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The Macroscope Signal

Out of the whole of Macroscope, there's really only one thing, one set of imagery, that sticks with me, and that's what I want to present here. In the story, a video signal of extraterrestrial origin has been detected. Here's what it looks like.

Shape appeared, subtle, twisting, tortuous, changing. A large sphere of red—he could tell by the shading that it represented a sphere, in spite of the two-dimensionality of the image—and a small blue dot. The dot expanded into a sphere in its own right, lighter blue, and overlapped the other. The segment of impingement took on a purple compromise.


The colors flexed, expanded, overlapped, changed shapes and intensities and number and patterns in a fashion that to an ordinary person might seem random … but was not. There was logic in that patterning, above and beyond the logic of the medium. It was an alien logic, but absolutely rational once its terms were accepted. Rapidly, inevitably, the postulates integrated into an astonishingly meaningful whole.

It turns out that the signal is destructive, that anyone who watches it and understands it goes mad.

The symbolic patterns formed, leaping through the deadly sequence. Now if only he could follow their import without committing himself to the full denouement—


Again and again he broke the contact, feeling too great a comprehension. The progression was so logical! Every step widened his horizons, prepared him for the one ahead, and induced a savage taste for completion. It was a siren call, luring him in though he knew it was disaster.

Pretty neat, huh?


  See Also

  Concepts for Persistent Objects
  Day in the Life, A
  In Mathematics

@ September (2000)