Chapter 33 Trisolaris: Sophon
Novel：The Three-Bodyauthor：Cinxin Liu pubdate：2019-02-14 15:09
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Chapter 33 Trisolaris: Sophon
Eighty-five thousand Trisolaran hours (about 8.6 Earth years) later
The princeps had ordered an emergency meeting of all Trisolaran consuls. This was very unusual. Something important must have happened.
Twenty thousand Trisolaran hours ago, the Trisolaran Fleet had launched. The ships knew the approximate direction of their target but not its distance. It was possible that the target was millions of light-hours away, or even at the other end of the galaxy. Faced with the end-less sea of stars, the expedition had little hope.
The meeting of consuls occurred under the Pendulum Monument. [As Wang Miao read about this episode, he couldn't help but recall the session at the UN Building in the Three Body game. In reality, the Pendulum Monument was one of the few objects in the game that really did exist on Trisolaris.]
The princeps's choice of meeting site confused most of the attendees. The Chaotic Era wasn't over yet, and a small sun had just risen over the horizon, though it could also set at any moment. The temperature was cold, and all the attendees were forced to wear fully enclosed electric-heating suits. The massive metal pendulum swung magnificently, pounding the frigid air. The small sun cast a long shadow against the ground, as if a giant whose head touched the sky were striding there. Under the watchful eyes of the crowd, the princeps ascended onto the base of the pendulum and flipped a red switch.
He turned to the consuls and said, "I have just shut off power to the pendulum. It will gradually stop under the influence of air resistance."
"Princeps, why?" a consul asked.
"We all understand the historical significance of the pendulum. It's intended to hypnotize God. But now we know it's better for Trisolaran civilization to have God awake, because God is now blessing us."
Everyone was silent, pondering the meaning of the princeps's words. After three more swings from the pendulum, someone asked, "Has the Earth responded?"
The princeps nodded. "Yes. Half an hour ago I received the report. It was a response to the warning that was sent."
"So soon! Only eighty thousand hours have passed since then, which means. . . which means . .
"Which means that the Earth is only forty thousand light-hours from us."
"Isn't that the closest star from here?"
"Yes. That is why I said God is blessing Trisolaran civilization."
The attendees grew ecstatic, but they couldn't express the feeling, so the crowd seemed like a pent-up volcano. The princeps knew that allowing such weak emotions to explode would be dangerous. So he poured cold water on their sentiments.
"I have already ordered the Trisolaran Fleet to turn toward this star. But things are not quite as optimistic as you think. Given what we know, right now the fleet is sailing toward certain death."
The consuls calmed down.
"Does anyone understand my conclusion?"
"I do," said the science consul. "We've all studied the first messages from Earth carefully. The section most worthy of attention is their history. Let's observe the facts: Humans took more than a hundred thousand Earth years to progress from the Hunter-Gatherer Age to the Agricultural Age. To get from the Agricultural Age to the Industrial Age took a few thousand Earth years. But to go from the Industrial Age to the Atomic Age took only two hundred Earth years. Thereafter, in only a few Earth decades, they entered the Information Age. This civilization possesses the terrifying ability to accelerate their progress.
"On Trisolaris, of the more than two hundred civilizations, including our own, none has ever experienced such accelerating development. The progress of science and technology in all Trisolaran civilizations has been at a constant or decelerating pace. In our world, each technology age requires approximately the same amount of time for steady, slow development."
The princeps nodded. "The fact is that four million and five hundred thousand hours from now, when the Trisolaran Fleet has reached the Earth, that civilizations technology level will have long surpassed ours, due to their accelerating development. The journey of the Trisolaran Fleet is long and arduous, and the fleet must pass through two interstellar dust belts. It's very likely that only half of the ships will reach the Earth's solar system, while the rest perish along the way. And then, the Trisolaran Fleet will be at the mercy of a much more powerful Earth civilization. This is not an expedition, but a funeral procession!" "But if this is true, Princeps, then there are even more frightening consequences . . ." the military consul said.
"Yes. It's easy to imagine. The location of Trisolaris has been exposed. To eliminate future threats, an interstellar fleet from Earth will launch a counterattack against us. It's very possible that long before an expanded sun swallows this planet, Trisolaran civilization will have already been extinguished by humans."
The bright future had suddenly turned impossibly grim. The attendees fell silent.
The princeps said, "What we must do next is contain the progress of science on Earth. Luckily, as soon as we received the first messages from Earth, we began to develop plans to do so. As of now, we've discovered a favorable condition for realizing these plans: The response we just received was sent by an Earth traitor. Thus, we have reason to believe that there are many alienated forces within Earth civilization, and we must exploit such forces to the fullest."
"Princeps, that is not at all easy. We have but a thin thread of communication with the Earth. It takes more than eighty thousand hours to complete an exchange."
"But remember that, like us, the knowledge that there are extraterrestrial civilizations will shock all of Earth society and leave profound marks. We have reason to believe that the alienated forces within Earth civilization will coalesce and grow."
"What can they do? Sabotage?"
"Given a time gap of forty thousand hours, the strategic value of any traditional tactics of war or terror is insignificant, and they can recover from them. To effectively contain a civilization's development and disarm it across such a long span of time, there is only one way: kill its science."
