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Arturo Sierra

The Book With All The Ring’s Marvels

by Arturo Sierra

It is a well understood fact of galactic sociology that any civilization with the resources, know-how, and time to build a ringworld has no need to do so. Consequently, those that embark upon this kind of colossal engineering are considered eccentric. Other, saner civilizations do well by evading the freaks and coming up with unexpected reasons for a tour of the Magellanic clouds. Any excuse to avoid contact with the weirdos.

The best that can be said for megastructures is that they serve as great tourist attractions, once the builders vanish into oblivion, as inevitably happens; well worth the centuries of interstellar travel it takes to visit the sites. For some can be found here and there, however frowned upon they might be: Dyson spheres, matrioshka brains, Shkadov thrusters, and, of course, ringworlds. Strewn at random across the Galaxy, they are most often abandoned, crumbling ruins, the surrounding debris all that remains of the foolhardy engineers. It’s just that, as galactic years go by, and then the galactic centuries, ennui starts to seep into even the most sensible of cultures. It becomes the driving force in a society that has moved post-scarcity and then post that, too. Some civilizations find themselves with little argument to avoid eccentricity and come up with radical purpose.

Such is the case of the Milotans, in the Perseus arm of the Milky Way. Traditionally thought to be a dignified species by other galactic powers, nobody foresaw them suddenly deciding to dismantle planets and rearrange them in a neat circle around their star. The first time anyone heard of this insanity outside the Commonwealth was when President of Presidents Ölóssa gave a speech to officially kickstart the great work. Though most Commonwealth citizens considered it a rousing declaration, a sphere of extra-empty space, a dozen parsecs in diameter, quietly formed around ground zero as other civilizations cringed away.

Seen from very far away by someone with the eyes of a cosmic eagle, the construction process would have appeared like a swirl in a sink, only the sink was scaled to stellar proportions for the use of some obscure sort of god. Glittering drones moved in a carefully choreographed dance to place beams of hyper-rigid material in the correct orbits. Five gas giants were vacuumed, for lack of a better word, producing brightly colored hurricanes and eddies, storms illuminated from within by lightning as they disappeared into electromagnetic suction hoses. Gigatons of gas were slurped up to moon-sized factories, where matter was syphoned to make degenerate-nuclei materials. But all in all, construction of the Milotan ringworld went forth without drama—indeed, by some standards it was a subdued affair. No civil wars erupted, no crime-adjacent contractors skimmed off the top with catastrophic results, no armadas of doom were sent to exterminate neighboring primitives and steal their resources. The most exciting thing that happened during this time was President Ölóssa calling a press conference, at which event, in front of cameras and flashes, some words were written in a notebook using ink and pen, to the public’s astonishment. It was to be the opening paragraph in a book intended to keep a record of the adventure.

This book deserves special attention. It had no digital input or storage; instead, it was made to write in longhand over creamy white pages. Writing with such instruments was a daunting task, since no Milotan had done so since time immemorial and the art had to be reinvented. The paper was so thin, the billion sheets made for a tome no larger than your standard grimoire, but they were sturdier than diamond. It would be passed from generation to generation, from father to daughter and mother to son, as explained by President Ölóssa to a delighted press core. Every event of the magnificent journey would be recorded for the benefit of posterity.

Once the ring was completed, the whole enterprise took a turn for the bizarre, or rather—depending on who you asked—for the far past bizarre and into dangerous, potentially contagious insanity. Every Milotan in existence gathered at a designated place, somewhere on the inner side of the ring. The billions crowded shoulder to shoulder, all of them looking in the same direction and united in purpose as no other people since. Across the circumference, they had built a monumental arch as a sort of start and finish line, and, on sounding of a kilometer-wide gong, every single member of the civilization started going under it with cheers and huzzahs. They had the firm intention of walking all the way round the ring, as if every individual shared in a single, collective will.

The megastructure was designed to be a challenge. The first couple centuries of the march, they went through a scorching dessert with no food and little water. After that came the gloomy rainforest of Ifny, plagued with genetically engineered tigers and mosquitoes the size of trucks. Historians estimate the civilization was reduced to a quarter of its original size by the time it emerged from the jungle.

