by Tristan Zaborniak
Once upon time, a people (and their gods) lived, rollicking, chortling, sometimes wistful (though never despairing), watching the seasons turn and themselves grow old, all in amiable collaboration with time and admiration of space. They felt themselves comfortably swaddled in unambiguous laws of material and its causality, ordained as to allow precise quantity with rod and with clock, and thus a consistent sequence of consequence.
And so they went about, measuring goods and their distances of travel, the passing days and years and stars, the sizes and weights of coins, the freeboard of boats and their areas of sail, transactions and cattle, pints and bales, all with scales appreciable to the eye or its slight stretch. A practical people they were.
However, so his story goes, one chance evening Moredictus (among their lot) put to doubt prevailing thought (or its lack thereof on the matter), asking: “What might be eventual, if I were to cleave this wheel of cheese first in half, take one of the following halves and cleave it in half again, repeating this procedure so on and so on, endlessly?”
In this benign way did begin the beginning of the ending of the end of measure. Frenzied debate swirled and clamored over Moredictus’ dimensionless volumes, birthing a bloated bestiary of other profane quandaries. Informatic singularities, substance without substance, interminable surfaces enclosing terminable spaces, untimable moments and unmomentable times, and beings… civilizations… of scales unseen.
Reason proceeded thusly. If a body may be split unto infinity, then that body is, piece-wise, an infinitude, each piece of negligible proportion and constitution. Therefore, asking how to construct or specify anything of any size requires (in many cases) an instruction set of unending length. One such case is that of an island coastline: shorten one’s rule, lengthen the extent, shorten one’s rule, lengthen the extent. One finds the coastline to be with interminable detail, while the area contained converges to an exact finitude.
It was then conjectured that if information content is scale-independent, then a body of arbitrary intricacy at scale X may be reproduced exactly at scale Y, where X > Y or X < Y. This led to the inevitable corollary that there might and must dance and sing and multiply persons and beasts unbeknownst to the unmagnifying eye, and untimeknownst to the unmagnifying watch.
Finally, questions of affect and effect lent further befuddling to the burgeoning craze. Assuming an atomic foundation, it may straightforwardly be said that the interactions between atoms yield epiphenomena, interactions between these epiphenomena yield further epiphenomena, and so on. Casting aside this foundation à la Moredictums, all phenomena become prefixed with epi–, rendering the dream of reductionism dead and the nightmare of recursion chaotically stampeding, saddled by homunculi.
The people wailed with indignant dread at this affront to sense and logic, and their deities burned in effigy. They felt marooned, their yardsticks and balances and hourglasses and yearnings deceptive and impotent and asinine and vain. They felt themselves a hideous crossbreed of delusion and illusion, an infinitesimal blip located precisely nowhere, lost to some remote corner of an incalculable mandelbulb, bullied by the trappings of existence.
Verging on collapse without conviction or creed, a council was called to determine their faith and their fate. Admit death and join the cold graves of the old gods? Or, admit breath and seek nature’s secret natures anew?
After much deliberating discussion, the latter saw favorable election, and the central pillar to its scheme developed. A story would be written, about a people building castles in the err, convinced of the tautological equation between sense and reality, perceiving of but one scale. The story would recount the sudden, paroxysmic recounting of counting. The story would tell of forlorn angst and abandon, and the project of the dejected people to seek solace in seeking. The story would be printed so small as to reach the hypothesized beings of the scale below, and ask that they pass it along likewise, unless they inhabit the frontier of epilessphenomena, whence they should write to the beings above in iterative succession of their atomism. In this way, the people hoped to resolve their circumstance and circumscale.
You hold in your hands this very story, and we ask you, in turn: are you of atoms, or of continuum?
A vertiginous hodgepodge of maps and territories, quantum computers, wildfire and carbon dynamics, algorhythms, mirrors, and corpuscles and vibratiuncles define this author.
We all know that particles combine to make wholeicles. What if the stuff of stuff were continuous, though? Pursuing this question, in combination with ideas from endosymbiosis and fractal chaos, and inspiration on scale-shift abstracted from Douglas Hofstadter’s Little Harmonic Labyrinth form the warp and weft of this tale.