The science consul said, "The plan focuses on emphasizing the negative environmental effects of scientific development and showing signs of supernatural power to the population of Earth. In addition to highlighting the negative effects of progress, we'll also attempt to use a series of miracles to construct an illusory universe that cannot be explained by the logic of science. After these illusions have been maintained for some time, it's possible that Trisolaran civilization may become a target of religious worship there. Then, unscientific ways of thinking will dominate scientific thinking among human intellectuals, and lead to the collapse of the entire scientific system of thought." "How do we create miracles?"
"The key to miracles is that they cannot be seen as tricks. This may require that we transfer certain technologies far above current human technology level to the alienated forces on Earth."
"That's too risky! Who knows who will ultimately control such technologies? That's playing with fire."
"Of course, which specific technologies should be transferred to produce miracles requires further study... "
"Please hold on for a moment, Science Consul," said the military consul as he stood up. "Princeps, I am of the opinion that this plan will be almost useless in terms of stopping human science."
But it's better than nothing," the science consul argued.
"Barely." the military consul said contemptuously.
"I agree with your view," the princeps said. "This plan will only interfere slightly with human scientific development. We need a decisive act that will completely suffocate science on Earth and freeze it at its current level. Let's focus on the key here: Overall technological development depends on the advancement of basic science, and the foundation of basic science lies in the exploration of the deep structure of matter. If there's no progress in this field, there can be no major break-through in science and technology as a whole. Of course, this is not specific to civilization on Earth. It is applicable to all targets that Trisolaran civilization intends to conquer. We had begun work in this area even before receiving the first extra-Trisolaran communication. But we've recently stepped up the effort.
"Now , everyone, look up. What's that?"
The princeps pointed at the sky. The consuls lifted their heads to gaze in that direction. They saw a ring in space giving off a metallic glow in the sunlight.
"Is that the dock for building the second space fleet?"
"No. That's a large particle accelerator still under construction. The plans for building a second space fleet have been scrapped. All resources are now devoted to Project Sophon(*42)."
[Translator's Note(*42); There is a pun in Chinese between the word for a proton, zhizi (质子), and the word and the word for a sophon, zhizi（(智子)]
"Yes. We've kept this plan secret from most of you present. I now ask the science consul to give an introduction."
"I knew about this plan, but didn't know it had progressed so far." The speaker was the industry consul.
'The culture and education consul said, "I knew about this plan as well, but thought it was like a fairy tale."
The science consul said, "Project Sophon, to put it simply, aims to transform a proton into a superintelligent computer.".
"This is a science fantasy that most of us have heard about, the agricultural consul said. "But can it be realized? I know that physicists can already manipulate nine of the eleven dimensions of the micro-scale world, but we still can't imagine how they could stick a pair of tiny tweezers into a proton to build large-scale integrated circuits."
"Of course that's impossible. The etching of micro integrated circuits can only occur at the macro scale, and only on a macroscopic two-dimensional plane. Thus, we must unfold a proton into two dimensions."
"Unfold a nine-dimensional structure into two dimensions? How big would the area be?"
"Very big, as you will see." The science consul smiled.
Another sixty thousand Trisolaran hours went by. Twenty thousand Trisolaran hours after the completion of the huge particle accelerator in space, the unfolding of the proton into two dimensions was about to begin in a synchronous orbit around Trisolaris.
It was a beautiful and mild Stable Era day. The sky was particularly clear. Like the day when the fleet had set sail eighty thousand Trisolaran hours ago, the entire population of Trisolaris looked up into the sky, gazing at that giant ring. The princeps and all the consuls again came and stood under the Pendulum Monument. The pendulum had long stopped, and the weight hung still like a solid rock between the tall pillars. Looking at it, it was hard to believe that it had once moved.
The science consul gave the order to unfold into two dimensions. In space, three cubes drifted around the ring—the fusion generators that powered the accelerator. Their winglike heat sinks gradually began to glow with a dim reddish light. The crowd anxiously stared at the accelerator, but nothing seemed to happen.
A tenth of a Trisolaran hour later, the science consul held his earpiece to his ear and listened intently. Then he said, "Princeps, unfortunately, the unfolding failed. We reduced the dimensions by one too many, and the proton became one-dimensional."
"One-dimensional? A line?"
"Yes. An infinitely thin line. Theoretically, it should be about fifteen hundred light-hours long."
"We spent the resources intended for another space fled," said the military consul, "just to obtain a result like this?"
"In scientific experiments, there has to be a process during which kinks are worked out. After all, this was the very first time the unfolding has been tried."
The crowd dispersed in disappointment, but the experiment wasn't over. Originally, it was thought that the one-dimensional proton would stay in synchronous orbit around Trisolaris forever, but due to friction from solar winds, pieces of the string fell back into the atmosphere. Six Trisolaran hours later, everyone outside noticed the strange lights in the air, gossamer threads that flickered in and out of existence. They soon learned from the news that this was the one-dimensional proton drifting to the ground under the influence of gravity. Even though the string was infinitely thin, it produced a field that could still reflect visible light. It was the first time people had ever seen matter not made out of atoms—the silky strands were merely small portions of a proton.
"These things are so annoying." The princeps brushed his hand against his face over and over. He and the science consul were standing on the wide steps in front of Government Center. "My face always feels itchy."
"Princeps, the feeling is purely psychological. All the strings added together have the mass of a single proton, so it's impossible for them to have any effect on the macroscopic world. "They can't do any harm. It's as if they don't exist."
