Author Topic: EP194: Exhalation  (Read 36105 times)

eytanz

  • Moderator
  • *****
  • Posts: 6109
Reply #25 on: April 20, 2009, 12:36:14 PM
Let me add my name to the list of accolades - as Talia said, while the overall level of stories on EP is quite high, every so often there's one that stands head and shoulders above the rest - and this was such a story. I agree that it took too long to finish, but the sheer brilliance of everything that came before the coda more than compensates for that.



DigitalVG

  • Palmer
  • **
  • Posts: 38
Reply #26 on: April 20, 2009, 09:48:09 PM
Interesting points, but in my opinion, the key phrase here is "largely escape their fate."  Sadly, since none of your proposed suggestions are the engineering grail that is the perpetual motion machine, it only delays the inevitable.

Not knowing what's on the other side of chromium shell, it could well be that cutting through to the other side would rather hasten their end in a decidedly abrupt manner.  (Sort of like if human-kind came up with a way to generate a singularity to harness the power of all that infinitely dense mass, but screwed up and ended up spaghettifying the earth...)

Well.  When I say 'largely escape', I meant 'significantly delay' it.  Who's to say that given more time to think about it, they couldn't find an  even better solution to their situation?  They were obviously still a learning, growing species.  Why resign themselves to a fate that they might be able to escape?

As for cutting through...  Yeah.  It might be terrible.  That's why you want to be very careful and thorough when experimenting with things and there's still the tiniest chance you might have missed something.  But...  If they were going to die anyhow, wouldn't it be a decent last-resort problem?

I mean..  Consider the possibilities of the other side.  A similar but different-pressured environment, they would either be better or no worse-off than they presently are.  Some noxious chemical?  Perhaps they can switch to a chemosythesis method of power generation.  If you never explore the unknown, you never learn.

It's a philosophical point really.  Die fighting or die peacefully.  Resist or surrender.  Both can be noble.  Both have their value.  I just felt that the anatomist was giving up a bit too easily.  This judgment is purely a personal aesthetic.



cuddlebug

  • Peltast
  • ***
  • Posts: 145
Reply #27 on: April 20, 2009, 10:17:17 PM
I am seriously wondering whether iTunes screwed up my podcast feed. I can't believe the praises heaved on this to my mind monotonous, badly paced and altogether uninteresting story. I don't often criticize the episodes, I think, I tend to see something good in everything and usually emphasize the good over the bad, but with this one I just can't find anything. Weird, tastes do differ apparently. Hurray. (I will promise to listen again though, am a bit gobsmacked I can have such a different impression of a piece of fiction which tickles everyone else's fancy. Makes me doubt my sanity.)



DigitalVG

  • Palmer
  • **
  • Posts: 38
Reply #28 on: April 20, 2009, 10:19:46 PM
But - operating the pendulums for the clocks (or anything) also uses up pressure. Climbing up high uses up pressure. Hauling things up high (for the use of the survivalists), whether by rope or by being placed on a pendulum, uses up pressure. TANSTAAFL.

Pendulums do not use pressure. That's why their internal time was different from that of the clocks.  A pendulum uses gravity as its source of energy, much like a hydro-electric dam.  

You ears pop when you ascend or descend rapidly due to changes in pressure.  

A pendulum is NOT perpetual motion BUT, the amount of energy you need to add to a pendulum to make it swing to full height on the other end of its arc is very small relative to the overall energy you're using.  Ski-lifts and cable-cars use gravity of the cars going down to pull the cars going up.  IF the gravity/height  were sufficient, because gravity is doing the work of both driving your pendulum and compressing the gas, you would be gaining more pressure than you used.