The challenges did not end there. Going through the Labyrinth of Mist was particularly tough, as social cohesion vanished almost entirely amid hallucinations induced by an omnipresent fog, which seemed sometimes possessed of its own, perverse kind of life. A generation was born and died at sea while crossing the Bulian Ocean in wooden sail-ships. The ring’s spin caused kilometer-high waves, children learned to climb masts before walking, and krakens were trained as work beasts. When the shout came of land ahoy, most people didn’t understand what their eyes reported.

The continent of Julisk was divided spinward by a mountain chain, its peaks so high they pierced out of the world’s atmosphere. Eternal storms spun in a vortex around the tops due to friction with the air. The Milotans were presented with a choice to go left or right of the mountains, having no clue as to which path was the right one. History fails to mention what they decided, all that’s known is that, after two centuries of march, the wanderers found themselves at a dead end and had to turn around. On their backtrack, they encountered settlements, cities, nations, and empires founded by those who had quit the journey, all memory of their transcendent goal lost to them. Wars had to be fought in order to gain passage through the barbarian kingdoms.

Testimonies survive of the families tasked with chronicling the march: the Holy Tome of Records was passed on faithfully, as the builders intended. Each keeper wrote with a distinctive hand, most often scribbling such tiny letters they had to be read with a magnifying glass. They documented lore in ever-varying languages, in verse and prose, in matter of fact, succinct lines or haughty sermons. Mishaps and heroes were recounted, wonders and terrors.

Elnee Lyvaya wrote of the visions she received from the ancestral spirits. Unknowingly, the prophetess was channeling taped messages she got from brainwave transmitters, antennae disguised as trees. The President of Presidents, who had been dead for millennia, appeared in her dreams and urged Elnee to galvanize the people, to rekindle the purpose of the march when it seemed almost forgot. Taïgi Son of Taïgi set down the Epic of the Fallen Mirror, a (very liberal-with-the-actual-facts) telling of events following the crash of a shade-sheet, one of many orbiting the star in order to produce an artificial day-and-night cycle with their shadow. Ringquakes brought down mountains as the mirror collided with the structure and the sun shone for so long that the very stones caught on fire. Eventually, days were restored by the automation the Builders had left behind for just such an emergency, but calamity had already reduced the number of wanderers to a mere few thousand strong. The population recovered slowly, every precious child learning the Epic by heart to commemorate the fallen.

As blood lines ended, monsters ate lore keepers, and generations embraced illiteracy while method-acting horseback nomadism, the chronicles were forgotten. As centuries climbed back the ladder of cultural self-awareness, the Tome was found in old trunks, or in the treasure hoard carried on the backs of a warlord’s slaves, or in possession of raving madmen. It was read, and people marveled at their own history. At different times, funny hats were forced over the heads of keepers and religion sprung around them like fungus, often involving wanton human sacrifice. At other times, masters of lore were branded agitators, imprisoned, and scorned. This usually happened when a majority of Milotans wanted to take a breather and settle some cities, but keepers wouldn’t shut up about the march and refused to stop urging the host forward.

It is thought that the so-called Terrible Misplacement happened while crossing the infernal plains of Tromarga, covered in ash by a thousand volcanoes and populated by necromancers of unfathomable maleficence. The necromancers were actually robots, their undead minions simply corpses animated with help of some cybernetic tricks, but by this point high-concept technology might as well have been wizardry, for what most Milotans knew. After defeating a particularly nasty lich in a bloody, final-stand battle against the forces of darkness, it happened that the last of the lore masters noticed she didn’t have the Holy Tome of Records on her. Years were spent searching for it among the black stones of the plain, in towers of sorcery surrounded by sickly, green glows, in deep lakes of light-swallowing water. They looked in ominous libraries left by the Builders and kept by weird, ten-legged creatures that collected books like magpies gather trinkets. They scoured the earth in desperation. But the Story of Stories, the account of hard-earned wisdom, the Book with all the Ring’s Marvels was never found. Other than face-palming, there was nothing to be done.