But the threads that fell from the sky grew more numerous and denser. Closer to ground, tiny sparkling lights filled the air. The sun and the stars all appeared inside silvery halos. The strings clung to those who went outside, and as they walked, they dragged the lights behind them. When people returned indoors, the lines glimmered under the lamps. As soon as they moved, the reflection from the strings revealed the patterns in the air currents they disturbed. Although the one-dimensional string could only be seen under light and couldn't be felt, people became upset.
The torrent of one-dimensional strings continued for more than twenty Trisolaran hours before finally ending, though not because the strings had all fallen to the ground. Although their mass was unimaginably minuscule, they still had some, and so their acceleration under gravity was the same as normal matter. However, once inside the atmosphere, they were completely dominated by the air currents and would never fall to the ground. After being unfolded into one dimension, the strong nuclear force within the proton became far more attenuated, weakening the string. Gradually, it broke into tiny pieces, and the light they reflected was no longer visible. People thought they had disappeared, but pieces of the one-dimensional string would drift in the air of Trisolaris forever.
Fifty Trisolaran hours later, the second attempt to unfold a proton into two dimensions began. Soon, the crowd on the ground saw something odd. After the heat sinks of the fusion generators began to glow red, several colossal objects appeared near the accelerator. All of them were in the form of regular geometric solids: spheres, tetrahedrons, cubes, cones, and so on. Their surfaces had complex coloration, but close examination showed that they were, in fact, colorless. The surfaces of the geometric solids were completely reflective, and what the people saw were just distorted, reflected images of the surface of Trisolaris.
"Have we succeeded?" the princeps asked. "Is that the proton unfolded into two dimensions?"
The science consul replied, "Princeps, it's still a failure. I just received the report from the accelerator control center. The unfolding left one too many dimensions in, and the proton was unfolded into three dimensions."
The giant, reflective geometric solids continued to pop into existence in great numbers, and their forms became more various. There were tori, solid crosses, and even something that looked like a Mobius strip.
All the geometric solids drifted away from the location of the accelerator. About half an hour later, the solids filled more than half the sky, as though a giant child had emptied a box of building blocks in the firmament. The light reflected from the mirror surfaces doubled the brilliance of the light hitting the ground, but the intensity continuously shifted. The shadow of the giant pendulum flickered in and out, and swayed from side to side.
Then, all the geometric solids began to deform. They gradually lost their regular shapes, as though they were melting in heat. The deformation accelerated and the resulting lumps became more and more complex. Now the objects in the sky no longer reminded people of building blocks, but of a giant's dismembered limbs and disemboweled viscera. Because their shapes were no longer so regular, the light they reflected to the ground became softer, but their own surface coloration turned even more strange and unpredictable.
Out of the mess of three-dimensional objects, a few in particular drew special attention from observers on the ground. At first, it was only because the objects in question were very similar to each other. But upon closer examination, people recognized them, and a wave of terror swept Trisolaris.
They were all eyes! [Of course, we don't know what Trisolaran eyes look like, but we can be certain that any intelligent life would be very sensitive to representations of eyes.]
The princeps was one of the few who kept calm. He asked the science consul, "How complicated can the internal structure of a sub-atomic particle be?"
"It depends on the number of dimensions of your observation perspective. From a one-dimensional perspective, it's only a point—that's how ordinary people think of the particles. From a two- or three- dimensional perspective, the particle begins to show internal structure. From a four-dimensional perspective, a fundamental particle is an immense world."
The princeps said, "Tb use a word like 'immense' to describe a sub-atomic particle such as a proton seems incredible to me."
The science consul ignored the princeps and continued, "As we move to higher dimensions, the complexity and number of structures within a particle increase dramatically. The comparisons I'm about to make will not be precise, but should give you an idea of the scale. A particle seen from a seven-dimensional perspective has a complexity comparable to our 'Trisolaran stellar system in three dimensions. From an eight-dimensional perspective, a particle is a vast presence like the Milky Way. When the perspective has been raised to nine dimensions, a fundamental particle's internal structures and complexity are equal to the whole universe. As for even higher dimensions, our physicists haven't been able to explore them, so we cannot yet imagine the degree of complexity."
The princeps pointed to the giant eyes in space. "Do these show that the microcosmos contained within the unfolded proton harbors intelligent life?"
"Our definition of 'life' is probably not appropriate for the high-dimensional microcosmos. More accurately, we can only say that universe contains intelligence or wisdom. Scientists have long predicted this possibility. It would have been odd for such a complex and vast world to not have evolved something akin to intelligence."
"Why have they transformed into eyes to look at us?" The princeps looked up at the eyes in space, beautiful, lifelike sculptures, all of them gazing upon the planet below strangely.
"Maybe they just want to demonstrate their presence."
"Can they fall down here?"
"Not at all. You may rest easy, Princeps. Even if they were to fall, the mass of all these huge structures added together is only that of a proton. Just like the one-dimensional string from last time, they won't have any effect on our world. People just have to get used to the strange sight."
But this time, the science consul was wrong.
People noticed the eyes moved faster than the other solids filling the sky, and they were gathering into one spot. Soon, two eyes met and merged into one bigger eye. More and more eyes joined this big eye and its volume grew. Finally, all the eyes melded into one. It was so large that it seemed to represent the gaze of the universe upon Trisolaris. The iris was clear and bright, and at the center was the image of a sun. Over the broad surface of the eyeball, various colors cascaded in a flood. Soon, the details over the giant eye faded and gradually disappeared, until it became a pupil-less blind eye. Then it began to deform until it finally lost the shape of an eye and became a perfect circle. When the circle began to slowly rotate, people realized that it was not flat, but parabolic, like a slice cut from a giant sphere.
