Robert J. Sawyer, 1999
A team of physicists trying to prove the existence of a theoretical particle inadvertently shifts the consciousness of humankind forward 20 years. Only two minutes are “lost,” but memories of the future inspire new cults, seemingly illogical stock market speculations, and a host of new patents. Rivalry between two of the male physicists for one woman heats up, since the flash-forward has shown her to be married to the “wrong” man. One of the rivals, Lloyd Simcoe, foresees his own murder, though not his murderer. Even though the event is 21 years away, Lloyd is panic-stricken and searches worldwide for clues in the visions of others. In the end, these brief glimpses of the future prove addictive, and a new team repeats the experiment in a more controlled fashion, which treats the reader to visions of an apocalyptic, almost Wellsian future. There is also Simcoe’s sad avoidance of his own death, which he accomplishes by becoming painstakingly cautious.
He who foresees calamities suffers them twice over.
– Beilby Porteus
Day One: Tuesday, April 21, 2009
A SLICE THROUGH SPACE TIME…
The control building for CERN’s Large Hadron Collider was new: it had been authorized in A. D. 2004 and completed in 2006. The building enclosed a central courtyard, inevitably named “the nucleus.” Every office had a window either facing in toward the nucleus or out toward the rest of CERN’s sprawling campus. The quadrangle surrounding the nucleus was two stories tall, but the main elevators had four stops: the two above-ground levels; the basement, which housed boiler rooms and storage; and the minus-one-hundred-meter level, which exited onto a staging area for the monorail used to travel along the twenty-seven-kilometer circumference of the collider tunnel. The tunnel itself ran under farmers’
fields, the outskirts of the Geneva airport, and the foothills of the Jura mountains.
The south wall of the control building’s main corridor was divided into nineteen long sections, each of which had been decorated with a mosaic made by an artist from one of CERN’s member countries. The one from Greece depicted Democritus and the origin of atomic theory; the one from Germany portrayed the life of Einstein; the one from Denmark, that of Niels Bohr. Not all of the mosaics had physics as their themes, though: the French one depicted the skyline of Paris, and the Italian one showed a vineyard with thousands of polished amethysts representing individual grapes.
The actual control room for the Large Hadron Collider was a perfect square, with wide, sliding doors positioned precisely in the centers of two of its sides. The room was two stories tall, and the upper half was walled with glass, so that tour groups could look down on the proceedings; CERN offered three-hour public tours Mondays and Saturdays at 09h00 and 14h00. Hanging flat against the walls below the windows were the nineteen member-state flags, five per wall; the twentieth spot was taken up by the blue-and-gold flag of the European Union.
The control room contained dozens of consoles. One was devoted to operating the particle injectors; it controlled the beginnings of experiments. Adjacent to it was another with an angled face and ten inlaid monitors that would display the results reported by the ALICE and CMS detectors, the huge underground systems that would record and attempt to identify the particles produced by LHC experiments.