Total duration of the march has been estimated at sixty thousand of our years, but the day came when the old arch appeared on the upwards-curving horizon. A shockwave of awe passed through every Milotan bone, sprung from the deepest recesses of genetic memory. Those who were not there could never understand the emotions that flowed like a jet stream of super-heated plasma out of a million throats that day.

It would be a descendant of that last record keeper who was to become the first, the one to pass under the arch before any other. He was also, in point of fact, a descendant of President of Presidents Ölóssa, though it should be noted that, owing to a universal quirk of population growth, at this time all surviving Millotans were Ölóssa’s descendants, too. In any case, forever after the crossing he would be known as the Very First, the Finisher, the Eternal Walker, and several other such pompous monickers. Even those civilizations which recoiled from the ringworld’s folly, all those millennia ago, heard of the Very First and spoke of the triumph with reverence, if somewhat embarrassed to discuss such matters aloud.

The Eternal Walker was a fervent believer in the higher calling of his culture, a philosopher, a poet warrior, a Hero of the Purpose. His Letters to the Wider Galaxy on the Gist of it All are studied across alien cultures, held as a fine example of the dangers and silliness that come with thinking too hard about the meaning of life. On the other hand, the Unauthorized Biography, by an anonymous chronicler, is considered by learned critics a masterful portrait of an ambiguous character. He was sometimes a leader of sadistic monstrosity, callous to the suffering of the flock, sometimes a most humble and charitable soul, capable of compassion and self-sacrifice what to tear up the stones.

The chronicler claims the Eternal Walker saw the arch for the first time when he was but a child, and the arch itself still a continent away. The vision ignited a bright flame in the Very First’s heart, a flame to keep hope burning during the last stretches of the march. When the hardships would have broken lesser civilizations, when the ice sheets seemed to stretch all the way to infinity, when the night terrors lurked, when cultural trauma nearly drove every Milotan insane, then The Eternal Walker would speak unto them and tell them to get off their butts.

So much of the journey is forgotten and the book is lost. Yet the story is told all over the Galaxy, of the words spoken by the Very First after crossing the finish line.

“That’s that, then. Now what?”



Arturo Sierra lives in Santiago, Chile, quite happily. So far he has lead a completely uninteresting life, and, with any luck, it will stay that way.

Philosophy Note:

Science fiction at its best is all about a sense of wonder, and what could be more awe-inspiring than a megastructure? A world that stretches all around a star, a sphere that encircles a star completely, what sights for the imagination. Endless arguments can be had about how such a thing could be achieved, and indeed Niven made some corrections to his seminal novel based on corrections sent to him by people who read the book and had thoughts on the matter. Little time is given to the discussion of one tiny, crucial point, however: why in God’s name would anyone go to all that effort? Seriously, for what insane purpose could you possibly need all the energy of a star? Is your species the Tribbles, that you need all the space in a ringworld to fit your people? Sometimes, we think so hard about the how that we end up doing silly things at great expense, because we didn’t pause a second to think about the why.

Going Interstellar: History, Technology, Economics, And Power Of Flight Out Of Cradle

by Arturo Sierra

Before taking flight, the first issue to be addressed was making sure there would never be a better way to do it. How embarrassing it would have been, if the first had arrived there only to find others had beaten them to the punch. The waiting problem, it was called; go now, or wait for a faster ship?

The Law of Limited Surface Detail, commonly referred to as Ling-Holenbach Interval, took care of that. Proof that known physics at the time was all the physics that there was to know, save some details and tidying-up. There would be no new fundamental laws, no revolution in our understanding of the universe, and all that was left unanswered would remain so, because answers to those questions could not make sense. There was mathematical proof of this, in the form of horrendous equations that many still refuse to believe, and there was support from a mountain of empirical evidence, which most scientists would have preferred not to find. Time has proven Ling Shu and Hans Holenbach right. In short: there would not be warp drives, wormholes, nor any sort of FTL sorcery.

