Physics, my friend, is a narrow path drawn across a gulf that the human imagination cannot grasp. It is a set of answers to certain questions that we put to the world, and the world supplies the answers on the condition that we will not then ask it other questions, questions shouted out by common sense. And common sense? It is that which is understood by an intelligence using senses no different from those of a baboon. Such an intelligence wishes to know the world in terms that apply to its terrestrial, biological niche. But the world-outside that niche, that incubator of sapient apes-has properties that one cannot take in hand, see, sniff, gnaw, listen to, and in this way appropriate.
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It would be indeed unusual if it turned out that the set of orders that our mind is able to construct and accept, having as it does a deep sense of 'understanding the essence of things, ' matches precisely the set of all possible orders to be detected in the Universe as a whole. We should admit that this is not impossible, yet it does seem highly improbable. This way of thinking, so modest in its assessment of our abilities, is probably the only way recommended, given our lack of knowledge, because we are not aware of our limitations.
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A man craves ultimate truths. Every mortal mind, I think, is that way. But what is ultimate truth? It's the end of the road, where there is no more mystery, no more hope. And no more questions to ask, since all the answers have been given. But there is no such place. The Universe is a labyrinth made of labyrinths. Each leads to another. And wherever we cannot go ourselves, we reach with mathematics. Out of mathematics we build wagons to carry us into the nonhuman realms of the world.
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We take off into the cosmos, ready for anything: for solitude, for hardship, for exhaustion, death. Modesty forbids us to say so, but there are times when we think pretty well of ourselves. And yet, if we examine it more closely, our enthusiasm turns out to be all sham. We don't want to conquer the cosmos, we simply want to extend the boundaries of Earth to the frontiers of the cosmos... We are humanitarian and chivalrous; we don't want to enslave other races, we simply want to bequeath them our values and take over their heritage in exchange. We think of ourselves as the Knights of the Holy Contact. This is another lie. We are only seeking Man. We have no need of other worlds. We need mirrors. (1970 English translation)
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So one must be resigned to being a clock that measures the passage of time, now out of order, now repaired, and whose mechanism generates despair and love as soon as its maker sets it going? Are we to grow used to the idea that every man relives ancient torments, which are all the more profound because they grow comic with repetition? That human existence should repeat itself, well and good, but that it should repeat itself like a hackneyed tune, or a record a drunkard keeps playing as he feeds coins into the jukebox...
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Tell me something. Do you believe in God?' Snow darted an apprehensive glance in my direction. 'What? Who still believes nowadays?' 'It isn't that simple. I don't mean the traditional God of Earth religion. I'm no expert in the history of religions, and perhaps this is nothing new-do you happen to know if there was ever a belief in an... imperfect God?' 'What do you mean by imperfect?' Snow frowned. 'In a way all the gods of the old religions were imperfect, considered that their attributes were amplified human ones. The God of the Old Testament, for instance, required humble submission and sacrifices, and and was jealous of other gods. The Greek gods had fits of sulks and family quarrels, and they were just as imperfect as mortals... ' 'No,' I interrupted. 'I'm not thinking of a god whose imperfection arises out of the candor of his human creators, but one whose imperfection represents his essential characteristic: a god limited in his omniscience and power, fallible, incapable of foreseeing the consequences of his acts, and creating things that lead to horror. He is a... sick god, whose ambitions exceed his powers and who does not realize it at first. A god who has created clocks, but not the time they measure. He has created systems or mechanisms that serves specific ends but have now overstepped and betrayed them. And he has created eternity, which was to have measured his power, and which measures his unending defeat.' Snow hesitated, but his attitude no longer showed any of the wary reserve of recent weeks: 'There was Manicheanism... ' 'Nothing at all to do with the principles of Good and Evil,' I broke in immediately. 