Dreamed 1987/3/31 by Chris Wayan
I'm at a science conference. We break for lunch. I sit at a table with five physicists. They're discussing a new force something like phase expansion, that may get around the lightspeed barrier. It was thought to be purely theoretical, a bookkeeping force, but just this year, it was generated in the lab. My tablemates use an odd analogy to describe it: they picture the Exponential Horse in Nordic myth, who always steps twice the distance of his last pace: 1 yard, then 2, 4, 8, 16... That's how the Norse gods got around so fast. Sleipnir was his name--and the new force's nickname.
Evidently the new force has a similar exponential, self-accelerating quality. And like Sleipnir, it just might be... ridable. FTL ships, here we come?
Or so I think, at first. It's hard to be sure--these ARE physicists talking shop, after all!
At last I discover I misunderstood. They're not using Sleipnir as a symbol of exponential acceleration. They mean it literally. A huge horse galloping between the stars, each pace twice the length of the last! Even for physicists, this sounds silly, and I say sarcastically "Why's a cosmic force take the form that particular herbivorous mammal? Why not a..." (and I flap my hands in frustration, trying to think of the stupidest force in the cosmos) "... Moose Force?"
A couple of grad students who will not be getting their names on the paper pound the table with their plastic cups, chanting "Moose force! Moose force!"
A Nobel winner shushes them and tells me: "We thought of that, naturally, but we HAD to rule out the Moose Hypothesis."
"Why?" I snap, stuck on my moose option. "Gimme one good reason a cosmic moose is any dumber than..."
"Fate" says the Nobel. "It was predicted all along. We can't change it now."
The laureate stands, and starts singing the theme song from the old TV show "Mr. Ed":
"The Force is a horse, of course, of course..."
Well, that settles it.
I did NOT make up Sleipnir the exponential Norse Horse, okay? In between chanting "spam" and killing their neighbors, the Vikings had a sense of humor. Or math. One of those.
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