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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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  • So it's a Sci-Fi article?
    • by jest3r (458429) on Wednesday October 31, 2012 @08:32PM (#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 @08:49PM (#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)

      A spoof scientific article for Halloween, more likely.

    • 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 @08:12PM (#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 Horshu (2754893) on Wednesday October 31, 2012 @08:12PM (#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 @08:13PM (#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 RanCossack (1138431) on Wednesday October 31, 2012 @08:22PM (#41837065)
      What does God need with a starship?
      • by Anonymous Coward

        He built this planet on ROCK AND ROLL.

      • by Shavano (2541114)

        What does God need with a starship?

        That depends. Jefferson or Cobra?

    • by Andy Prough (2730467) on Wednesday October 31, 2012 @08:33PM (#41837147)
      What would a "God" really be? Someone with vastly higher intelligence, using technology that you can't comprehend. Everything they did would seem magical, mystical, miraculous. Since you couldn't even comprehend their world, all you would be able to do is make up myths and legends and tall tales to explain their "Godliness".
      • by tycoex (1832784) on Wednesday October 31, 2012 @09:01PM (#41837347)

        The Goa'uld are not gods! :)

      • What about a weakly-godlike entity?

      • by dywolf (2673597)

        Clark's Law: Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
        (ie, the scifi author's excuse to hand wave anything away :P )

      • What would a "God" really be? Someone with vastly higher intelligence, using technology that you can't comprehend. Everything they did would seem magical, mystical, miraculous. Since you couldn't even comprehend their world, all you would be able to do is make up myths and legends and tall tales to explain their "Godliness".

        A God would not need technology to do that.

        True, a race using a higher technology than another race would appear to have god-like powers, but only until the technology was unveiled to the other race.

    • by lexarius (560925) on Wednesday October 31, 2012 @08:48PM (#41837253)
      Keep in mind that most gods are not assumed to be omnipotent, except in a few monotheistic religions. Non-omnipotence implies that they have to obey the basic rules of whatever reality they inhabit, or at least some of them. A non-omnipotent god probably can't do instant teleportation through space. Maybe they can convert themselves into light and travel at light speed, but as far as we know you need to warp space to do better than that. Perhaps they can warp space with willpower alone, but that might be tiring over vast distances. It isn't unusual for a god to be portrayed as using a chariot or steed, so why not a ship? If it's easier for the god to build a warp drive and take a relaxing boat trip across the cosmos, why not? Any sufficiently advanced magic is indistinguishable from technology.
      • by snadrus (930168)
        I can build a brick house to completion with my bare hands and simple tools, but it's intensively tiring. So instead I use wisdom to find indirect ways to accomplish the same goal (getting a completed house). I'd assume anything more brilliant than I would do the same. Put this way, I'm starting to feel like an "indirect way" myself.
      • by Empiric (675968)
        Non-omnipotence implies that they have to obey the basic rules of whatever reality they inhabit, or at least some of them.

        Omnipotence generally implies this as well, with respect to the constraints of logical non-contradiction--on the basis of (in brief), if you object that a supposedly omnipotent God cannot, say, make a square circle, you have not in fact identified a limitation on omnipotence, rather, at base you have failed to use language meaningfully.
        • by lexarius (560925)
          I'm not talking about drawing square circles or making rocks so heavy even they can't lift them. I'm talking more in the realm of violating relativity, thermodynamics, etc. In my mind, omnipotence is the ability to cause the universe to transition into a state that, while perfectly valid and non-contradictory under the laws of that universe, could not have been reached via any application of said laws from the previous state.
          • by alexgieg (948359)

            In my mind, omnipotence is the ability to cause the universe to transition into a state that, while perfectly valid and non-contradictory under the laws of that universe, could not have been reached via any application of said laws from the previous state.

            Well, in monotheistic theologies, particularly Christian ones, omnipotence is defined not as "the power to do anything", but as the attribute of "being all that's possible", that is, the "can" in each and every sentence of the form "x can y" (provided "x" and "y" are both real). That works more or less like when you define God as "the Being", that is, as the "is" in any sentence of the form "x is y" (also provided "x" and "y" are both real). When 'x' and/or 'y' aren't real, on the other hand, it just adds a

    • ..is indistinguishable from magic, or divinity.

    • by Agent ME (1411269)

      As technology increases, it becomes more and more indistinguishable from magic.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 31, 2012 @09:33PM (#41837581)

      Lovecraft's various creatures, including Cthulhu and others variously described as "gods", had extraterrestrial origins (eg. "from outer spheres"). Basically the idea was that they were ancient and vastly powerful extra-dimensional beings, not gods in the sense that you're thinking.

    • by guttentag (313541) on Wednesday October 31, 2012 @10:15PM (#41837773) Journal

      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.

      First of all: Villagers use pitchforks. Gods use tridents. That being said, the trident is a tool. In theory, mythological gods used tools to do things so they wouldn't have to do things themselves. The most-commonly-used tools of the gods were people. If you have to do everything yourself, you're not a god, you're just that guy in the cubicle at the end of the row who doesn't understand shell scripting.

      • If you have to do everything yourself, you're not a god, you're just that guy in the cubicle at the end of the row who doesn't understand shell scripting.

        Alas, that' s probably too long to fit on a T-shirt, else I'd have one printed. :)

      • by tragedy (27079)

        First of all: Villagers use pitchforks. Gods use tridents.

        A trident is actually a fisherman's tool. Unlike a pitchfork, the tines on a trident are usually barbed or angled so as to trap prey, whereas the tines on a pitchfork are designed so that things will slip off easily when they're being pitched. There's no need to compare the tridents some gods are depicted with to pitchforks when comparing them to regular old human tridents will work just fine.

    • Only gods which want to participate in the material world need it. Think of the material representation as an avatar. The god itself is outside the universe, but to act in the universe (as opposed to just affect it), the god needs an avatar inside the world, which is then bound to the laws of the world (which the god can, of course, tweak to its liking, e.g. by introducing exotic matter which doesn't otherwise exist, but the laws cannot be completely lifted because that would mean to destroy the world that

  • by stevegee58 (1179505) on Wednesday October 31, 2012 @08:20PM (#41837039) Journal
    Cthulhu 2012!
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I demand to see Cthulhu's birth certificate.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 31, 2012 @08:51PM (#41837273)

        I demand to see Cthulhu's Death certificate.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

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

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

          You can't prove a negative without non-Euclidean geometry.

      • by Grayhand (2610049)

        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)

      Beat me to it (check the sig).

  • by ShakaUVM (157947) on Wednesday October 31, 2012 @08:20PM (#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 @08:39PM (#41837195)

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

    • by jd2112 (1535857)

      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)

        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 Disne

      • 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 @08:47PM (#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.

  • 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 @02:00AM (#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.
    • If it's dark where you are... Never Look Up.
      • But there are a countable number of (visible) stars, it's just a large number. And the infinity of space is literally unobservable. It's just black. So you're not seeing an uncountably infinite number of anything up there.
        Just don't think too hard about it, otherwise you'll face something similar to the Total Perspective Vortex [slashdot.org]

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