'This god has no existence outside of matter. He would like to free himself from matter, but he cannot... ' Snow pondered for a while: 'I don't know of any religion that answers your description. That kind of religion has never been... necessary. If i understand you, and I'm afraid I do, what you have in mind is an evolving god, who develops in the course of time, grows, and keeps increasing in power while remaining aware of his powerlessness. For your god, the divine condition is a situation without a goal. And understanding that, he despairs. But isn't this despairing god of yours mankind, Kelvin? Is it man you are talking about, and that is a fallacy, not just philosophically but also mystically speaking.' I kept on: 'No, it's nothing to do with man. man may correspond to my provisional definition from some point of view, but that is because the definition has a lot of gaps. Man does not create gods, in spite of appearances. The times, the age, impose them on him. Man can serve is age or rebel against it, but the target of his cooperation or rebellion comes to him from outside. If there was only a since human being in existence, he would apparently be able to attempt the experiment of creating his own goals in complete freedom-apparently, because a man not brought up among other human beings cannot become a man. And the being-the being I have in mind-cannot exist in the plural, you see?... Perhaps he has already been born somewhere, in some corner of the galaxy, and soon he will have some childish enthusiasm that will set him putting out one star and lighting another. We will notice him after a while... ' 'We already have,' Snow said sarcastically. 'Novas and supernovas. According to you they are candles on his altar.' 'If you're going to take what I say literally... '... Snow asked abruptly: 'What gave you this idea of an imperfect god?' 'I don't know. It seems quite feasible to me. That is the only god I could imagine believing in, a god whose passion is not a redemption, who saves nothing, fulfills no purpose-a god who simply is.
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In the past an artist produced things that were necessary socially; they were instruments, albeit of a special kind, that helped the dead reach eternity, spells to be cast, prayers to be liturgically fleshed... The aesthetic component of those instruments enhanced their function but was never central, never an independent, nonutilitarian thing.
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Not that this deterred him and his friend Klapaucius from further experimentation, which showed that the extent of a dragon's existence depends mainly on its whim, though also on its degree of satiety, and that the only sure method of negating it is to reduce the probability to zero or lower. All this research, naturally enough, took a great deal of time and energy; meanwhile the dragons that had gotten loose were running rampant, laying waste to a variety of planets and moons. What was worse, they multiplied. Which enabled Klapaucius to publish an excellent article entitled "Covariant Transformation from Dragons to Dragonets, in the Special Case of Passage from States Forbidden by the Laws of Physics to Those Forbidden by the Local Authorities.
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Certainly not! I didn't build a machine to solve ridiculous crossword puzzles! That's hack work, not Great Art! Just give it a topic, any topic, as difficult as you like... " Klapaucius thought, and thought some more. Finally he nodded and said: "Very well. Let's have a love poem, lyrical, pastoral, and expressed in the language of pure mathematics. Tensor algebra mainly, with a little topology and higher calculus, if need be. But with feeling, you understand, and in the cybernetic spirit." "Love and tensor algebra?" Have you taken leave of your senses?" Trurl began, but stopped, for his electronic bard was already declaiming: Come, let us hasten to a higher plane, Where dyads tread the fairy fields of Venn, Their indices bedecked from one to n, Commingled in an endless Markov chain! Come, every frustum longs to be a cone, And every vector dreams of matrices. Hark to the gentle gradient of the breeze: It whispers of a more ergodic zone. In Reimann, Hilbert or in Banach space Let superscripts and subscripts go their ways. Our asymptotes no longer out of phase, We shall encounter, counting, face to face. I'll grant thee random access to my heart, Thou'lt tell me all the constants of thy love; And so we two shall all love's lemmas prove, And in bound partition never part. For what did Cauchy know, or Christoffel, Or Fourier, or any Boole or Euler, Wielding their compasses, their pens and rulers, Of thy supernal sinusoidal spell? Cancel me not-for what then shall remain? Abscissas, some mantissas, modules, modes, A root or two, a torus and a node: The inverse of my verse, a null domain. Ellipse of bliss, converge, O lips divine! The product of our scalars is defined! Cyberiad draws nigh, and the skew mind Cuts capers like a happy haversine. I see the eigenvalue in thine eye, I hear the tender tensor in thy sigh. Bernoulli would have been content to die, Had he but known such a^2 cos 2 phi!
