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Physicist Explains Cthulhu's "Non-Euclidean Geometry" 179

Posted by samzenpus
from the dead-but-dreaming dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Mathematician Benjamin K. Tippett has written a fascinating and deadpan paper (Pdf) giving insights into Cthulhu. A 'Bubble' of warped Space-Time makes alarmingly consistent sense of the dead God's cyclopean city under the sea. From the paper: 'We calculate the type of matter which would be required to generate such exotic spacetime curvature. Unfortunately, we determine that the required matter is quite unphysical, and possess a nature which is entirely alien to all of the experiences of human science. Indeed, any civilization with mastery over such matter would be able to construct warp drives, cloaking devices, and other exotic geometries required to conveniently travel through the cosmos.'"
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Physicist Explains Cthulhu's "Non-Euclidean Geometry"

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  • by tgmarks (2624405) on Wednesday October 31, 2012 @07:07PM (#41836927)
    So it's a Sci-Fi article?
    • by jest3r (458429) on Wednesday October 31, 2012 @07:32PM (#41837139)

      This unphysical non-Euclidean post brought to you by Hewlett Packard.

    • Re:So it's a Sci-Fi? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by cranq (61540) on Wednesday October 31, 2012 @07:49PM (#41837259)

      Some good SF has some similar roots...

      One example that I like is Charles Stross' Laundry series, which starts with this story: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Atrocity_Archives [wikipedia.org]

    • by Evil Pete (73279) on Wednesday October 31, 2012 @09:08PM (#41837737) Homepage

      A spoof scientific article for Halloween, more likely.

    • by wdef (1050680) on Thursday November 01, 2012 @03:13AM (#41839585)
      It's speculative inquiry and it's perfectly fine scientific activity. It's quite common in theoretical physics to imagine or concoct various system parameters - either reasonable or wild - and see where those assumptions lead. Einstein's choice of the GR field equations was in part an educated stab that turned out to work. Physics is full of ideas that we accept as ok but that began life as a guess.
  • by CRCulver (715279) <crculver@christopherculver.com> on Wednesday October 31, 2012 @07:12PM (#41836969) Homepage
    Satirical scientific articles are a field of literature ripe for expansion. The only one I know of to have really found a wide readership (at least among those who follow modern literature) is Georges Perec's Cantatrix Sopranica L. [amazon.com] . Of course, the Sokal hoax paper is also a brilliant piece of writing.
    • by cranq (61540) on Wednesday October 31, 2012 @07:31PM (#41837125)

      Along the lines of this classic by Larry Niven... http://www.rawbw.com/~svw/superman.html [rawbw.com]

    • by runeghost (2509522) on Wednesday October 31, 2012 @07:52PM (#41837287)
      • by mcgrew (92797) * on Thursday November 01, 2012 @11:05AM (#41843037) Homepage Journal

        IMO that was the most interesting one. He used the thiotimoline gag in a couple other short stories. The interesting part is when he did his doctoral dissertation. From wikipedia:

        The story of the genesis of this spoof was one of Asimov's favorite personal anecdotes, one he retold a number of times in print. In the spring of 1947, Asimov was engaged in doctoral research in biochemistry and, as part of his experimental procedure, he needed to dissolve catechol in water. As he observed the crystals dissolve as soon as they hit the water's surface, it occurred to him that if catechol were any more soluble, then it would dissolve before it encountered the water.

        By that time Asimov had been writing professionally for nine years and was shortly to face the challenge of writing up his research as a doctoral dissertation. He feared that the experience of writing readable prose for publication might have impaired his ability to write the prose typical of academic discourse, and decided to practice with a spoof article (including charts, graphs, tables, and citations of fake articles in nonexistent journals) describing experiments on a compound, thiotimoline, that was so soluble that it dissolved in water up to 1.12 seconds before the water was added.

        Asimov wrote the article on 8 June 1947, but he was uncertain as to whether the resulting work of fiction was publishable. He finally offered it to John W. Campbell, the editor of Astounding Science Fiction, his preferred publication outlet. Campbell was delighted with the piece, and accepted it for publication, agreeing to Asimov's request that it appear under a pseudonym in deference to Asimov's concern that he might alienate potential doctoral examiners at Columbia University if he were revealed as the author.