As the military consul stared at the slowly spinning colossal object in space, he suddenly understood and shouted, "Princeps and others, please go into the underground bunker right away." He pointed upward. "That is—" -
"A parabolic mirror," the princeps said calmly. "Direct the space defense forces to destroy it. We will stay right here."
The parabolic mirror focused the sun's beams onto the surface of Trisolaris. Initially, the spot of light was very large, and the heat at the focal point wasn't yet lethal. This spot moved across the ground, searching for its target. The mirror discovered the capital, the largest city of Trisolaris, and the light spot began to move toward it. Soon, the beam was over the city.
Those standing under the Pendulum Monument only saw a great brightness in space. It overwhelmed everything else, accompanied by a wave of extreme heat. Then the light spot over the capital shrank as the parabolic mirror began to focus the light more tightly. The brightness from space grew stronger until no one could lift up his head, and those standing within the spot felt the temperature rise rapidly. Just as the heat became unbearable, the edge of the light spot swept past the Pendulum Monument and even thing dimmed. It took a while before the crowd's sight readjusted to normal light.
When they looked up, the first sight that greeted them was a pillar of light between the sky and earth, shaped like an inverted cone. The mirror in space formed the base of the cone, and the tip stabbed into the heart of the capital, turning everything there incandescent at once.
Waves of smoke began to rise. Tornadoes caused by the uneven heat of the light cone formed several other pillars made of dust that connected to the sky, twisting and dancing around the light cone...
Several brilliant fireballs appeared in different parts of the mirror, their blue color distinct from the light reflected from the mirror. These were the exploding nuclear warheads launched by the Trisolaran space defense corps. Because the explosions were happening outside the atmosphere, there was no sound. By the time the fireballs disappeared, several large holes appeared in the mirror, and then the entire surface of the mirror began to tear and crack, until it had broken into more than a dozen pieces.
The deadly light cone disappeared and the world returned to a normal level of illumination. For a moment, the sky was as dim as a moon-lit night. Those broken pieces of the mirror, now devoid of intelligence, continued to deform and soon could not be distinguished from the other geometric solids in space.
"What will happen with the next experiment?" The princeps's expression was derisive as he spoke to the science consul. "Will you unfold a proton into four dimensions?"
"Princeps, even if that were to occur, it's nothing to worry about. A proton unfolded into four dimensions will be much smaller. If the space defense corps is prepared to attack its projection in three-dimensional space, it can be destroyed just the same "
"You're deceiving the princeps!" said a furious military consul. "You have not mentioned the real danger. What if the proton is unfolded into zero dimensions?"
"Zero dimensions?" The princeps was interested. "Wouldn't that be a point with no size?"
"Yes, a singularity! Even a proton would be infinitely big compared to it. The entire mass of the proton will be contained in this singularity, and its density will be infinite. Princeps, I'm sure you can imagine what that would be."
"A black hole?"
"Princeps, let me explain," the science consul broke in. "The reason we picked a proton instead of a neutron to unfold into two dimensions is precisely to avoid this kind of risk. If we really were to unfold into zero dimensions, the charge of a proton would also be carried over into the unfolded black hole. We can then capture and control it using electromagnetism."
"What if you can't find it or control it?" the military consul asked. "It can then land on the ground, suck in everything it encounters, and increase its mass. Then it will sink into the core of this planet and eventually suck down all of Trisolaris."
"That will never happen. I guarantee it! Why are you always making things difficult for me? Like I said, this is a scientific experiment—" "That's enough!" the princeps said. "What is the probability of success next time?"
"Almost one hundred percent! Princeps, please believe in me. Through these two failures, we have already mastered the principles governing unfolding subatomic structures into low-dimensional macro space." "All right. To ensure the survival of Trisolaran civilization, we must take this risk."
"But if you fail again, you and all the scientists working on Project Sophon will be guilty."
"Yes, of course, all guilty." If Trisolarans could perspire, the science consul must have been soaked in cold sweat.
It was much easier to clean up the three-dimensional remnants of the unfolded proton in synchronous orbit than it was to clean up the one-dimensional string. Small spaceships were able to drag the pieces of proton matter away from Trisolaris and prevent them from entering the atmosphere. Those objects, some as large as mountains, had almost no mass. They were like immense silver illusions; even a baby could have moved them easily.
Afterwards, the princeps asked the science consul, "Did we destroy a civilization in the microcosmos in this experiment?"
"It was at least an intelligent body. Also, Princeps. we destroyed the entire microcosmos. That miniature universe is immense in higher dimensions, and it probably contained more than one intelligent civilization that never had a chance to express themselves in space. Of course, in higher dimensional space at such micro scales, the form that intelligence or civilization may take is beyond our imagination. They're something else entirely. And such destruction has probably occurred many times before."
"In the long history of scientific progress, how many protons have been smashed apart in accelerators by physicists? How many neutrons and electrons? Probably no fewer than a hundred million. Every collision was probably the end of the civilizations and intelligences in a microcosmos. In fact, even in nature, the destruction of universes must be happening at every second—for example, through the decay of neutrons. Also, a high-energy cosmic ray entering the atmosphere may destroy thousands of such miniature universes. . . . You're not feeling sentimental because of this, are you?"
