Friday, April 30, 2021

8. The Wabbit and the Dark Matter Smell

The journey home was uneventful, but the achievements were great. So said Lapinette anyway. The Wabbit still had heartburn even if he had saved his planet. Orni the Ornithopter sailed into the Earth's atmosphere with some satisfaction. Lapinette started to wave and the Wabbit tried to look round - but his neck was stiff from the journey. The engine note was unmistakeable. "It's Wabsworth and Susan!" shouted Lapinette. The Wabbit waved too, although his neck was cricked. Susan wheeled into position to guide Orni in, and together they headed for Torino. "How's your fur, Wabbit?" Lapinette tried to find a comfortable position on the struts. "It's still slightly singed and smells of dark matter," said the Wabbit. He dusted what looked like soot from his fur. "I'm not sure dark matter has a smell," said Lapinette. The Wabbit crinkled his nose, "It smells of sulphur." Lapinette sniffed and nodded. "You're right. It does." Orni laughed. "It's thought to be bare sulphur ions." Lapinette thought that was very funny. "Evil smells like sulphur and venom." The Wabbit shrugged. "That's about 85 per cent of the atmosphere." "Explains all your enemies," laughed Lapinette. "I don't want to go home smelling of rotten eggs," sulked the Wabbit. "The planet will forgive you!" smiled Lapinette. Orni followed Susan on the long flight path that took them closer to Earth. "What do you call that thing your friend is piloting?" The Wabbit grinned. "It's a biplane." Orni dipped his wings, just like Susan. "Maybe I could have a whirling thing at the front?" The Wabbit held his sides and shook with mirth. "You'll need a rubber band!"
[Background image: NASA]

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

7. The Wabbit and the Tiny Red Giant

Orni the Ornithopter took off once more and they hurtled through space. The Wabbit was relieved there was only one of him and Lapinette, but that was the least of his worries. Orni steered a course towards a star. "U Cam is one bright star," said Lapinette. She shielded her eyes and so did the Wabbit. " It's a Red Giant," he said. He cringed because he knew what was coming. "Get ready," said Orni. "That gas shell is going to blow," yelled the Wabbit. Orni swooped closer. "Your suit will channel it - and the dark matter." The Wabbit's fur stood on end. It was exactly what was needed because his fur acted as both a shield and a magnet. Dark matter poured through the Wabbit and into the space of Camelopardalis Galaxy. The Wabbit flinched. He felt the energy. It gave him heartburn. "Is Camelopardalis short on dark matter?" he breathed. "Far too bright in my opinion, even if the star is tiny." Orni gave a sarcastic sigh. Lapinette was stunned but knowledgeable, quite aware of where they were. "This galaxy has a double star, Cam," she said. "Has it indeed?" said Orni, "shall we double down?" "No," said the Wabbit, "there's such a thing as gilding the lily." He still had heartburn and his fur gave off a faint smell of cordite. He pointed. "What's that stop sign?" Lapinette grinned. "I imagined it." Orni was most impressed. "The power of thought." He laughed so hard they nearly fell off. The Wabbit was miffed. "This galaxy doesn't look like it's supposed to." His long explanation ended in, "It's not a giraffe or a camel. Nor is it a leopard." Orni chortled. "The Chinese call it Purple Forbidden Enclosure." "I prefer giraffe," shrugged the Wabbit.

[Credit: Background:  ESA/Hubble/ NASA and H. Olofsson (Onsala Space Observatory)]