        Some months later Asimov was shocked to see the piece appear in the March 1948 issue of Astounding under his own name. In later years Campbell insisted that this was an oversight, though Asimov maintained a suspicion that Campbell had acted deliberately out of greater worldliness, for, in Asimov's words, "The Columbia Chemistry Department proved far less stuffy than I had feared" and his examiners effectively delivered their favorable verdict on his dissertation by good-naturedly asking him a final question about thiotimoline. In Opus 100 (1969) Asimov called the thiotimoline article "an utter success", and noted that the New York Public Library "was pestered for days by eager youngsters trying to find the nonexistent journals so they could read more on the subject".

    • by Guy Harris (3803) <guy@alum.mit.edu> on Wednesday October 31, 2012 @07:59PM (#41837327)

      Satirical scientific articles are a field of literature ripe for expansion. The only one I know of to have really found a wide readership (at least among those who follow modern literature) is Georges Perec's Cantatrix Sopranica L. [amazon.com] .

      Or this paper [inria.fr].

      Of course, the Sokal hoax paper is also a brilliant piece of writing.

      And here ya go [nyu.edu].

    • by horizontech10 (788142) on Wednesday October 31, 2012 @08:12PM (#41837415)
      Youngsters, forgetting the classics: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thiotimoline [wikipedia.org]
    • by smugfunt (8972) on Wednesday October 31, 2012 @09:12PM (#41837755)

      The Endochronic Properties of Resublimted Thiotimoline [wikipedia.org] by Isaac Asimov.
      A spoof chemistry paper which he told Campbell to publish pseudonymously in case it prejudice his upcoming thesis examination. Campbell used his real name, his examiners asked about it, and still gave him his doctorate.

    • by gstoddart (321705) on Wednesday October 31, 2012 @09:32PM (#41837935) Homepage

      Satirical scientific articles are a field of literature ripe for expansion.

      I don't think it's so much satirical as a though experiment, albeit slightly bizarre.

      It reads more like he took a description of the environment, and said "OK, if we were to experience this, it could be because these things would have to be true".

      The material is fanciful, but what he's doing seems like he's doing solid math -- though, I confess, the math is mostly beyond me except in the abstract. But it reads more like Flatland and other things which try to describe Big Concepts with a little fun thrown in.

      Conversely, what is the probability that the imagination of a layperson in the 1920â(TM)s would be able to accidentally
      describe not just the effects of gravitational lensing but also the consequential anomalous relationship between lines,
      angles and areas in a curved space?

      Sounds much more like pointing out that there's some pretty accurate descriptions of some cool physics in Lovecraft.

      Or, he's really reaching. Like I said, the math is a little beyond me. :-P

    • by steppedleader (2490064) on Wednesday October 31, 2012 @09:35PM (#41837969)
      I wonder if there are more of these sorts of papers out there than people realize. Maybe a lot of them just don't get much attention outside the field of the writer. On that note, here's a meteorology one: Case Analysis Of A Historic Killer Tornado Event In Kansas On 10 June 1938 [ou.edu]
  • by Horshu (2754893) on Wednesday October 31, 2012 @07:12PM (#41836975)
    This is the point where his boss should tell him, "The purpose of science is to serve mankind. You seem to regard science as some kind of dodge... or hustle. Your theories are the worst kind of popular tripe, your methods are sloppy, and your conclusions are highly questionable. You are a poor scientist, Dr. Tippett."
  • by Anachragnome (1008495) on Wednesday October 31, 2012 @07:13PM (#41836987)

    Why the fuck would any self-respecting god need technology? I was always under the impression technology was humanity's attempts at mitigating our shortcomings as NON-Gods.

  • by stevegee58 (1179505) on Wednesday October 31, 2012 @07:20PM (#41837039) Journal
    Cthulhu 2012!
    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 31, 2012 @07:27PM (#41837103)

      I demand to see Cthulhu's birth certificate.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 31, 2012 @07:51PM (#41837273)

        I demand to see Cthulhu's Death certificate.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 31, 2012 @07:51PM (#41837283)

        Everyone who views the birth certificate goes mad, so it is really hard to verify.

