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A Look At The Stars

Thursday, November 3, 2005

The news in science this week is that NASA researchers think they are looking at infrared glows from the first stars of the universe.

I wonder … just how far back we will be able to go?

Dr. Mandleblot sat in front of the hooded display as a cat owner sits in front of his cat. He watched the device intently, while the device summarily ignored him.

“Only 10 more seconds, Scott, and I will be looking at the very beginning of the universe”, the doctor said, unassumingly.

My pulse spiked at the thought. I couldn’t believe how calm Dr. Mandleblot seemed to be. The good doctor would the first human to see the beginning of time itself. I glanced at the hooded display, and the small black curtain that surrounded it. The curtain allowed a viewer to block out all light, and concentrate solely on the incoming video. I imagined myself inside the curtain, and wondered just what I’d see.

A green light flashed. The satellite signal arrived at last.

“It’s time!”, Dr. Mandleblot said with a smile. He reverently lifted the curtain and leaned into the display.

I watched Dr. Mandleblot’s lower body for a long time. I wanted to ask him what he could see, but I knew if I was inside the curtain - I wouldn’t want to be disturbed. Suddenly, I could see the doctor’s legs twitch. Beneath the black cloth that draped his shoulders, I could see his muscles tighten. An alarm went off in my head. From my years of training as a secret service agent, I could see the tell tale signs of a person in danger.

“Doctor?”, I whispered, filled with fright. What could he see? What could be wrong? I began to worry about the doctor’s heart. I shifted into a position behind him, when suddenly…

“Good heavens!”, the doctor ejaculated.

“What is it?”, I shouted. “What do you see?”.

Dr. Mandleblot’s head flew out of the curtain. His eyes were squinting at the sudden change in the light level, but his mouth was wide open. “We’ve gone too far!”, he cried, and jumped to his feet.

“What?”, I shouted.

The doctor began to make his way across the room, clutching at chairs on the way to the door. He turned and looked at me again – a melancholy stare in his eyes. “We’ve gone too far”, he whispered, and shook his head.

“Doctor”, I said firmly. “What … did … you …. see?”.

“Read the fine print”, he said, and walked out the door. I turned back to face the device, looking around the curtain. I was looking for a sign - some writing. Fine print? What was the doctor trying to say? Finally, I gathered my strength, and put my head under the cloth.

My eyes adjusted to the darkness, and I could see the stars. At least I thought they were stars - but they started to move  rapidly, and then suddenly froze. The spots of light seemed to form symmetric blocks. Before I could begin to analyze the patterns, the lights started to swirl again .... then froze.

I gasped.

The lights looked like Chinese logographic writing. Unfortunately, I skipped Chinese studies during my secret service training. Then the lights were swirling again … and they stopped one more time.

My jaw dropped.

I could see letters of the English alphabet. My mind was so stunned by the appearance of these letters, I almost didn’t see the message.

Yes. A message.

There is a message at the beginning of the universe.

The message reads like this:

“The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted universe is illegal. Reverse engineering of this universe without the express consent of the copyright holder is also illegal. Development of a new universe built upon this universe (a derivative universe) is expressly prohibited. Violators will not only be prosecuted – they will be atomized”.