Monday, April 26, 2021

6. The Wabbit and the Dark Matter Layer

The ornithopter sped on and as it became faster, it became quite crowded. Lapinette and the Wabbit found themselves with an exact double. "Funny things happen near these things," said Orni the ornithopter. It changed colour again. The Wabbit didn't turn a hair. "This happened before," he said, "it was in an old adventure." Lapinette looked straight at her double. "Please to meet you myself," she said sweetly. "Pleased to meet you back," said her double. The ornithopter swung round in a circle. "There's the dark matter, I've coloured it blue. It's hard to spot. "The Wabbit's special glasses let him see the original and he chortled. "It doesn't look dangerous." "Oh, but it is," said the ornithopter, "And there's much more than there should be." They watched the blue haze dance and from time to time they could see pairs of eyes. Sometimes they were multitudes of pairs of eyes. "I remember the eyes," said the Wabbit. "Stay clear of them, they're not really eyes," said Orni. "They're the soul of broken dwarves and they're very very cold." The Wabbit was transfixed. "These are the missing 400 satellites in the Milky Way." Lapinette was a  practical sort. "But how are we going to fix them?" Orni swooped and dived. "We could drain them back into other galaxies." The Wabbit laughed. "Like taking the plug out the bath?" Orni bellowed with laughter. "Which one of you Wabbits came up with that?" Both Wabbits shouted 'Me', and they all laughed. Yet it was the notion of Cold Dark Matter that troubled the Wabbit. He knew that and he spoke quietly. "So much Dark Matter, so little time." "We need a plan," said Orni. "Then we'll need Planning Permission," quipped the Wabbit.

[I'm indebted to "The Big Deal about Dwarf Galaxies: The role of Dark Matter" by R. Jay Gabaney]

Saturday, April 24, 2021

5. The Wabbit and the Ornithopter's Flight

When the ornithopter returned it had grown bigger and was changing colour like a chameleon. It came closer and closer and swept both the Wabbit and Lapinette into the air. "Whoa!" yelled the Wabbit. Lapinette gave it a pat. "Why don't you do your thing Orni?"  The bird swept round in a circle. Then with increasing speed, it soared high until it left earth's atmosphere. "I didn't give authority for this," yelled the Wabbit. Lapinette ignored the Wabbit's shouting. "I expect you can speak," she said. "I generally speak Bird," said Orni, "but I can do many other tongues." Lapinette patted the Wabbit on the paw and he dropped his radio. "I've lost my control board," he scowled. Orni cackled rather like a Magpie. "I can't be controlled." "Well you were before," sulked the Wabbit. "I was humouring you," smiled Orni. She flew faster and faster. "We have common interests. Dark matter is one of them." They came to a stop in a strange zone. "This is the core of the Galaxy you call the Milky Way," said Orni, "We'll start here." They looked around. "Dark matter is the reason rabbits can breathe in space." The Wabbit suppressed a giggle. "Frankly, I'd always wondered." The Wabbit was being disingenuous. He knew his fur was made from special material, but seldom let anyone know. "It looks vast," said Lapinette, "but where are we going?" Suddenly everything vanished to a pin prick and then expanded into something extraordinary. "We're at the edge of a black hole but there's no event horizon," said Orni. "I was hoping there was going to be a show," moaned the Wabbit. Lapinette was miffed. "It's not black and it's not much of a hole." "Everyone's a critic," said Orni.

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

4. The Wabbit sends up Drones

Up on the Torino rooftops, the Wabbit practiced with inventions of his own. He stabbed at an adapted walkie talkie. The ornithopter bat swooped and dived. He switched to another channel and this time he swiped. The other bird was a traditional drone and it swooped too. Lapinette arrived and hopped with delight. "What are you trying to find, Wabbit?" The Wabbit looked up. "I'm checking the dark matter question." Lapinette watched the drones for a while. It was somehow relaxing. "I'm looking for wimps," said the Wabbit. Lapinette's eyes shot up but the Wabbit continued. "One drone is filled with small pendulums, all deflecting in response to dark matter tugs." "And the other?" asked Lapinette. "It has small spheres which gravitationally jiggle," replied the Wabbit. He grinned. "It's largely a question of jiggling balls." Lapinette pondered for a second. "What about anyons?" "They just won't behave themselves, when you square the wave function." The Wabbit was pulling her leg of course. "It's largely a matter of topology," said Lapinette in self-defence. "The anyon is two dimensional just like us." The Wabbit was delighted. "Then anything goes. We have a chance of solving the problem." He sent the ornithopter swooping over the city. "Go my beauty, go" Lapinette followed the drone it as it dipped up and down. "Who adapted the walkie talkie?" "Wabsworth," said the Wabbit, "He can't explain what's happening with dark matter." "Neither can I," said Lapinette. "I must go or I'll be late. You know how the universe keeps expanding." The Wabbit slapped a paw to his brow and groaned as she hopped off.

