Rent (part 2) (23 Feb 2003)

Read the first part first or this will make no sense at all.

Rupert had given the people in his labs the rest of the week off once the bulk of the first message had been decoded but many of the people there couldn't imagine anything better in the world than working to finish the decoding. There were many details still to be understood, but they were falling under the attack faster and faster. People in the labs were conversing in the highly structured language of the alien message and an outsiders were starting to have problems following conversations.

The next morning, Rupert was once again standing in the Nu-Vu conference room which had been converted into a semi-permanent media war room, starting to hate shirts and ties as the lights above baked him.

"Last night, several members of the Nu-Vu labs team that helped to decode the first message, received another via the satellite communications equipment that was setup immediately once we started decoding. At this moment we can be sure that someone on Earth sent the reply.

The communication with the aliens started at 0233 this morning and terminated at 0245. It was mostly consisted of incoming information and we are still revising our translation. I hesitate to say anything while our teams are still unfinished, but this cannot wait any longer. Please understand that details may change.

As best we can tell, and I'm finding this pretty hard to believe, the situation is this:

Our entire universe is a simulation. Every interaction of every particle is calculated at each step in time and the universe is advanced. As we are part of the universe we perceive this as forward motion in time. We think, and translations of this are still sketchy, that this information is embedded somehow in the physical working of the universe and that we would have discovered it once our physics was advanced enough.

There are many universes like ours, differing only in the physical laws that govern them. The purpose of all these universes is to generate mathematics and the reason that the aliens are telling us all this is because we are falling behind. Unless we produce enough this universe will be terminated. In short, they need help paying the rent.

Because of this, they are seeking to contact all the unenlightened species and asking them to package up all their mathematical knowledge into their language. In a little over 22 years they will be back to collect it from us and deliver it to a point in space that acts as an information conduct out of the universe.

At our request, we think they have agreed to take an observation capsule to this point, which we are calling the origin.

That's it. I'm going back to the labs now and will brief you again in half an hour with any corrections to that translation. The wording is our own, but we are quite confident that the important points are correct. I know how fantastic this all sounds and I think it's going to be another interesting day.

Thank you."

The news didn't speak of anything else for a week.

Rupert remembered motion in space being very slow and delicate. The arms that extended from the top and bottom of the window were anything but. They shot into place with perfect accuracy, coupling with the origin at the top and bottom. Barely a second after that they retracted again and, in a moment, had vanished. Was that it? Had the whole of human mathematical knowledge and that of an unknown number of other races been transfered in that short time? It had taken over 20 years of painstaking but frantic work, coordinated by an international body lead by Rupert, to convert proofs into the rigorous format that the Gods (as the beings who ran the universe had become known) demanded. Many had failed under the close scrutiny and mankind hoped that it was enough. The origin seemed to start moving as the ship turned for the return journey.

The cream of human mathematicians that populated the capsule began to drift away from the window. Further away from Earth than any human had ever been, a professor dropped an empty Starbucks cup into the bin. They were all thankful for the 1 gee artificial gravity that the alien ship provided the Nu-Vu capsule that looked so out of place bolted onto the alien ship. It seemed that only humans had requested a ride. Or maybe no other unenlightened species had been found.

Time stopped.

The universe disappeared.

Physical laws twitched almost imperceptibly.

At a single point an unimaginable amount of energy was poked into memory.