Friday, January 13, 2006

Sci-Fi: The Flame of Infinite Possibility

The whole of Potsdam seemed to shake on that terrible morning in 1931.

Passer's by said of the Heim houshold that the idyllic wooden strutted German house almost reared up like a horse that had been shot. The shockwaves dropped several of Potsdams citizens to their knees as that terrible blow washed over them. As the ringing in their ears dropped to a constant sigh, a woman, in the grip of a terrible hysteria ran from the house, her son, she knew now, had been experimenting with exposives.

During world war II when he was 19 an essay Heim had written about explosives led to his working briefly in a chemical laboratory as an explosives technician, during his tenure there A terrifying explosion in the laboratory was caused by the mishandling of unstable compounds abandoned him with appalling injuries and crippling handicaps.

That was the day that Burkhard Heim, the boy who would turn into the man that would change the world, was really born, not in 1925, but years later in blinding gunpowder and flash. These were not to be the only explosions in Burkhards life. Germany, was then in the grip of a change that would forever change humanities view of its own nature, and Heim would be part of that and many other changes.

Burkhard the child had wanted to be that most elusive of birds, the phoenix, the rocket scientist. To help him on his way, his parents had allowed him to conduct some early "experiments" in the family home's basement. Now, reality, evil luck, and childish incompetence had tried to burn that dream away.

The explosion left Berkhard with no hands, forearms, and some said, the loss of up to ninety percent of his hearing and eyesight. Burkhard turned in the matter of those few fatefull seconds, from a curious and bright eyed boy into a freak that would be lucky to survive the impending third reich.

For many years our boy Burkhard raged and wailed against this terrible fate, cursing the Gods from the heavens and retreating into his own private world. A world which talked only of escape, escape from the bounds of this frail and terrible existence he had been thrown into by the fury of Aries. The god, who would loom over most of Burkards life as a terrible spectral portent of death, and carry with him the stench of burning human flesh.

Burkhard, maimed and physically deformed though he was, had an edge to him that was sharper than any sword. Outwardly he would forever remain a freak, but inwardly there was a flame stronger and brighter than the explosion that had in a white streak of hate torn his arms from him. Burkhard had a flame of intelligence within that would take him far beyond the tattered remanents of his body and senses.

Burkhard, after years of painful, crippling growth that took him through, and saved him from the endless, savage years of world war two. He had seen so much, so much death, and pain, and suffering. So many explosions and burns that he felt that the human race was evolving into something more like him. And he pittied them for it. After the war, his razor intelligence, and his father's money managed to scrape together a place in the revered university of Göttingen.

He was to study physics.

There in Göttinggen, amonst the test tubes, bunsen burners, endless iterations of theories and algorythems, Burhard found his calling which nurtured his need for escape, then Burhard slowly and painfully as was the compass of his life, began to devlop his theory of the Hyperspace Drive. He willfully ignored General relativity, throwing Newton broken and bewildered to the side. He decided to harness the potentially far more powerfull Quantum forces. Forces which, he dreamed, would take him from the burnt and desolate surface of the earth to the distant stars.

His only other solace was his new wife.

For years he struggled with the glass sculpture abstractions of the mathematics that imprisoned him, but when he stared at the symbols long enough, sometimes, just sometimes he could see a means of escape, defying the oppressive force of gravity he had a vision of humans stretching their wings and travelling to distant stars.

He saw humans on distant planets, and perhaps, he even saw himself on the farthest planet in his imagination, in a lush green wilderness, spared the endless mocking eyes of other humans.

Burhard took the first step in his magnificent journey in the finned glow of the Commie hating, rock and rolling 1950's when he started, slowly, developing the idea of the hyperdrive.

Heim re-wrote the equations of general relativity, added a two dimentsional "Sub-Space" to the four dimensions. He claimed that it was possible to convert electromagnetic energy into gravitational and back again, and speculated that a rotating magnetic field could reduce the influence of gravity on a spacecraft enough for it to take off.

As he worked, helped by his father and wife, who replaced his senses, his theories multiplied and many knowledgeable men heard of him, men who were themselves trying to break free from the bonds of this world and make it out to the black. It is said that nobel laureats and Werner Von Braun came to him, and asked him if the Saturn rocket project was a waste of time, for he had heard it whispered that Burkhard would make the dimensions touch, and take us across to out nearest stars in as little as ninety days, and to the moon by teatime.

Burkhard the cripple, the freak, the visionary hated the visitors, hated their quests, perhaps because of his deformaties, perhaps because he did not want his work stolen. This fear was not just irrational paranoia as an article in Magazine for Missiles indicated various aerospace and ordnance companies had made several attempts to kidnap him. Burkhard never learnt English for that very reason, and wrote much of his papers in code so that men like Werner and the other more unscrupulous individuals could not steal away his dreams and his secrets.

Heim eventually realised that nothing would come of his theories in his lifetime, not because they were wrong, but because the group consensus of science had drifted away from his vision, and General relativity instead of Quantum physics was being used to propel the chariots of the black.

His dream of escape died then.

From that point on, in sadness and in response to requests for more information about the theory behind the predictions, he spent all his time detailing his ideas in three books published only in German. And then as far as the world was concerned, he faded from view, and disappeared into the final vanishing point of the black, not space as he had always dreamed but death, cold, cold death.

It was many years later, when the first of his books came to the attention of a retired Austrian patent officer called Walter, that the hyperspace propulsion idea came back to life.

Walter looked again at Heim's ideas and produced an "extended" version, resurrecting the dimensions that Heim originally discarded. The result was "Heim-Dröscher space", a mathematical description of an eight-dimensional universe.

Word then spread to Hamburg,where the university there implemented Heim's theorem in a computer program, it predicted masses of fundamental particles that matched the measured values almost perfectly. If this was true they thought, why not the rest of it.

And then the U.S. military got involved.............

The End.

Or is it, this trashy cliched piece of science fiction, which would have difficulty being sold to the American Sci-Fi pulps of the 1950's is actually a true story.

Would I lie to you? well perhaps, but New Scientist wouldn't.

Truth is indeed stranger than fiction, and you never know what either is going to give you.

Here endeth the lesson.

Peace and Hope



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