"You amuse me. I will immediately notify the propaganda consul and direct him to repeatedly publicize this scientific fact to the world. The people of Trisolaris must understand that the destruction of civilizations is a common occurrence that happens every second of every hour."
"Why? Do you wish to encourage the people to face the possible destruction of Trisolaran civilization with equanimity?"
"No. It's to encourage them to face the destruction of Earth civilization with equanimity. You know very well that after we publicized our policy toward the Earth civilization, there was a wave of extremely dangerous pacifism. We have only now discovered that there are many like the listener of Post 1379. We must control and eliminate these weak sentiments."
"Princeps, this is mainly the result of recent messages received from the Earth. Your prediction has come true: The alienated forces on Earth really are growing. They have built a new transmission site completely under their control, and have begun to send us large amounts of information about Earth civilization. I must admit that their civilization has great appeal on Trisolaris. For our people, it sounds like sacred music from Heaven. The humanism of Earth will lead many Trisolarans onto the wrong path, just as Trisolaran civilization has already become a religion on Earth, Earth civilization has this potential on Trisolaris."
"You've pointed out a great danger. We must strictly control the flow of information from the Earth to the populace, especially cultural information."
The third attempt to unfold a proton into two dimensions began thirty Trisolaran hours later. This time, it was at night. From the ground, it was impossible to see the ring of the accelerator in space. Only the red glow from the heat sinks of the fusion reactors around it marked its location. Shortly after the accelerator was started, the science consul announced success.
People gazed up at the night sky. Initially, there was nothing to see. But soon, they saw a miraculous sight: The heavens separated into two pieces. Between the two, the pattern of the stars did not match, as though two photographs of the sky had been stacked together, with the smaller one overlaid on top of the big one. The Milky Way broke at the border between the two. The smaller portion of the star-studded firmament was circular, and it rapidly expanded against the normal night sky.
"That constellation in there belongs to the southern hemisphere!" the culture and education consul said, pointing at the expanding, circular patch of the sky.
As people exercised their imaginations to understand how stars that could be seen only from the other side of the planet were now superimposed over the northern hemisphere's view, an even more astonishing sight appeared: At the edge of the expanding patch of the night sky from the southern hemisphere, a part of a giant globe appeared. The globe was brownish, and it was being revealed a stripe at a time, as though on a display with a very slow refresh rate. Everyone recognized the globe: On it were the clear outlines of familiar continents. By the time the entire globe came into view, it already occupied one-third of the sky. More details on the globe could be made out: the wrinkles of mountain ranges covering the brownish continents, the scattered cloud cover like patches of snow over the continents . . .
Someone finally blurted out, "That's our planet!"
Yes, another Trisolaris had appeared in the sky.
Next, the sky brightened. Next to the second Trisolaris in space, the expanding circle of the night sky from the southern hemisphere revealed another sun. This was clearly the same sun that currently was shining over the southern hemisphere, but it appeared at only half the size. Finally, someone figured it out. "It's a mirror."
The immense mirror that appeared over Trisolaris was the proton being unfolded, a geometric plane without any meaningful depth.
By the time the unfolding was complete, the entire sky had been replaced by the reflection of the night sky of the southern hemisphere. Directly overhead, the sky was dominated by the reflection of Trisolaris and the sun. And then the sky began to deform just above the horizon all around, and the reflections of the stars stretched and twisted as though they were melting. The deformation began at the edges of the mirror, but climbed up toward the center.
"Princeps, the proton plane is being bent by our planet's gravity," the science consul said. He pointed to the numerous spots of light in the starry sky. They looked as though people were waving flashlights up at the domed vault. "Those are electromagnetic beams being sent up from the ground to adjust the curvature of the plane under gravity. The goal is to eventually wrap the unfolded proton completely around Trisolaris. Afterwards, the electromagnetic beams will continue to hold up and stabilize this enormous sphere, like so many spokes. Thus, Trisolaris will be the workbench to secure the two-dimensional proton, and the work to etch electronic circuits on the surface of the proton plane can begin."
The process of wrapping the two-dimensional proton plane around Trisolaris took a long time. By the time the deformation of the reflection reached the image of Trisolaris at the plane's zenith, the stars had all disappeared because the proton plane, now curved around the other side of the planet, blocked them completely. Some sunlight continued to leak inside the curved proton plane, and the image of Trisolaris in this fun-house mirror in space was distorted beyond recognition. But, finally, after the last ray of sunlight was blocked, everything sank into the darkest night in the history of Trisolaris. As gravity and the electromagnetic beams balanced each other, the proton plane formed a gigantic shell in synchronous orbit around Trisolaris.
Bitter cold followed. The completely reflective proton plane deflected all sunlight back into space. The temperature on Trisolaris dropped precipitously, reaching levels comparable to the appearance of three flying stars, which had ruined many cycles of civilization in the past. Most of the population of Trisolaris dehydrated and were stored. A deathly silence fell over much of the darkness-enclosed surface. In the sky, only the faint light spots from the beams that held up the proton membrane flickered. Occasionally, a few other tiny, sharp lights could be seen in synchronous orbit: the spaceships etching circuits into the gigantic membrane.