Monday, April 19, 2021

3. The Wabbit meets his Android Pal

The Wabbit caught up with Wabsworth at the bike show. He wasn't looking at a bike at all. He was standing with a paw on the wheel of what looked like a jeep. The Wabbit gave a salute since they were in public. So did Wabsworth. "Shopping for the Department, Commander?" asked the Wabbit. "You can't have enough wheels," replied Wabsworth. Wabsworth was an android and had catholic tastes. "Are you sure it's bright enough?" asked the Wabbit. "It changes colour to suit your mood," responded Wabsworth. He smiled. "It has a range of shades from livid red to downcast grey." Wabsworth regarded the Wabbit as a trifle conservative in his tastes. "It's very nice as it is," said the Wabbit. Wabsworth kicked the wheels and they both said 'chunky' at the same time. "I've had disturbing cosmological news," said the Wabbit. "Ah!" said Wabsworth, "I was going to send a memo to the Department." The Wabbit looked inside the cab. "I think it's past the memo stage." Wabsworth prodded every switch he could find. "Dark matter is being produced at an alarming rate?" "Lots of it," said the Wabbit. Wabsworth got in and turned on the engine. It burst into life. The Wabbit got in too. "I've been keeping an eye on redshift," said Wabsworth. He revved the engine. "It's hardly ideal." The Wabbit put his safety harness on. "The engine?" "No, the method," said Wabsworth. The Wabbit nodded. "We have to check the whole business." Wabsworth gently eased the jeep forward. "Didn't we have trouble from dark matter before?" The Wabbit grinned. "Hardly matters now."

Friday, April 16, 2021

2. The Wabbit and What the Spider Knew

They met with Duetta at the Cathedral of St. John. The Wabbit had an arrangement with the Cathedral and no-one was around - just a few pilgrims to see the Shroud of Turin. But Duetta was hard to ignore. Lapinette had forgotten how huge the spider was. She jumped in the air and all her fur stood on end. Skratch was first to greet Duetta and he stepped forward with all the courage he could muster. "Greetings Marshall Duetta Spyder. What brings your illustrious presence to our humble church?" Duetta rattled her legs. "Less of the feline flannel, Skratch. This is an important mission." Now the Wabbit hopped forward and saluted. "Marshall." Duetta replied with a squiggly salute. "Commander, a matter of common interest has come our way." There was an intake of breath that everyone could hear. Then she began. "As you know our view of the universe is different from yours." The Wabbit waved his paw in a squiggly motion. "For six months south constantly, for six north the sun goeth." Lapinette chimed in. "Ordaining the days and nights, like a cunning spider." Duetta laughed. "You have it in a walnut. The universe is a matrix of geo-celestial rhythms. But something has happened to upset the rhythm." Skratch wasn't going to be left out. "Bark is not smooth and lightning does not travel in a straight line." Duetta looked at him and her eyes bored through his skull. "But it's becoming so. Imperceptible yet inescapable." Lapinette looked at the Wabbit and the Wabbit looked back. "We have to check. I'll get Wabsworth on it right away." Duetta rattled as she bowed. "Your android is a wise one and no mistake." The Wabbit grinned. "Don't tell him, we'll never hear the end of it."

[I'm indebted to Harriet Witt for the idea. Here's the link to her article.]