Consider this design:  The pendulum can go a full 360 degrees.  At the top of it's rotation, empty lungs are automatically loaded/unloaded, sealed in both situations.  At the bottom of the rotation, a forward value opens on the sealed empty container.  The vacuum inside it from its descent now has suction, adding to the forward motion of the pendulum and filling the lung with the more-dense lower air.  It then automatically caps. It now weighs more than before, but on the opposite end of the pendulum, another empty canister has just been loaded, so the weight difference is minimal (canisters of any metal weighing a LOT more than Argon)  If still more energy was needed due to drag, at anywhere within 10 degrees of the top of the circuit, the pressure change is of minimal gain, so you could release a small amount of pressure from the lung as a 'jet' to generate that extra power, while reserving most of the pressure.  

Or maybe this wouldn't work.  Planets are not sealed containers, and I'm not sure Boyle's law considers containers of sufficient size to consider gravity.  Those are questions their world could answer pretty easily that ours cannot.  We also don't know all the external forces on their world, so we can't easily solve one way or another and say they are doomed.  Just seemed odd to me that after his dissection, the anatomist would so readily give in and say they can go no further.



stePH

  • Actually has enough cowbell.
  • Hipparch
  • ******
  • Posts: 3906
  • Cool story, bro!
    • Thetatr0n on SoundCloud
Reply #29 on: April 21, 2009, 03:07:24 AM
I am seriously wondering whether iTunes screwed up my podcast feed. I can't believe the praises heaved on this to my mind monotonous, badly paced and altogether uninteresting story. I don't often criticize the episodes, I think, I tend to see something good in everything and usually emphasize the good over the bad, but with this one I just can't find anything. Weird, tastes do differ apparently. Hurray. (I will promise to listen again though, am a bit gobsmacked I can have such a different impression of a piece of fiction which tickles everyone else's fancy. Makes me doubt my sanity.)

hey, now you know how I feel when praise is lavished upon the typical crappy Podcastle Miniature.  :P

"Nerdcore is like playing Halo while getting a blow-job from Hello Kitty."
-- some guy interviewed in Nerdcore Rising


deflective

  • Hipparch
  • ******
  • Posts: 1171
Reply #30 on: April 21, 2009, 03:47:22 AM
A pendulum uses gravity as its source of energy, much like a hydro-electric dam.

close but not quite right. a pendulum uses gravity to convert energy back and forth between potential and kinetic, the source of energy is whatever originally positioned the mass above a gravity well. in a hydro-electric dam this source of energy is the sun evaporating water from a lower region (which then condenses above the dam).

the device you describe would require a constant input of energy to counteract friction. it is one of those clever devices mentioned in the story which successfully refills a tank but requires more than a tank's worth of energy to do it.

and, in order to have any chance of working, the world must resemble an infinity tall cylinder of chromium that's wide enough to accommodate the swing of a pendulum so large that it dips into an argon atmosphere so deep that the ground level compression is substantial. nevermind questions of how gravity generated in such a bizarre universe.

a much more likely explanation is that these are remarkably small entities instead of the container being enormous.



Zathras

  • Guest
Reply #31 on: April 21, 2009, 12:06:47 PM
A pendulum uses gravity as its source of energy, much like a hydro-electric dam.

close but not quite right. a pendulum uses gravity to convert energy back and forth between potential and kinetic, the source of energy is whatever originally positioned the mass above a gravity well. in a hydro-electric dam this source of energy is the sun evaporating water from a lower region (which then condenses above the dam).

the device you describe would require a constant input of energy to counteract friction. it is one of those clever devices mentioned in the story which successfully refills a tank but requires more than a tank's worth of energy to do it.

and, in order to have any chance of working, the world must resemble an infinity tall cylinder of chromium that's wide enough to accommodate the swing of a pendulum so large that it dips into an argon atmosphere so deep that the ground level compression is substantial. nevermind questions of how gravity generated in such a bizarre universe.

a much more likely explanation is that these are remarkably small entities instead of the container being enormous.