A more practical issue was fuel. Antimatter containment was (relatively) easy to figure out in theory, but getting hold of the advanced components for the tanks required a generation of material scientists dedicated exclusively to their production, to say nothing of antimatter factories themselves, built in space at a nigh prohibitive human cost. Stations the size of cities were transported around Sol 2, Venus, consisting almost entirely of radiators and solar panels—Venus being conveniently close to Sol while providing a good shadow to dump waste heat in. Catastrophic, spectacular explosions were par for the course.

The ships themselves were built at the Cradle-Sun L2. The first, Beijing, was four kilometers long and only thirty-two meters wide. The last ship built on Sol, Karakorum, would be thirty-five kilometers long and a hundred meters wide. These proportions were necessary, on the one hand, to keep the crew and passengers far enough from the annihilation chamber that the engine’s radiation wouldn’t fry them from the inside-out; on the other, to lower the drag and weathering from interstellar dust on the front-shield. On average, the ships could reach 0.4c, depending on payload.

Beijing was under construction for over fifty years. By the time it was ready to launch, some economist estimated that a third of global GDP was being spent on the project. The consequences of such an imbalanced budget were foreseeable. Not taking any action to prevent the social collapse it caused remains the original sin of interstellar travel.

At Kourou, the Cradle’s main spaceport, rockets left every twenty minutes, with a constant roar of metallic hydrogen and the shriek of first stages returning to their launchpads. At schools everywhere, children pretended to be space pirates with shouts of ahoy! and aye! while chanting the names of the ships: Beijing, Manhattan, Tokyo, Mumbai, Hamburg, Sydney… In television-sets across the world, talking-heads recounted continental dry-ups while hurricanes swept coastlines away and construction went forth gingerly at L2. In space stations from Venus to the asteroid belt, brittle bones shattered with a sound like breaking glass and air hissed while escaping through small fissures.

The technological, economic, industrial, and computational challenges were overwhelming, to say nothing of the medical issues presented by life in microgravity and by the torpor in which astronauts would travel. Additionally, to reduce the crew’s mass, their bodies—excepting vital organs—were atrophied, muscles, tendons, and fat simply chopped off or shriveled to nothingness. Indefinite extension of human lifespan was an obvious necessity, since no one would want to go on the ships only to arrive there old and infirm, and with no hope of return. Luckily, athanasia (or biological immortality) had been achieved half a century before construction began, provided the patient could afford the ruinous expenses of treatment.

Yet it has been argued that the most important problem of all was of an entirely abstract nature, and actually very simple: to answer the question “why?” Paradoxically, this was the one challenge that remained insufficiently solved even after Beijing left for Proxima.

One argument, often touted, was the “one planet trap.” Which—later generations would admit—didn’t hold a drop of water: the resources spent on making humanity interstellar, at the cost of everything else, were the main culprit in turning its Cradle a baren wasteland, both in ecological and societal terms. Others justified the venture by alluding to overpopulation, as if taking a thousand passengers at a time off-world, and at a monstruous cost, could have made a dent in demographics. Then there were the “to boldly go” arguments. Some people, it’s granted, will go to extreme lengths to satisfy their curiosity.

The true reason was obscured by a fog of such nonsense, but it was in fact quite straightforward: vanity. On a superficial level, the vanity of humankind’s richest, the “moguls” who commissioned the ships. But on its own that would not have been enough. It was the vanity of an entire civilization, reaching for an ambition that made it ill. If there had been some neighboring aliens to impress, it would have made a bit more sense, but of course, Fermi’s paradox turned out to have a rather prosaic explanation.

When Beijing’s engine was finally turned on, there were as many crowds gathered on rooftops to see the flame burning for the stars, pointing up to the sky to show each other and peering through binoculars, as there were crowds storming police stations, setting fire to factories and offices in the night. But the genie would not go back into the bottle. Nor could its spell be hurried along: it would take a little over twenty years for the ship to arrive there, and four more years for the news to make its way back. It was the first portent of things to come, that the distance between action and consequence grew so vast, no human mind can hold it.

It’s unfortunate that to talk of interstellar travel should mean to speak of money. Yet they don’t understand the enterprise who don’t think of it as a business first and foremost. If going to the stars had not promised profit, we can be sure nobody would have gone further than Luna.