The principles governing micro-scale integrated circuits were completely different from those of conventional circuits, as the base material wasn't made of atoms, but matter from a single proton. The "p-n junctions" of the circuits were formed by twisting the strong nuclear forces locally on the surface of the proton plane, and the conducting lines were made of mesons that could transmit the nuclear force. Because the surface area for the circuit was extremely large, the circuits were also very large. The circuit lines were as thick as hairs, and an observer close enough could see them with the naked eye. Flying close to the proton membrane, it could be seen as a vast plane made of complex, elaborate integrated circuits. The total area covered by the circuits was dozens of times the area of the continents on Trisolaris.
Etching the proton circuits was a huge engineering feat, and thousands of spaceships worked for more than fifteen thousand Trisolaran hours to complete it. The software debugging process took another five thousand Trisolaran hours. But finally, it was time to test the sophon for the first time.
The big screen at the sophon control center deep underground showed the progress of the long self-test sequence. Next came the loading of the operating system. Finally, the blank blue screen showed a line of large-font text: Micro-Intelligence 2.10 loaded. Sophon One ready to accept commands.
The science consul said, "A sophon has been born. We have endowed a proton with wisdom. This is the smallest artificial intelligence that we can make."
"But right now, it appears as the largest artificial intelligence," said the princeps.
"As soon as we increase the dimensionality of this proton, it will become very small."
The science consul entered a query at the terminal:
>Sophon One, are the spatial dimensionality controls operational?
Affirmative. Sophon One is capable of initiating spatial dimensionality adjustments at any moment.
>Adjust dimensionality to three.
After this command was issued, the two-dimensional proton membrane that had wrapped itself around Trisolaris began to shrink rapidly, as though a giant's hand was pulling away a curtain over the world. In a moment, sunlight bathed the ground. The proton folded from two dimensions into three and became a gargantuan sphere in synchronous orbit, about the size of the giant moon. The sophon was over the dark side of the planet, but the sunlight reflected from its mirror surface turned the night into day. The surface of Trisolaris was still extremely cold, so the crowd inside the control center could only observe these changes through a screen.
Dimensionality adjustment successful. Sophon One is ready to accept commands.
>Adjust dimensionality to four.
In space, the gargantuan sphere shrank until it eventually looked to be the size of a flying star. Night again descended over this side of the planet.
"Princeps, the sphere we see now is not the complete sophon. Its only the projection of the sophon's body into three-dimensional space. It is, in fact, a giant in four-space, and our world is like a thin, three- dimensional sheet of paper. The giant stands on this sheet of paper, and we can only see the trace where its feet touch the paper."
Dimensionality adjustment successful. Sophon One is ready to accept commands.
>Adjust dimensionality to six.
The sphere in the sky disappeared.
"How big is a six-dimensional proton?" the princeps asked.
"About fifty centimeters in radius," the science consul replied.
Dimensionality adjustment successful. Sophon One is ready to accept commands.
>Sophon One, can you see us?
Yes. I can see the control center, everyone inside, and the organs inside everyone, even the organs inside your organs.
"What is it saying?" The princeps was stunned.
"A sophon observing three-space from six-space is akin to us looking at a picture on a two-dimensional plane. Of course it can see inside us."
>Sophon One, enter the control center.
"Can it go through the ground?" the princeps asked.
"It's not exactly going 'through.' Rather, it's entering from a higher dimension. It can enter any enclosed space within our world. This is again similar to the relationship between us, existing in three-space, and a two-dimensional plane. We can easily enter any circle drawn on the plane by coming in from above. But no two-dimensional creature on the plane can do such a thing without breaking the circle."
Just as the science consul finished, a mirror-surfaced sphere appeared in the middle of the control center, floating in air. The princeps walked over and gazed at his own distorted reflection. "This is a proton?" He was amazed.
"This is the six-dimensional body of the proton projected into three- space."
The princeps extended a hand. When he saw that the science consul did not object, he touched the surface of the sophon. A very light touch pushed the sophon a considerable distance.
"It's very smooth. Even though it has only the mass of a proton, I could feel some resistance against my hand." The princeps was puzzled.
"That's due to air resistance against the surface of the sphere."
"Can you increase its dimensionality to eleven, and make it as small as a regular proton?"
As soon as the princeps said this, the science consul shouted to the sophon, his voice tinged with fear, "Attention! This is not a command!"
Sophon One understands.
"Princeps, if we increased the dimensionality to eleven, we would lose it forever. When the sophon shrinks to the size of a regular sub-atomic particle, the internal sensors and I/O ports will be smaller than the wavelength of any electromagnetic radiation. That means it would not be able to sense the macro world, and would not be able to receive our commands."
"But we must eventually make it shrink back to a subatomic particle."
"Yes, but that must await the completion of Sophon Two, Sophon Three, and Sophon Four. Multiple sophons may be able to form a system to sense the macro world through quantum effects. For example, suppose a nucleus has two protons. The two of them will interact and follow certain patterns of motion. Take spin: Maybe the direction of spin of the two protons must be opposite from each other. When these two protons are taken out of the nucleus, no matter how far apart they are, this pattern will remain in effect. When both protons are made into sophons, they will, based on this effect, create a mutual-sensing system. More sophons can then form a mutual-sensing formation. This formation's scale can be adjusted to any size, and can thus receive electromagnetic waves to sense the macro world at any frequency. Of course, the actual quantum effects necessary to create such a sophon formation are very complicated. My explanation is only an analogy."
The unfolding of the next three protons into two dimensions succeeded on the first try. The construction of each sophon also took only half as long as Sophon One. After the construction of Sophon Two, Sophon Three, and Sophon Four, the quantum sensing formation was also created successfully.