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One day I found him amid large packages from which spilled attractive, glossy paperbacks with mythical covers. He had tried to use, as a "generator of ideas" - for we were running out of them - those works of fantastic literature, that popular genre (especially in the States), called, by a persistent misconception, "science fiction." He had not read such books before; he was annoyed - indignant, even - expecting variety, finding monotony. "They have everything except fantasy, " he said. Indeed, a mistake. The authors of these pseudo-scientific fairy tales supply the public with what it wants: truisms, cliches, stereotypes, all sufficiently costumed and made "wonderful" so that the reader may sink into a safe state of surprise and at the same time not be jostled out of his philosophy of life. If there is progress in a culture, the progress is above all conceptual, but literature, the science-fiction variety in particular, has nothing to do with that.
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On the surface, I was calm: in secret, without really admitting it, I was waiting for something. Her return? How could I have been waiting for that? We all know that we are material creatures, subject to the laws of physiology and physics, and not even the power of all our feelings combined can defeat those laws. All we can do is detest them. The age-old faith of lovers and poets in the power of love, stronger than death, that finis vitae sed non amoris, is a lie, useless and not even funny. So must one be resigned to being a clock that measures the passage of time, now out of order, now repaired, and whose mechanism generates despair and love as soon as its maker sets it going? Must I go on living here then, among the objects we both had touched, in the air she had breathed? In the name of what? In the hope of her return? I hoped for nothing. And yet I lived in expectation. Since she had gone, that was all that remained. I did not know what achievements, what mockery, even what tortures still awaited me. I knew nothing, and I persisted in the faith that the time of cruel miracles was not past.
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Wandering across the vast room, I stopped at a set of shelves as high as the ceiling, and holding about six hundred volumes - all classics on the history of Soalris, starting with the nine volumes of Giese's monumental and already relatively obsolescent monograph. Display for its own sake was improbable in these surroundings. The collection was a respective tribute to the memory of the pioneers. I took down the massive volumes of Giese and sat leafing through them. Rheya had also located som reading matter. Looking over her shoulder, I saw that she had picked one of the many books brought out by the first expedition, the Interplanetary Cookery Book, which could have been the personal property of Giese himself. She was pouring over the recipes adapted to the arduous conditions of interstellar flight. I said nothing, and returned to the book resting on my knees. Solaris - Ten Years of Exploration had appeared as volumes 4-12 of the Solariana collection whose most recent additions were numbered in the thousands.
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Everyone knows that dragons don't exist. But while this simplistic formulation may satisfy the layman, it does not suffice for the scientific mind. The School of Higher Neantical Nillity is in fact wholly unconcerned with what does exist. Indeed, the banality of existence has been so amply demonstrated, there is no need for us to discuss it any further here. The brilliant Cerebron, attacking the problem analytically, discovered three distinct kinds of dragon: the mythical, the chimerical, and the purely hypothetical. They were all, one might say, nonexistent, but each non-existed in an entirely different way.
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Each of us is aware he's a material being, subject to the laws of physiology and physics, and that the strength of all our emotions combined cannot counteract those laws. It can only hate them. The eternal belief of lovers and poets in the power of love which is more enduring that death, the finis vitae sed non amoris that has pursued us through the centuries is a lie. But this lie is not ridiculous, it's simply futile. To be a clock on the other hand, measuring the passage of time, one that is smashed and rebuilt over and again, one in whose mechanism despair and love are set in motion by the watchmaker along with the first movements of the cogs. To know one is a repeater of suffering felt ever more deeply as it becomes increasingly comical through a multiple repetitions. To replay human existence - fine. But to replay it in the way a drunk replays a corny tune pushing coins over and over into the jukebox?
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