Don't forget about friction, either.



eytanz

  • Moderator
  • *****
  • Posts: 6109
Reply #32 on: April 21, 2009, 12:12:27 PM
the device you describe would require a constant input of energy to counteract friction. it is one of those clever devices mentioned in the story which successfully refills a tank but requires more than a tank's worth of energy to do it.



Don't forget about friction, either.



Zathras

  • Guest
Reply #33 on: April 21, 2009, 12:19:07 PM
Thanks, Eytan.  I don't know how I missed that.  It's too early.  I guess I was focusing on the ground level compression.



Talia

  • Moderator
  • *****
  • Posts: 2682
  • Muahahahaha
Reply #34 on: April 21, 2009, 02:15:19 PM
Don't forget about friction, either.

Yeah, that was a great story too :P



RKG

  • Palmer
  • **
  • Posts: 60
Reply #35 on: April 21, 2009, 04:24:10 PM
Like deflective, I had the image of these being very very small robots.  I kept going back and forth thinking that what they called "air" was actually electricity, and "lungs" were batteries/capacitors.  By the end (and after reading the comments) I guess it was literally air.  Still it almost works as electricity, energy is energy after all.

In any case, this is a *great* story and it hit a lot of right notes for me. Seemed to have a sort of classic 50's SF feel. I could hear it as an X-Minus 1 episode.

It does a really good job of one of the things that I love about SF: Show me my world/condition from a different perspective and let (make) me think about it from there.  Besides, I am a complete sucker for the pointed "does the same fate that befell me await you?" meta bit at the end.

Clearly Hugo worthy.  Awesome job alll around.

rkg  101010


Loz

  • Lochage
  • *****
  • Posts: 370
    • Blah Flowers
Reply #36 on: April 22, 2009, 06:41:20 PM
A simply amazing story, and strangely timeless too, rather than getting angsty over his death, the narrator looks to the future beyond that with hope, they may be playthings of a cruel and fickle god, but there's no reason to go all emo about it.

So, when do you think the story was set, as the narrator was writing his story, or as future explorers were walking through a city of statues?



FNH

  • Matross
  • ****
  • Posts: 309
  • F Napoleon H
    • Black Dog Of Doom
Reply #37 on: April 22, 2009, 07:32:25 PM
Absolutely Great story! :)


As to climbing higher to get lower pressure, that may not be possible in this world especially if they are really tiny, perhaps the robots entire world is sitting on someones desk as a paper weight in which case climbing wouldn't give them an air pressure difference. Just thinking out loud.


DigitalVG

  • Palmer
  • **
  • Posts: 38
Reply #38 on: April 22, 2009, 07:57:04 PM
A pendulum uses gravity as its source of energy, much like a hydro-electric dam.

close but not quite right. a pendulum uses gravity to convert energy back and forth between potential and kinetic, the source of energy is whatever originally positioned the mass above a gravity well. in a hydro-electric dam this source of energy is the sun evaporating water from a lower region (which then condenses above the dam).
Very true.  Point conceded.

the device you describe would require a constant input of energy to counteract friction. it is one of those clever devices mentioned in the story which successfully refills a tank but requires more than a tank's worth of energy to do it.

and, in order to have any chance of working, the world must resemble an infinity tall cylinder of chromium that's wide enough to accommodate the swing of a pendulum so large that it dips into an argon atmosphere so deep that the ground level compression is substantial. nevermind questions of how gravity generated in such a bizarre universe.
Well.  Yes. :)  I just couldn't think of any other possible way to deal with argon.  Noble gas, no known solid state, liquid only at an obnoxiously low temp.  It's too stable for even fusion or fission to do much with it.  

My mental image was based on liquids really.  If you had two diving bells on a pulley system, both filled with water, and sunk one to the depths, it weighs no more than the other one.  As you hoist it up, you send the other down.  Requires very little energy.  But now that first diving bell has an incredible amount of pressure inside it, enough that I'm betting it would be more energy than the cost of pulling it up while sending its counter-balance down.  Strictly speaking, it's not a perpetual motion machine.  It is using an external force (gravity) to do work.   The devil is in the details of course.  The energy used to construct the vessel and the stresses it would endure mean you might not really get the total energy put into it back out.  We lack sufficient info on the specifics of their world to easily say.  