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

1. The Wabbit has a Chance Meeting

The Wabbit hopped down Via Nizza and was thinking as he tended to do. His brain buzzed with opportunity and he couldn't quite put corners on it. There was so much he could achieve and so little time. He giggled. That was when Skratch the Cat caught up with him. "Hello Wabbit, you look happy." Skratch's meaow was rather suspicious because, in his experience, it was seldom that the Wabbit's demeanour was so relaxed. The Wabbit looked up. "Hello Skratch, I was just thinking of all the wonderful things we can do." Skratch took a step back. "Name one!" The Wabbit became quite rigid. He found he couldn't recollect a single one. He played for time. "It's so nice to be walking in the sun, along Via Nizza." "It's always sunny," said Skratch. "it's summer in Torino and Via Nizza is..." He paused, "Via Nizza is variable." The Wabbit's smile continued. Skratch was alarmed. "Wabbit, have you taken a mind altering drug?" The Wabbit was appalled. "Certainly not." He had a moment's hesitation. "Where could I get them?" Skratch sighed in relief. The Wabbit seemed to be returning to normal, so they both continued to hop down the road. "Do you think we have enough weaponry?" mused the Wabbit. "Plenty," said Skratch, "are we expecting trouble?" The Wabbit dug his paws in his fur. "It's been too quiet for my liking." His ears pricked up as he heard a whispering of gossamer threads. "Now that sounds like Duetta." Skratch threshed his tail. "When Duetta arrives, it usually means trouble on the way..."

Monday, April 12, 2021

The Wabbit and his Adventure Caffè

The team assembled at the designated Caffè just off Via Roma. Wabsworth was in fine fettle and had brought a bottle of prosecco. Lapinette looked with amusement. "It's frozen, Wabsworth," she giggled. "Ah yes," said Wabsworth, "I tried my new wine chilling routine, and it went a bit far." The Wabbit laughed and laughed. "We can try blowing on it, speed up the defrost." Wabsworth merely chortled. "We can wait - or order a new one." He held up a paw. "While you're doing that," said Skratch the Cat, "I'll try and explain what kind of adventure that was." His tail thrashed against the back of a chair. "Computeracy as I call it, deals with stories concerning computers, where computers really stand in for toys." The Wabbit leaned forward. "Like puppets?" Lapinette leaned forward too. "Perhaps more like a motif of folkloric transformation?" Skratch purred gently. "That's about it. I haven't forgotten the codes and algorithms though. They stand in for the deception involved in children's games - like hide and seek." Wabsworth took the opportunity to speak. "That's a cultural embeddedness, refracted through our daily interactions with computers and passwords." The Wabbit nodded in agreement. "No longer a commodified object, but a jolly thing with a personality." "Or a devil," said Lapinette. "Or a child!" said Wabsworth. Being an android he had something of a handle on that. "How's that wine going Wabsworth?" asked Lapinette. "It appears to be lightly chilled now," said Wabsworth. "Let's order four glasses!" grinned the "Wabbit.

Friday, April 09, 2021

6. The Wabbit and the Meaning of Life

The Wabbit's viewing theatre was formerly in Via Nizza but when it went up for sale, he bought it and moved it, brick by brick. The Department paid. It had become a talking point and as such, could hardly be refused. The Wabbit made one change. It now boasted a state-of-the-art digital cinema projector. Wabsworth scanned the old copy of Byte magazine and using the flash drive, projected the selected page. When they enlarged the page, there it was. Hidden amongst the pixels was a single word. The Wabbit shook his head like a donkey. "'Sign' is hardly a very good password." Lapinette laughed. "It doesn't have to be. It's repeated several times on each page in different formats." Wabsworth cleared his throat. "Any attempt to get closer will bring catastrophic catastrophe." The flash drive laughed. "I told you so." The Wabbit looked stern. "You said it would explain the meaning of life." "That is the meaning of life," replied the drive, "it's as close as you get. Il n'y a pas de hors-texte, so the meaning of life can only be what's left." Lapinette grinned. "Skratch the Cat should be here." "I'll give him his own preview," scowled the Wabbit. Lapinette asked flash drive to keep the old copy of Byte magazine safe - in case anyone unsuitable found it. "What should we call you, we can't keep calling you flash drive." The USB detached from the digital cinema unit. "Jack," he said. "Why Jack?" asked the Wabbit - although he had a clue what he was going to say. "Jumping Jack," came the reply. "He's a gas gas gas." added Wabsworth.