      • by Grayhand (2610049) on Wednesday October 31, 2012 @08:15PM (#41837435)

        I demand to see Cthulhu's birth certificate.

        Actually if he came from another dimension that occupied the same space as the US he could conceivable claim citizenship. McCain had a bigger stretch since he was born in Panama.

    • by dkleinsc (563838) on Thursday November 01, 2012 @07:59AM (#41841005) Homepage

      Beat me to it (check the sig).

  • by ShakaUVM (157947) on Wednesday October 31, 2012 @07:20PM (#41837053) Homepage Journal

    If you truly wish to understand non-Euclidean geometry, simply try putting those damn fitted sheets on a bed. No matter which way you rotate it, you always end up with the short side in your hands.

    It is enough to drive a man insane.

  • by tool462 (677306) on Wednesday October 31, 2012 @07:39PM (#41837195)

    As long as the exotic matter isn't made of midichlorians, we can still be friends.

    • by jd2112 (1535857) on Wednesday October 31, 2012 @08:09PM (#41837401)

      As long as the exotic matter isn't made of midichlorians, we can still be friends.

      This just in : Disney has bought out the. H.P. Lovecraft estate. A Star Wars/Marvel/Cthuluhu/Disney Princess animated film is rumored to be in production.

      • by Grayhand (2610049) on Wednesday October 31, 2012 @08:21PM (#41837485)

        As long as the exotic matter isn't made of midichlorians, we can still be friends.

        This just in : Disney has bought out the. H.P. Lovecraft estate. A Star Wars/Marvel/Cthuluhu/Disney Princess animated film is rumored to be in production.

        Sorry it's all public domain. His aunts died years ago and the last issues over so shared ownership rights expired. The rights have been questionable for years since it was mostly August Derleth claiming he changed a number of stories and got them republished as collections. All that has expired and he's been dead a long time. Even Burrough's stuff is entering public domain. It's why they were able to make that cheesy A Princess of Mars film, I mean the cheapie one not the big budget cheesy film which Disney had in development for decades.

      • by SternisheFan (2529412) on Wednesday October 31, 2012 @08:39PM (#41837605)

        This just in : Disney has bought out the. H.P. Lovecraft estate. A Star Wars/Marvel/Cthuluhu/Disney Princess animated film is rumored to be in production.

        I'm glad Lucas sold to Disney, if he hadn't we'd never have this p.r. pic... http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/features/2012/1101/1224325975225.html [irishtimes.com]

  • by Sangui5 (12317) on Wednesday October 31, 2012 @07:47PM (#41837247)

    ..but HP?

    Is the new printer lineup Lovecraftian? Has Meg Whitman been conducting dark rituals? Is Itanium powered by the souls of the innocent?

    Wouldn't MS be more appropriate? I'm pretty sure IE is *actually* powered by the souls of the innocent, and there certainly is something evil about the entire OS lineup.

  • by Opyros (1153335) on Wednesday October 31, 2012 @10:47PM (#41838509) Journal
    That may take care of Cthulhu, but what about the geometry of the Temple of Bel-Shamharoth? It had a tessellation made of octagons. Assuming that they were convex octagons, what kind of non-euclidean geometry would be necessary for such a tiling to exist? (In euclidean geometry, no convex polygon with more than six sides can possibly tile the plane.)
  • by howlingfrog (211151) <ajmkenyon2002@@@yahoo...com> on Thursday November 01, 2012 @01:00AM (#41839099) Homepage Journal
    Back in college, a friend and I were trying to figure out what could possibly make people go mad from the mere sight of Cthulhu. We decided it must have uncountably infinitely many tentacles. A mere countable infinity of tentacles could be visually comprehensible, so long as each one is half the size of its predecessor, or if they were arranged in a fractal tree structure of tentacles upon tentacles. But uncountably many tentacles would drive you insane at first sight.

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