But you are right.  A universe with the right constraints for it to have a snowball's chance in Hell of working is very low.

a much more likely explanation is that these are remarkably small entities instead of the container being enormous.
Careful!  A tiny universe comes with its own set of problems.  Friction is the nemesis of nanomachines.  Also, given pendulums work as a moment-to-moment measurement of time that either their world is scaled to them OR it exists in some larger world.  A tiny world alone in the void is no different from a very large world alone in the void.  If it exists in some larger world, external forces are acting upon it and that means the potential for energy from outside the system, and that gives them a definite possibility of escaping their fate.  (Note:  The argon from the other chamber may or may not be evidence of an external system)

Hm.  Though I suppose the existence of gravity almost requires there be an external system of some kind.  I mean...

Think about it.  If they were a universe alone in a void of nothingness, the most concentrated point of mass in their world would be the bottom of their gravity well, yet all the mass in their universe is in contact with itself, so it would collapse in on itself, becoming infinitely dense and ceasing because once everything in universe is at the same point, gravity becomes unmeasurable.  It effectively ceases to exist.

.Unless, of course, the structure of the shell were solid enough to somehow hold that force in check.  But then you've got all sorts of unfathomable problems.  If the central mass is attached to the shell, the warping of spacetime would be such it would eventually be the same as a single-point universe.  If the central mass were unattached to the hull, it boggles the mind really.  Assuming the central mass holds itself coherent and the shell is also coherent, then...  Wow.  That will make your brain hurt.  It seems like there'd be a force almost like tension being generated, but where would it come from and how could you define it?  Augh.

Anyhow...  I got way off in left field.  So..  I think we both agree that their world must exist inside a larger universe.  (whether that makes US flatworlders or not is a separate debate)  I further submit that IF their world exists in a larger universe, there are external forces acting on their world.  Given that, no matter how slim the odds are, there exists the potential for them to use one of those external forces to escape their fate.

I suppose the same applies for heat death of the universe.  In order for time to begin or end, there must be something outside it.  Of course, from our POV, it would imply there's something outside that too and so on and so on.    But that's probably a limitation of us.  We live in 3D space, fixed in time.  Our eyes map this 3D world onto 2 dimensions.  If we truly saw things in 3D, we'd all be able to see what was sitting on the other side of the wall from our current vantage point.



deflective

  • Hipparch
  • ******
  • Posts: 1171
Reply #39 on: April 22, 2009, 11:09:08 PM
I suppose the existence of gravity almost requires there be an external system of some kind...

refilled gas cylinders are another good indication.

most likely, this is a hermetically sealed warehouse used to manufacture something extremely volatile or prone to corrosion (so the argon atmosphere).  the autonomous robots were used in construction.  they may be small but not necessarily tiny (maybe about the size of crickets?) and appear to be abandoned & modifying their own programing.  their pneumatic power supply reduces the chance of sparks, essential when working with volatile substances, and may be a failsafe ensuring that they would shut down within a day of escaping.

not everything in the plant is automated and pressure is, slowly, building up within the warehouse.
« Last Edit: April 22, 2009, 11:10:46 PM by deflective »



Rob Grant

  • Extern
  • *
  • Posts: 1
Reply #40 on: April 26, 2009, 11:47:36 PM
Talking of Asimov comparisons, a part of this seemed to me almost an homage to his 'The Gods Themselves'.  In this novel humankind is contacted by the inhabitants of a parallel universe who offer us the designs of an 'electron pump'. By using this to transfer matter between the universes it appears that both sides can gain energy in much the same way that the narrator here speculates about exploiting a pressure difference with another world.

