Next time you find yourself stranded near a black hole

You will find Greg Egans “Incandescence” very helpful.

Of course you need to be inside a physical body again.
Being software linked into a scape is no good.
Like the heroes of Incandescence you must transfer to
a body. A body that must be left to engage
with the physical world.
– “It felt odd to be
on such intimate terms with the physical world again,
without a layer of simulation. It
was like being naked for the first time in a century”.

And a very dangerous thing this thing about having a body.
– “To travel is to die”.
Certainly true if you are in
the wilderness of stars near the black hole in
the center of our galaxy.

But you will experience many wonders with a body:
– “Out in the disc people usually waited
for cultures to develop interstellar travel
for themselves before making contact with them;
the exceptions had often been messy”.

However, Using an avatar, a tiny thing some 1 centimeter high,
you can explore other civilizations.

An so it goes – Our heroes make contact with some locals
on an ark, survivors from some ancient, 50 million years +, civilisation.
The ark itself is circling a neutron star near the
core of our Galaxy,
So here we go: Our heroes is now inside a body that looks somewhat
the same as the arkdwellers.

-“My name is Ra”, Rakesh said.
-“I am Neb”, the farmer replied.
-“I’ve come from the outside world”, Rakesk announced boldly.
-“We have enough workers” – Neb explained.

Hilarious stuff from the core of the Galaxy….

Egan explains it to us:
“To the arkdwellers it was frivolous diversion
to talk about anything but their sleepwalking existence.
Inconsequentiel chatter is what the arkdwellers
wants – about food, sex and sleep”.

Yet the arkdwellers have general intelligence.
And their makers have given them a mechanism,
where extreme stress triggers a genetic mechanisms
that brings about curiousity. Enlightement on overdrive so to speak.
It is just a question on when to throw the
switch to enlightement.

So of we go to throw the switch on enlightement.

All brilliant stuff – and on the way Egan wants
to teach his readers some general relativity.
Unfortunately I dont think that part of the
book reaches the heights it could have gone to.

In Egans own words:
“Incandescence grew out of the notion that the theory of general relativity —
widely regarded as one of the pinnacles of human intellectual achievement —
could be discovered by a pre-industrial civilization with no steam engines,
no electric lights, no radio transmitters, and absolutely no tradition of astronomy”.

“How, then, could my alien civilization possibly reach the same conceptual heights,
when they were armed with none of these apparent prerequisites?
The short answer is that they would need to be living in
just the right environment: the accretion disk of a large black hole”.

“How? Put on your space suit, and pump out all the station’s air.
Then fill the station with small objects —
paper clips, pens, whatever — being careful to place them initially
at rest with respect to the walls.
Wait, and see what happens”.

Yes. Ok.  Next time I find myself stranded inside a rocky world
near a black hole I will find this part of the book very helpful …
But come on.  There should be a new revision of Incandescence
where you actually get the math and the theory of
general relativity that goes along with each chapter in the book.
Otherwise it is just to hard to be a reader….
You will have to read all the extra material
on gregegan.net to make all the right connections –
Certainly this stuff should have been included in the book?
Along with some easy to understand additional cartoon like explanations ?-
To understand is to have it explained in many different ways?

best wishes
-Simon

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