Nevertheless, those first moguls who commissioned the ships didn’t know how or if the investment would pay for itself. Especially after the Mars terraformation fiasco—Mars being the fourth planet of the Sol system, a 0.4g rock with no magnetic field, and which proved stubbornly adverse—the chance that any worthwhile source of richness would be found seemed slim. Indeed, the exorbitant price of antimatter and the roundtrip time to Centauri meant importing commodities would be pointless. Thanks to exploratory probes, Proxima was known to harbor primitive lifeforms, but what commercial use they could have remained uncertain. This is why most historians argue that the scheme was not to make money, but rather to protect the money the shipbuilders had by a feat of social engineering.

A more enthusiastic perspective argues that moguls already envisioned what would turn out to be the main appeal of interstellar venture, even to this day: that they who finance colonization of a system have an opportunity to not simply play a part in a global economy, competing with other actors under the supervision of a more or less competent government, but to actually own the complete infrastructure of a settlement, becoming landlords of a world. In effect, owning a planet.

Describing the hardships of colonization exceeds the scope of these pages. Suffice it to say that making a world fit for human habitation, and humans fit to inhabit it, was a task that would take more error than trial. The sacrifices can be called heroic, but are more often thought of as foolhardy. For three-hundred years the settlements teetered on the edge of collapse, even as the Cradle sunk ever deeper into chaos. It was in its attempt to escape the one planet trap that humankind came to the brink, as Proxima and later Rigel Centauri needed a constant stream of resources to sustain themselves, but the effort to supply them drained the homeworld of its lifeblood.

Recounting the fate of the ships themselves is more pertinent. Soon enough, their owners discovered that they had no way to enforce ownership over them, at least once the colonies became more-or-less self-sufficient. Few people had any desire to crew an interstellar vessel, having to spend decades in transit. Of course, they didn’t spend all that time conscious, instead living in a state of semi-torpor, similar to the conditions of the passengers, but less drastic, in and out of an induced coma so that they could be awakened at short notice in case the ship demanded attention—which proved to be quite frequently. On that first flight, the crew of Beijing spent a total of five years each, out of the twenty-some that the trip took, awake on watch and tending to maintenance. Cooped up in a living space smaller than most apartments, eating their own waste recycled, and breathing the same, stale air over and over again. It was certainly not the moguls—so accustomed to a high standard of living—who wanted to be at the helm.

But once control of the ship was transfered to its captain and crew, how could they be forced to comply with the owner’s wishes? They could go to Proxima and not return, flying instead between the stars of the Centauri system, much closer to each other than the Cradle to any of them, and increasingly able to support interstellar trade. In fact, the colonies paid quite handsomely to have the ships service the Centauri routes, and later to go back and forth to Virginis, Lacaille, and Indi, all easier to reach from the colonies than from the Cradle.

Moreover, an interstellar vessel is also a weapon of mass destruction like no other: at 0.4c, it is impossible to hit with defensive weaponry, and any ordinance it fires strikes with unmatched destructive power. If the locals allow it to park in low orbit of a planet or space station, it can cook a city simply by pointing its engine down and letting the radiation do the work. At least on one occasion, during the Concerted War, a ship has proven the extent of their destructive power, when Karakorum dropped its fuel tanks on Rigel Centauri and came near to sterilizing the world. Yet, just as a ground-based power has no reach over ships, so ships—crewed at most by half a dozen people—lack the capacity to rule over worlds.

The independence with which crews operate eventually meant they did not need to obey the whims of any planet-bound authority. It was the birth of a culture, that of interstellar traders. And trade they did: over the next kiloyears, as Sol gave out its last breath, ships went ever further, to Hede (683), to Keda (CD46), and ultimately here, to Gran Gliese, and beyond. By then, colonization had ceased to be a matter of mere vanity: advanced terraformation techniques, more reasonable shipyards, and streamlined antimatter production made the settlement of new worlds a profitable and sustainable business. As for trade goods, they include genetically moded biota for terraformation, such as algae, lichen, and bacteria, as well as luxury plant and animal stuffs, and then products requiring an advanced industrial ecology that young settlements have not yet grown: processors, superconductors, fusion reactor cores, and plastics—since hydrocarbons are difficult to come by on some worlds. Additionally, computer programs, made artificially scarce, are leased and taken by the ships. Fifty solar kiloyears after the first flight of Beijing, the furthest known human world is Mu Arae, almost fifty lightyears away from our birthplace among the stars. Traders go between them all. Their journeys continue the legacy of exploration that weaves the fabric of our history.