[ Il n'y a pas de hors-texte. From Derrida. "There is nothing outside the text."    Pixel image by by Gerd Altmann at Pixabay]

Wednesday, April 07, 2021

5. The Wabbit and the Dismal Old Office

The scene changed dramatically. They were in a very old office with very old things. Everything was seedy, tarnished and neglected. Lapinette looked around with distaste. "I hardly believe Byte magazine lived in such seedy surroundings." The Wabbit jumped on an old drawer and started to rifle through a cabinet. "I don't care. Where is it? Where is it? Where is it?" He jumped up and down so hard, the filing cabinet threatened to topple. There wasn't much there at all. Just an empty bottle and an old aspirin. Wabsworth jumped on the other cabinet and made a methodical survey. He finished all the drawers and waved, "Not in here." The flash drive merely sat and waited. He could remember he put it somewhere but not exactly. It was in a magazine in the dingy room, that he knew. Lapinette let out a loud shout. "Must be this one." The cover depicted burglars and she thought that was appropriate to the day. "I remember now!" said the drive, "that's the one!" The Wabbit was getting tetchy. "I want to know now. I want to know the meaning of everything." Wabsworth was philosophical. "If we knew that, we'd know the location of the password." Lapinette leafed through the ancient copy of Byte magazine and then back again. "There's talk of algorithms here." Wabsworth looked at the flash drive and said, "There's debate about who invented you - and when." The flash drive gave a hollow laugh. "I'm here aren't I?" They all turned as Lapinette yelled. "Got it!" "The answer to the meaning of life?" asked the Wabbit. "No," said Lapinette, "the encrypted password. I'll tell you all about the meaning of life - later."

[Original background picture by Tama 66 at Pixabay]

Monday, April 05, 2021

4. The Wabbit and the Encryption Set-up

They followed the flash drive until the basement. That was where it all happened. A keyboard appeared beneath their feet and a metal honeycomb slammed down, cutting it in half. A USB slot with a blue glow shone from the centre as the flash drive moved to dock. They lost their footing as they were pulled close to the slot in the honeycomb. "What's happening, Wabsworth?" The Wabbit was closest and didn't like it. Lapinette followed him, pulled by an enormous force that twisted her arms and legs. Wabsworth let himself go - but he was listening as a stream of characters passed in front of him. He memorised everything. "I think it's best to let go Commander." "We've hardly any choice," said the Wabbit. The Wabbit noticed the drive had nearly docked and he wasn't surprised when it was the wrong way up. It reversed and this time docking was successful.  He smiled. "Maybe that's the password to the meaning of life?" speculated Lapinette. Her frock flattened against the honeycombs. "I wouldn't be surprised," muttered the Wabbit. They were flat against the hexagon, just like on the wall of death. "Honeycomb over here!" shouted Lapinette to the Wabbit as she blew him a kiss. But the Wabbit was in no mood for jokes. He shouted to the flash drive. But the drive had more important business and it made a faint sound as it completed data transfer. "Do you remember Byte magazine," yelled Wabsworth. The Wabbit signified that he did. "Didn't that come with a bottle of vodka?" Wabsworth grinned. "That's where the password is now." 

[Honeycomb by Pete Limford at Pixabay]

Friday, April 02, 2021

3. The Wabbit and the Flash Drive

The leap seemed to span centuries. The key changed materials and with it, its colour.  Now it hung in the air above them. They looked up and couldn't help raising their arms as if in supplication. The key spoke solemnly. "I am the key to end all keys. No key shall go before me." The Wabbit recovered enough to see that it was a computer drive and he said so. "You're a flash drive!" The floating flash drive continued. "I contain the password to the meaning of life." Lapinette swiftly grasped all this. "So what is your password?" she said. "The password is 'password'," said the drive. It laughed long and hard. Wabsworth knew there was rather more to it than that. "And that gets you ... where?" The flash drive performed a swirling revolution and his USB connection sparkled in the light. "That gets you to a series of honey-encrypted algorithmic blocks." Wabsworth knew only too well where that led. "What if you get it wrong?" The Wabbit interrupted. "It blows you to kingdom come?" The flash drive sneered a bit. "Nothing so crude." Lapinette stepped forward. "I know. You have to get it wrong to get it right?" "Maybe, maybe not," said the flash drive, "but if you find me a computer I can plug into, you might find out." Lapinette was intrigued. "Lead the way." The flash drive turned and made it way downstairs. The Wabbit nudged Lapinette. "Do you have a lot of time?" Lapinette looked over her shoulder. "It takes three years to get it in the right way up?"