Sunday, September 11, 2016

The Opposite and the Adjacent, by Liu Yang

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(Math Fantasy) Explorers find a wrecked alien spaceship, a dead alien, and a logbook that suggests he came from a world with different laws of physics. (2,015 words; Time: 06m)

Rating: ★★★☆☆, Average
Recommended By: SFRevu:4

"," by (translated by Nick Stember), appeared in Clarkesworld issue 120, published on .

Mini-Review (click to view--possible spoilers)

Pro: A cute little "what-if" story, starting with "what if mathematical and physical laws were different from what we're used to?" The plot is that the hero spends his life wrestling with the irrationality of his version of the Pythagorean Theorem, and dies learning that there are places where the exponent does work out to 2.

The implication at the end that it's curious that π is irrational was a nice touch.

Con: The story has very little dialogue and almost no characterization.

The "explanation" that a wormhole caused this by stretching space-time spoils it slightly, since even General Relativity can't produce anything like the sort stretching needed to make something like this happen. (It can change the metric of space-time, but the exponents are still 2.)

You'd think they'd have sent unmanned probes first and learned about this. It wouldn't be a manned mission that would run into it for the first time.

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3 comments (may contain spoilers):

  1. Sometimes I feel that "math fantasy" isn't very fun to read for me. I wonder if that's because of my day job... I guess reading this felt too much like work.

  2. Expanding on my first thought a bit, Stephen Baxter loves to play around with universal constants (ie his novel "Flux") but doesn't throw formulas at you. Maybe that's the difference