Friday, May 27, 2011

The Science of the Story An Interview With - Greg Egan

" You are currently in the middle of writing the Orthogonal trilogy. What prompted you to begin such a project and what do you hope to gain from such an endeavor?

A few years ago I started thinking about what it might be like to live in a universe that was different from our own in one very simple but profound way: instead of having a fourth dimension, time, that was set apart from the three dimensions of space, you had four dimensions that were completely interchangeable. In this universe, at the deepest level, "the future" and "the past" would be directions no different from "north" and "south" — and just as those compass points take their meaning from a particular object, the Earth, whose axis could as easily be pointing any way at all in space, in this hypothetical universe "the future" and "the past" would always be the future and past of a particular physical object, such as a cluster of stars and planets, rather than a property of the universe itself.

Of course the instinctive response to this is to say that without time, nothing can change, so nothing can happen — the whole universe will be a kind of frozen snapshot. But that turns out not to be true at all. In such a universe, you can still have a "history" laid out across space that, from the inside, would look very much like the passage of time appears to us.

Now, if you make that one simple change, what follows? What would the physics and the chemistry be like, in this new framework? Before I started writing I put a lot of work into fleshing out those details, so I could predict exactly how light would behave, how matter would behave, and what kinds of technology would or wouldn't be possible. The result is a combination of novelty and consistency that really appeals to me: there are a lot of very strange aspects to this universe, but they're not just an arbitrary collection of weird phenomena, they all flow directly from a single premise. "

4 out of 5

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