Arturo Sierra was born in Santiago, Chile, where he still lives. So far has led an uninteresting life and, with any luck, it will remain that way. In English, he has previously published in Sci Phi Journal and EscapePod.

Philosophy Note:

As fascinating as interstellar space-travel is, it’s hard to come up with a reasonable justification for it, that could make colonization economically viable. It’s also very difficult to imagine what sort of goods it would be worthwhile to transport across such distances, making trade viable. This story represents a distilled summary of what little I’ve been able to speculate in the way of a system that makes sense.

Rejection Of Empiricism In Applied Metaphysics Leading To Einstein’s Theory Of Sertial Reflectivity: Exegetical Review

by Arturo Sierra

By M. Alvarado, professor of History of Metaphysics at the University of Santiago de la Nueva Extremadura. Translated from the original German by W. Eguiguren. This research was made possible by a grant from the Imperial Institute for History of Metaphysics, sponsored by His Majesty Karl XIX of the Holy Roman Empire, King of Spain and its Territories.


No theory of metaphysics has been subject to stricter scrutiny than Einstein’s Theory of Sertial Reflectivity (TSR), doubtlessly because of its counter-intuitive nature and profound implication. Since the publication of “On the Instantiation-dynamics of Ideal Reflections” (1905), more than a hundred distinct experiments have been designed to test predictions made by TSR, all of which have confirmed Einstein’s basic proposition. Yet many of its more “outlandish” implications have been impossible to test in abstract due to the lack of sufficiently powerful devices. Only in recent years, thanks in part to the Large Concept Collider, the Hubble Celestial Theoscope, and the Ideal Interferometric Group-Class Observator (LIGO), have these been subject to verification. Yet the experimental context of new tests has been ignored or forgotten by researchers. In order to adequately understand the significance of such developments, it is vitally important to contextualize them in a history of metaphysical experimentation. This paper proposes a brief overview of tests in applied metaphysics, from its origin leading up to Einstein, and the significance they had in rejecting erroneous, materialistic thought.

Contemporary metaphysics is built on the presumption, as stated by Karl Popper, that no real knowledge can be obtained by studying matter or by any empirical methods whatsoever. Indeed, empirical is, in philosophical circles, often used as a slur to discredit insufficiently a priori statements, and pseudo-sciences such as physics and chemistry are held in the same bad regard as homeopathy and economics. But this has not always been so. Only since the early XXth century have empirical thoughts been completely rejected, in great part thanks to Einstein’s Theory of Sertial Reflectivity (TSR).

Rejection of empiricist thought has been a long and arduous process in the history of natural philosophy. A complete account is impossible in the given space, but it is hoped that these pages will give the reader a general idea of how metaphysics, over two-and-a-half millennia, managed to expunge all materialistic ideas from its heart.

Empiricist Thought and its Refutation from Antiquity to the Late 1800s

From the very beginning of metaphysics, it has been admitted that the main obstacle in a properly philosophical understanding of reality comes from the difficulty of testing abstract notions. Even though we now know Plato was fundamentally correct in his description of Pure Ideas, subsequent thinkers of Antiquity were still plagued by physicalist thought. Plato was extraordinarily intuitive, but his observation of the Ideal Plane or Topos Ouranos was so limited, no proper account of it could be given at the time. Thus, Aristotle proposed matter somehow affected essential instantiation, and the Stoic school arrived at the conclusion that esse, which they called halitus, was itself material, though of a very special kind of matter.