The princeps and all the consuls once again came to the Pendulum Monument. Above them hovered four sophons shrunk to six- space. In the crystalline mirrored surface of each was an image of the rising sun, recalling the three-dimensional eyes that had once appeared in space.
>Sophon formation, adjust dimensionality to eleven.
After the command was issued, the four mirrored spheres disappeared. The science consul said, "Princeps, now Sophon One and Sophon Two will be launched toward the Earth. Using the large knowledge base stored in the micro circuits, the sophons understand the nature of space. They can draw energy from the vacuum and become high- energy particles in a moment, and navigate through space at nearly the speed of light. This might appear to violate the law of conservation of energy, but in fact the sophons are only 'borrowing' energy from the structure of vacuum. However, the time for returning such energy is far in the future, when the proton decays. By then, the end of the universe will not be far.
"After the two sophons arrive on Earth, their first mission is to locate the high-energy particle accelerators used by humans for physics research and hide within them. At the level of science development on the Earth, the basic method for exploring the deep structure of matter is to use accelerated high-energy particles to collide with target particles. After the target particles have been smashed, they analyze the results to try to find information reflecting the deep structure of matter. In actual experiments, they use the substance containing the target particles as the bull's-eye for the accelerated bullets.
"But the inside of the substance being struck is almost all vacuum. Suppose an atom is the size of a theater; the nucleus is like a walnut hovering in the center of the theater. Thus, successful collisions are very rare. Often large quantities of high-energy particles must be directed against the target substance for a sustained period of time before a collision occurs. This kind of experiment is akin to looking for a raindrop of a slightly different color in a summer thunderstorm.
"This gives the sophons an opening. A sophon can take the place of a target particle and accept the collision. Because they're highly intelligent, they can precisely determine through the quantum sensing formation the paths that the accelerated particles will follow within a very short period of time and move to the appropriate location. Thus, the likelihood that a sophon will be struck will be billions of times greater than the actual target particle. After a sophon is struck, it can deliberately give out wrong and chaotic results. Thus, even if the actual target particle is occasionally struck, Earth physicists will not be able to tell the correct result from the numerous erroneous results."
"Wouldn't this destroy the sophon as well?" asked the military consul.
"No. When a sophon is smashed into several pieces, several new sophons are born. And they continue to have secure quantum entanglements between them, just like how, if you break a magnet in half, you would get two magnets. Even though each partial sophons capabilities will be much lower than the original, whole sophon, under the direction of the self-healing software, the pieces will move together and reassemble into the original sophon. This process only requires a microsecond and will occur after the collision in the accelerator, and after the pieces of the sophon have left the wrong results in the bubble chamber or on sensitive film."
Someone asked, "Would it be possible for Earth scientists to find a way to detect sophons and then use a strong magnetic field to imprison them? Protons have positive charge."
"That's impossible. To detect sophons requires humans to make breakthroughs in the study of the deep structure of matter. But their high-energy accelerators will all have been turned into heaps of junk. How can they make progress in such research? The hunter's eyes have already been blinded by the prey he intends to catch."
"Humans may still resort to a brute-force method," the industry consul said. "They can build a large number of accelerators, faster than the rate at which we can build sophons. Then, at least some accelerators on Earth will not be infiltrated by sophons and can yield the correct results."
"This is one of the most interesting aspects of Project Sophon!" The science consul was visibly excited by the question. "Mister Industry Consul, do not worry that creating large numbers of sophons will cause the collapse of the Trisolaran economy. We will not need to resort to that. We might build a few more, but not too many. Indeed, just these two are more than enough, because each sophon is capable of multitasking."
"This is a bit of jargon related to ancient serial computers. Back then, a computer's central processing unit could only carry out a single instruction at a time. But, because it was so fast, and aided by interrupt scheduling, from our low-speed perspective, the computer was carrying out multiple programs at the same time. As you know, the sophons move at close to the speed of light. The surface of the Earth is a tiny space for sophons. If sophons patrol around the accelerators on Earth at this speed, then, from the perspective of humans, it is as if they simultaneously exist in all the accelerators and can almost simultaneously create erroneous results in all the accelerators.
"By our calculations, each sophon is capable of controlling more than ten thousand high-energy accelerators. It takes about four to five years for humans to build each of these accelerators, and it seems unlikely that they can be mass produced based on their economy and available resources. Of course, they can increase the distance between the accelerators, for example, by building accelerators on the different planets in their planetary system. That would indeed destroy the multitasking operation of the sophons. But in the time it would take to do that, it would not be difficult for Trisolaris to build ten or more sophons.
"More and more sophons will wander in that planetary system. Added all together, they still won't add up to the mass of even one-billionth of a bacterium. But they will cause the physicists on Earth to never be able to glimpse the secrets hidden deep in the structure of matter. Humans will never be able to access the micro dimensions, and the ability for them to manipulate matter will be limited to below five dimensions. From now on, whether it's four point five million hours or four hundred and fifty trillion hours, Earth civilization's technology will never achieve this fundamental breakthrough. They will remain forever in the primitive stage. The science of Earth has been completely locked down, and the lock is so secure that humans will never be able to escape from it by their own strength."
"That's wonderful! Please forgive my lack of respect for Project Sophon in the past." The military consul's tone was sincere.