Exhalation was a lovely story and very well read I thought. It left me wondering about the society of these beings. A quite sophisticated and differentiated culture seemed to be hinted at. Of course, the story involves two universal puzzles. One concerns the ultimate pressure loss/heat death fate of all physical processes. Was the narrator's closing epiphany meant to emphasise the still more difficult question though? That is, the matter of how physical processes are related to meaning, culture and consciousness.



JaneE

  • Extern
  • *
  • Posts: 5
Reply #41 on: April 30, 2009, 12:04:55 PM
One of the best stories I've heard in a while.
Gave me motivation to look at some of my stories again.



Agent_137

  • Extern
  • *
  • Posts: 8
Reply #42 on: May 02, 2009, 04:03:05 AM
i cried, but not because i was sad.



Anarkey

  • Meen Pie
  • Hipparch
  • ******
  • Posts: 703
  • ...depends a good deal on where you want to get to
Reply #43 on: May 11, 2009, 06:00:46 PM
Loved this story with a big big big deep love.  Everything about it.  Want to marry it and have, like, ten thousand of its babies.  See?  Chiang can so totally do better than the storm angel-chasers story.

Ahhhhhhh.  This one goes with the keepers.  Thanks Escape Pod!

Winner Nash's 1000th member betting pool + Thaurismunths' Free Rice Contest!


Bdoomed

  • Pseudopod Tiger
  • Moderator
  • *****
  • Posts: 5891
  • Mmm. Tiger.
Reply #44 on: June 01, 2009, 07:22:52 AM
im nearing towards the end of this episode, and man i am loving this story! this is definitely one to keep! it ensnared me and kept me riveted throughout the whole story!  the reading was awesome too :)
i especially loved the dizzying imagery of looking through your own brain.  *shudder*

I'd like to hear my options, so I could weigh them, what do you say?
Five pounds?  Six pounds? Seven pounds?


frak-em-all

  • Extern
  • *
  • Posts: 3
Reply #45 on: June 03, 2009, 08:27:21 PM

This was an absolutely outstanding story.  The author did a fantastic job of creating a completely new world with it's own set of natural laws that was both alien and familiar.  Completely original.  I loved it.

Esteban



Heradel

  • Bill Peters, EP Assistant
  • Hipparch
  • ******
  • Posts: 2938
  • Part-Time Psychopomp.
Reply #46 on: August 10, 2009, 01:57:17 AM
And this one won the Hugo.

Please keep discussion to this story's relative merits against the others, the general Hugo thread is here: http://forum.escapeartists.net/index.php?topic=2756.0

I Twitter. I also occasionally blog on the Escape Pod blog, which if you're here you shouldn't have much trouble finding.


stePH

  • Actually has enough cowbell.
  • Hipparch
  • ******
  • Posts: 3906
  • Cool story, bro!
    • Thetatr0n on SoundCloud
Reply #47 on: August 10, 2009, 02:53:36 AM
And this one won the Hugo.

Please keep discussion to this story's relative merits against the others, the general Hugo thread is here: http://forum.escapeartists.net/index.php?topic=2756.0

This story kicked the collective ass of the other contenders.


... I've forgotten which were the contenders.  :-\  Well, it kicked their collective ass anyway; I do remember that much.

"Nerdcore is like playing Halo while getting a blow-job from Hello Kitty."
-- some guy interviewed in Nerdcore Rising


Reply #48 on: August 11, 2009, 04:38:35 AM
This is the best EP story to date. IMHO.

It also serves as a wonder "heat death of the universe" introduction.



kibitzer

  • Purveyor of Unsolicited Opinions
  • Hipparch
  • ******
  • Posts: 2228
  • Kibitzer: A meddler who offers unwanted advice
Reply #49 on: August 13, 2009, 01:29:19 AM
Just want to add my voice: favourite EP story by far. Reading was ace. Actually, the exceptional nature of this story restored my faith in EP a little.