Yet to these researchers we owe the first attempts at capturing essence separately from the bodies they instantiated. Naïvely, they tried to imprison Ideas in special bottles, quartz crystals, and gemstones. Much later, Descartes would point out that such methods came down to attempts at making empirical what is abstract, a method modern metaphysics has learned to carefully avoid. However, Aristotle and the Stoics had marvelously clear glimpses of Pure Ideas even as they were misguidedly trying to link them to the physical, and so opened the gates to testable abstract theory.

To the Middle Ages we owe not only the first accounts of God’s effect on esse, but—perhaps more importantly—the first systematic devices of abstract testing. Aquinas proposed one of the better-known such tests: in separate chambers (an extremely primitive black box, in fact) he placed a group of faithful Muslims and Jews, carefully recording the effect their prayers had on God’s surrounding presence. As the Muslim devout were replaced one by one with less fervent believers, the Divinity became sufficiently Yahweh-like to be measured as such, even by Aquinas’ poor observation techniques, and vice versa becoming more Allah-like.

A century later, Occam proved that the less determined God was by faith, i. e. considering Them only as immobile first-cause without attributes at all and only subject to negative knowledge, the more arbitrary the Divinity’s influence became. He arrived at this insight when he noticed that inebriation was immoral on a Tuesday, but acceptable next Wednesday. Abstract experimentation such as this had a profound effect on Western religion, and thus European politics, as the Catholic Church banned untestable beliefs. The dogma of testability resolved the looming crisis of Protestantism, as dissidents and the Pope managed to agree on a common criterion for theological proof.

Though intermediate theories should not be forgotten, it was not until Newton’s Principia Mathematica that metaphysics acquired an exact method for itself. Newton devised a way of manipulating separate Ideas by discovering calculus and noticing the effects he could produce on geometrical entities, such as ellipses, when he made minute alterations in the corresponding equations. In this way, he became the first to change the physical shape of an object simply by altering the mathematical description of its circumference, famously making an apple become roughly cubical by misrepresenting the graph that described its circumference. From then on forwards, researchers had intangible indication that matter is determined by Ideas, never the other way around. Though not abstract in nature, Newton’s alchemical discoveries are worth mentioning, as he was the first to transform lead into gold. Unfortunately, the training and time required to think the necessary Ideas for transmutation was, in the end, more expensive than the gold itself.

At the same time, Leibnitz isolated the essence of mathematical objects using the same calculus, which he developed concurrently. Famously, his tampering with the substance of the number 2 caused the financial collapse of 1701, when bankers and accountants were unable to make any sort of arithmetic using even numbers. The intimate relation between Newton’s and Leibnitz’s work led to a warm friendship between both authors, which has since been a model of what can be achieved by collaboration in all fields of philosophy.

Newton’s discoveries allowed Kant to prove that objects-in-themselves could be known and understood as such. His Critique of Mixed Reason definitively showed that Hume’s thitherto incontrovertible theory of causation was wrong, by testing the relation between cause and effect and arriving at methods that could deduce causation from first principle. On the way to a framework of transcendental aesthetics, he also refuted Wolf’s radical empiricism. Kant’s critical opus became the basis of modern metaphysical metatheory for a century to come, often being referred to as Newton-Kantian mechanics.

It was not long before philosophy had its first practical applications. Joseph-Michel and Jacques-Étienne Montgolfier imbued a large ball of cotton with the esse of a cloud, making it float in the air. In the early 1800s, Richard Trevithick, Matthew Murray, and George Stephenson experimented in transference, imbuing completely mechanical apparatuses with the esse of horses and rabbits, inventing the locomotive in the process. Theoretical and praxical metaphysics have always had a fruitful relation since.

The primacy of Idea over matter was further cemented by Darwin’s Theory of Spontaneity. By leaving carefully calculated amounts of raw notions and random materials in sealed glass containers, he produced life-forms such as worms and mice, and later completely new animals, such as dragons and chimeras. Spontaneity showed that organization would supervene on matter even in the case of living beings, the only physical requirement for supervenience being the presence of the adequate mental ingredients.