"In fact, there are currently only three accelerators with sufficient power to produce results that can lead to possible breakthroughs. After Sophon One and Sophon Two arrive on Earth, they will have a lot of extra capacity. In order to fully utilize the sophons, we will assign them other tasks in addition to interfering with the three accelerators. For example, they will be the main means to carry out the Miracle Plan." "Sophons can create miracles?"
"For humans, yes. Everyone knows that high-energy particles can expose film. This is one of the ways that primitive accelerators on Earth once showed individual particles. When a sophon passes through the film at high energy, it leaves behind a tiny exposed spot. If a sophon passes back and forth through the film many times, it can connect the dots to form letters or numbers or even pictures, like embroidery. The process is very fast, and far quicker than the speed at which humans expose film when taking a picture. Also, the human retina is similar to the Trisolaran one. Thus, a high-energy sophon can also use the same technique to show letters, numbers, or images on their retina. . . . And if these little miracles can confuse and terrify humans, then the next great miracle will be sufficient to frighten their scientists—no better than bugs—to death: Sophons can cause background cosmic radiation to flash in their eyes."
"This would be very frightening for our scientists as well. How would this be accomplished?"
"Very simple. We have already written the software to allow a sophon to unfold itself into two dimensions. After the unfolding is complete, the huge plane can wrap itself around the Earth. This software can also adjust the membrane so that it's transparent, but the degree of transparency can be tuned in the frequencies of the cosmic micro-wave background. ... Of course, as sophons fold and unfold into different dimensions, they can display even more amazing 'miracles.' The software for accomplishing these is still being developed, but these 'miracles' will create a mood sufficient to divert human scientific thought onto the wrong path. This way, we can use the Miracle Plan to effectively restrain scientific endeavors outside of physics on Earth."
"One last question: Why not send all four of the completed sophons to Earth?"
"Quantum entanglement can work at a distance. Even if four sophons were placed at opposite ends of the universe, they could still sense each other instantaneously, and the quantum formation between them would still exist. Keeping Sophon Three and Sophon Four here will enable them to receive the information sent back by Sophon One and Sophon Two instantaneously. This gives us a way to monitor the Earth in real time. Also, the sophon formation allows Trisolaris to communicate in real time with the alienated forces within Earth civilization."
Unnoticed, the sun that had just risen disappeared below the horizon and turned into a sunset. Another Chaotic Era had arrived on Trisolaris.
While Ye Wenjie was reading the messages from Trisolaris, the Battle Command Center was hosting another important meeting to perform further analysis of the captured data. Before the meeting, General Chang said, "Comrades, please be aware that our meeting is probably already being monitored by sophons. From now on, there will be no more secrets."
When he said this, the surroundings were still familiar. The shadows of summer trees swayed against the drawn curtains, but in the eyes of the attendees, the world was no longer the same. They felt the gaze of omnipresent eyes. Under these eyes, there was nowhere to hide in the world. This feeling would follow them all their lives, and their descendants would not be able to escape it. It would take many, many years before humans finally made the mental adjustment to this situation.
Three seconds after General Chang finished his remark, Trisolaris communicated with humanity outside the ETO for the first time. After this, they terminated all communications with the Adventists. For the remainder of the lives of all attendees, Trisolaris never sent another message.
Everyone in the Battle Command Center saw the message in their eyes, just like Wang Miao's countdown. The message flashed into existence for only two seconds and then disappeared, but everyone got it. It was only a single sentence:
Chapter 33 Vocabulary Note
sophon - a proton with intelligence (zhizi)
frigid - very cold
contain - to stop something from escaping; in this case, to stop the science advancement on Earth
coalesce - to combine to form one single group
sabotage - deliberately damage or destroy something secretly
scrap a plan - to decide not to use a plan because it is not practical
tweezers - a small tool that has two narrow pieces of metal joined at one end, used to pull or move very small objects
etch - to cut lines on a metal plate to form a picture or words
intently - giving careful attention
kink - a small problem in a plan or system
disperse - go away in different directions
gossamer - a very light thin material
minuscule - extremely small
attenuate - to make something weaker or less
tetrahedron - a solid shape with four flat sides that are triangles
tori - a ring-shaped surface generated by rotating a circle around an axis that does not intersect the circle
firmament - the sky or heaven
dismember - to cut a body into pieces or tear it apart
disembowel - to remove someone's bowels
viscera - the large organ inside your body, such as your heart, lungs, and stomach
iris - the round colored part of your eye, that surrounds the black pupil
cascade - to flow fast and in large amounts, or cause something to flow in this way
parabolic - a curve in the space of the imaginary line an object makes when it is thrown high in the air and comes down a little distance away
focal - main and most important
lethal - dangerous
incandescent - very bright
be devoid of something - to be completely lacking in something
derisive - showing that you think someone is stupid
perspire - sweat
remnant - a small part of something that remains after the rest of it has been destroyed or used
equanimity - a calm mental state when you deal with a difficult situation
populace - the people who live in a country
star-studded - decorated with many stars
blurt - to say something suddenly and without thinking
vault - a roof that consists of several arches that are joined together
spoke - one of the thin metal bars which connect the outer ring of a wheel to the center, especially on a bicycle
zenith - the highest point that is reached by the sun or the moon in the sky
precipitously - very suddenly
meson - an elementary particle
feat - something that is an impressive achievement, because it needs a lot of skill or strength to do
gargantuan - extremely large
embroidery - sewing a pattern onto cloth
omnipresent - present everywhere at all times
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