, but we can’t program the weather or remove human error.”


Additive Manufacturing Processes

Posted in Alternative Energy, Classic Sci-Fi, Lucerne Village with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on September 9, 2012 by javedbabar

It was sad to see the General Store closing down. It had been here from the very beginning, supplying essential goods to settlers, making their lives and the development of the Lucerne Valley possible.

Everything changes in time. The owner was surprisingly stoic. Though he hadn’t been present for the store’s full 108 years of trading, he had been born there, and lived and worked there for the 72 years since then. The reason why he’d never married and had children was because he was stuck there.

He said to Sami, “I am bored selling stuff here, and people are bored buying stuff here. Either we replace me, or we replace the people. That’s the situation. It’s a lot easier to replace me, so I’ve sold the place to a young guy from the city. He seems like a smart kid. Maybe he’ll know what to do with it.”

Sami had only been in town for a year, serving as the retired holy man Guru Baba’s assistant, but he’d developed a deep attachment to Lucerne. He was sorry to see the demise of this institution. Hopefully the new owner would see the value of heritage; he could continue the business, and even expand it, if he had good marketing and business plans.

When the shop’s renovation began, Sami’s hopes were dashed. It was a wholesale remodeling. The old – admittedly pokey, leaky, rotting and rusted – features of the store were removed or replaced to create a plain aesthetic. It seemed more a workshop than a store.

Finally a new sign went up, saying “AMP co.” The AMP was in a robot font formed of cut out grey metal letters. The co. was in black italics, also metal cut-outs. The whole sign was backlit golden.

An electrical store, here? thought Sami. If there wasn’t enough business for the general store, who would open an electrical store? The previous owner had said that people were bored with buying stuff here; even his modest “Technology” department hadn’t survived. People went to big box stores in malls or bought online. Who did the new owner expect to be his customers?

The new owner was a Chinese guy. Sami waved when he saw him one day, and he was beckoned in. “Hi, I’m Alfred Choo, proprietor of this fine establishment.” He explained that yes, people were bored with buying stuff here, but he believed that they would be keen on making stuff here.

“Making stuff like what?” said Sami.

“That’s what the mayor asked when I told him my plans, but then he saw my point. I’ve received a grant from the Authority, credit from my bank, and a tax break from the village. I have purchased all the components required and built the first prototype. Would you like to see it?”

He took Sami into the back room. There was a machine like a large photocopier with additional wires, cogs and levers.

“Here it is, a 3D printer. The nature of commerce is about to change. People will no longer buy things. They will be able to make them themselves just as easily and cheaply. Anything they want. I’m testing it right now. What shall we make?”

Sami’s mouth hung open. He said the first thing that came to mind, “Another printer.”


Posted in Mystical Experience, Unknown with tags , , , , , on April 12, 2012 by javedbabar

Dada always went to bed at eight o’ clock. He would say “God night,” and walk down to the basement. They’d tried to get him to move upstairs to the spare bedroom, but he said that he preferred downstairs where he was “closer to the earth.”

Asha and Adda said to him one night, joking, “Every night you say God night, but you go down to the devil.”

Dada stopped dead in his tracks. He couldn’t speak for a moment and then said, “Children, that is a terrible thing to say,” and continued down to his room as usual. Papa sent Asha and Adda after him to apologize, but his door was locked and he wouldn’t open it.

“What does he do down there?” Asha said to Adda. “He stays up for hours.”

“Who knows?” said Adda. “We should spy on him and find out.”

Dada’s room was generally quiet at night but they sometimes heard strange sounds. Little bumps and bangs. There were no windows, but through door cracks and ventilation grilles they saw lights and flashing colours.

“Does he watch pornos down there?” said Asha. “I guess he’s on his own.”

Adda said, “He wouldn’t watch them at his age, silly. You only watch those before you’re married. Then you do those things with your wife.”

“But Dada’s wife is dead,” said Asha. “Maybe he’s started watching them again?”

“What would he watch them on, his radio?”

They’d sometimes sneak into his room and poke around. He had the things you’d expect an old man to have – books, newspapers, pipes, and slippers. There was no TV set or computer, just his radio. Asha and Adda’s curiosity was unbearable and Asha said that she would ask him that night. However after dinner she said, “Dada, Adda would like to ask you something,” and swung her sister forward.

He said, “Child, what do you wish to ask?”

Adda was on the spot now, and said, “Dada, what do you do at night in your room?”

Dada looked saddened and said, “I write, child. I write.”

Asha said, “But what about the bumps and bangs?”

Adda added, “And the lights and flashes?”

Dada looked even sadder and said, “There’s nothing like that children. They must be echoes and reflections of other things. I just write.” Asha and Adda looked at each other and then at Dada. He did his best to smile at them but failed.

The next day Asha said, “He’s gone to the park. He’ll be an hour, so let’s take a look in his room.” Their parents were out so there was no danger.

Adda said, “But we’ve done that so many times before. We never find anything interesting.”

Adda said, “But now we know what he does. He writes! Let’s see what he writes.” They crawled down the steps to the basement. They couldn’t see any papers around so presumed that he must write in notebooks. It was hard to spot notebooks among hundreds of other books, but eventually they found a whole shelf full.

The hardbound black books were completely filled with spidery scrawl. It was shaky and diagonal, looking more like Himalayan contours than intelligible writing. They couldn’t make out the words – if they were words. Is this what Dada did every night? Write these crazy, slanting lines? Just looking at them made your head spin.

“Put them back quickly,” said Asha. “I can tell he’s coming.” They could somehow both sense things. They often knew when someone was coming, what they were feeling, and what they would say. They were back upstairs playing Ancient Warfare 6 before Dada returned. They laid on their sweetest voices and smiles for him. He may have been suspicious, but said nothing.

Adda had a photographic memory and retained images of the pages. They decided to research Dada’s writing online. The diagonal script made things easy as only a handful of scripts were anything other than horizontal or vertical. They found that it was an ancient script called Aramaeli that died out 2,000 years ago, whose translation was unknown. “How old is Dada anyway?” said Asha.

They tried to copy the script but couldn’t. It was so shaky and crazy that it was impossible to get anywhere close. They tried using their wrong hands but that just looked like bad writing. They put foam beneath their notebook, but it wobbled too much and sent the pen off the page. Then Asha wrote while Adda shook the table, but the table fell over. Asha threw peas for Adda to dodge as she wrote, but one hit her in the eye which led to a fight. Then they tried writing while playing catch, but this also didn’t work – creating a strange kind of word tennis.

Adda tied a helium balloon to her wrist, which proved the best method yet, though still not quite there. It gave Asha an idea though. She said, “Let’s tie our hands together and I’ll pull your hands about as you write.” Their spidery, scrawly, diagonal writing improved rapidly. Soon a page of Asha and Adda’s script was almost as good as Dada’s. They showed him the page and said, “Look Dada, we can write like you.”

Dada had needed a hobby to amuse himself after his wife’s death, and had studied alchemy. Twelve years ago when Asha and Adda were born, his alchemical writings had tapped powerful forces, but he was unable to handle their power. That’s why the Nigredo and Albedo, Red Queen and White King, Base Metal and Philosopher’s Stone had become confused. That’s why his beloved granddaughters Asha and Adda had two feet and two legs, but also two joined bodies and two heads, and four arms and four hands that could be tied together to copy his magical writing.

Dada cried and cried.