The Search for a New Anti-Empiricist Paradigm in Metaphysics

Preceding Einstein’s radical insights, a series of discoveries created a crisis in theoretical metaphysics. On the one hand, Lobachevsky, Bolyai, and Riemann developed non-Eucledean spaces, contravening long held hypothesis about the Ideas of geometrical shapes in the Topos Ouranos. On the other hand, Fizeau partially verified suppositions by celestionomer Christiaan Huygens, who in turn had elaborated on experiments made by Rømer in 1676, and concluded that the speed of light in a vacuum was instantaneous. These developments presented serious questions to Newton-Kantian mechanics.

Indeed, tradition had unanimously held that causality, though intrinsically metaphysical, depended on contact between bodies in order to be transmitted. If light, which had recently been proven to be neither a particle nor a wave, and thus thoroughly abstract in nature, could travel instantaneously to any point in the universe, it meant cause-and-effect relations also had to be instantaneous, or at least could be. Meanwhile, the Circle of Madrid, a group of notable metaphysicians who published under the collective name Jaime C. Maxpozo, managed to isolate ser (‘being’) from esse under laboratory conditions, giving rise to Sertial dynamics, again defying traditionally held opinions about the inseparability of being-itself and being-this-ness.

It had been clear for some time that Newton-Kantian metaphysics was in need of a new theory capable of accounting for such phenomena, but attempts at solving the crisis tended to question experimental results, not reworking the underlaying philosophy. Researchers desperately tried to design experiments that would either restrict the speed of light under certain conditions, describe light as a carrier of momentum and energy, or simply deny it could have any effects on its own, i. e. not without materials objects to shine upon. All of these experiments kept coming back with the same result: light always travels instantaneously, it has no physical properties at all, and does not require an object to shine upon in order for certain effects to take place.

The critical experiment was performed by Michelson and Morley. In 1887, they described an ideal triangle with two angles resting at opposite ends of an infinite non-Eucledean space and one angle inside their laboratory. They proceeded to postulate that the points on its vertices were zero-dimensional prisms that could change the color of a light beam in accordance with their angles in regard to the sides of the triangle itself. Such an experiment could not have been designed before the discovery of four-dimensional numbers (quartenions), necessary to describe the angle of zero-dimensional prisms. Finally, they intended to shine blue light and observed that the color coming from the flashlight was determined by the prisms at the angles on the other ends of the infinite non-Euclidean space, emanating inside the laboratory as red or green no matter how exactly it was described as blue at its origin.

Since the light had not interacted with any physical objects at all, and since it had clear effects on its own color, the color-effect had to have happened simultaneously to its cause, the prism at the other end of infinite non-Euclidean space. Moreover, causality did not require interaction with any material stuff. The consequences of the Michelson-Morley experiments were so drastic, both researched kept trying to refute their own work for over twenty years, until TSR gave a framework to explain the results they had obtained.

Indeed, the revelation was baffling. In short, Pure Ideas could have effects on themselves. In this context, metaphysics as a discipline was thrown into great confusion. The need of new models that could explain the interaction between Pure Ideas with themselves and with instantiated reality seemed urgent. Two decades after Michelson and Morley, Einstein’s contributions, though shocking, were admitted to be a revolutionary novel framework for traditional and new problems in metaphysics.



Arturo Sierra (Santiago, Chile, 1987) has published the novel ‘Mundos por venir’ and the short stories ‘Sub temporis’ and ‘Victor, Whiskey, Charlie.’ Recently won the first price in the Poliedro 7 contest with the story “Lemniscata,” to be published in an anthology during 2022. Member of the Chilean Association of Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature (ALCiFF).

Philosophy Note:

Metaphysics is a tempting way to think about reality. Mostly, because it’s fun — as Borges said, a subgenre of science fiction. But it has a tiny problem: there’s no way of deciding if any of it is true, i. e., no testing, no falsifiability. So ideas become fanciful, and almost every philosopher since modern times has declared himself (always him-self, yes) the re-founder of metaphysics, the first guy to discover “firm grounds” on which to start the work. It has all come to nothing. Ok, but what if metaphysics could be tested for? The results became jaberwockianly absurd much faster than what I could have imagined. The author would like to acknowledge professors Correia and Flores, who inspired this experiment with their enlightening courses.