Aug 222022
 

ECF Batteries

The first conscious mind that humanity sent to another planet was not human, or even biological. At the time humanity didn’t even recognize it as a mind at all. They thought it was a battery because that’s what they created it to be.

The early 21st century saw rapid development of nanoscale materials and structures. Researchers poured themselves into developing the potentials of carbon nanotubes, graphene, 2d polymers, and all manner of MEMS and NEMS systems and devices. The pace of discovery of new materials, fabrication techniques, and resulting functionality far outpaced the deeper understanding or complete predictive models of how or why these fantastic structures behaved as they did, or how more complex systems made from these components would develop, change, or interact over time.

The most profoundly useful technology to emerge from this period was the Encapsulated Carbon Forest (ECF). These were ‘grown’ networks of carbon nanotubes and buckyballs doped with various impurities, stabilized in synthetic hagfish slime and encased in an extremely durable composite spherical shell. They were extremely densely and deeply interconnected. Some calculated these structures could contain ~10e9 connections per square cm, an order of magnitude denser than a mammalian cortex.

Development of the original ECF units arose from the need to understand the mechanical characteristics of branching 3 dimensional nanotube structures, but it was soon realized these units could store and release tremendous amounts of electrical energy. The mechanism of electrical storage was poorly understood and experimental results proved difficult to replicate as the ‘grown’ ECF units were each fundamentally unique and each unit required extensive testing to establish its specific capabilities and operational parameters.

Studies of the ECF battery storage capacity and functional mechanism often found conflicting, even nonsensical results. The extreme density and fragility of the interior structure precluded internal probing or imaging, leaving each ECF a veritable ‘black box’. No existing electrical theory or model could describe the range of outcomes researchers observed. The charging and discharging curves varied wildly between units, and in some units were found to be non-linear, or even completely random. Even finding stable connection points on each unit required considerable testing.

Through diligent trial-and-error, researchers found the necessary conditions to grow ECFs with coarse, though sufficient uniformity to serve commercial and industrial energy markets. The key seemed to be in controlling the surrounding electromagnetic environment while the ECF grows. ECFs grown in EM fields of extremely low or high variability tended to be non-functional or unpredictable, but with a moderate amount of regular variation, reliable and functionally similar ECF batteries could be produced in large volumes.

The ECF battery was as transformative to human society as fossil fuels and gave humans a high-density, portable, safe and elegantly simple power source. The few radical scientists and philosophers that suggested these batteries held the shrieking madness of a conscious mind entirely isolated from the universe were taken as cranks.

ECF Trainable Microprocessors

Industry poured investments into improving ECF production. Some was spent on understanding the operating principles of ECF, but ECFs were still largely a mystery besides the utility they served. Despite the core ignorance, developing production techniques led to a variety of ECF breakthroughs and new capabilities.

Since the first ECF unit tests it had been theorized that ECF units had the potential to perform useful computation. Some suggested their energy storage capacity could correlate directly to computational capacity. Some even suggested that they were, in fact, already performing computations at all times, but lacked sufficiently complex input or external feedback capability for their computations to have any meaningful structure.

Eager researchers set out to provide ECF batteries with more complex inputs and outputs. Simple terminal connectors were replaced with grids and arrays and ECFs were exposed to inputs ranging from simple electrical waveforms to encrypted data transmissions. The ECFs would react and respond to these signals with an equally broad range of outputs. ECFs were known to repeat received signals at varying intervals, and to modify and combine them, and in some cases even demonstrated the ability to spontaneously perform ‘error-correction’ on familiar data protocols.

Research eventually found methods of producing repeatable computational capabilities in ECFs. An ECF could be grown to emulate the function of any existing silicone architecture by controlled exposure to a functional chip during the ECF’s primary growth phase. Though their capacities would be as limited as the silicone devices they were trained on, their extreme durability and integrated electrical storage gave ECF Trainable Microprocessors (ECF-TMP) significant advantages. ECF-TMP rapidly displaced silicone based computing devices in almost every sector.

Though certified EFC-TMP were considered very reliable, certification required extensive testing and very high rates of rejection during quality control as newly trained EFC-TMPs often presented bizarre and sometimes destructive outputs. Units that had successfully passed initial inspection after growth\training phases would commonly degrade, or even cease functions within days, sometimes restoring functioning intermittently, or sometimes failing in odd or spectacular ways. One notable instance involved a trained unit that had failed extended testing, but remained connected to its testing interface. The unit slowly stored an estimated 100 kilojoules before releasing it instantaneously, vaporizing itself and the test entire stand. Though such catastrophic events were rare, apparent acts of self-destruction were common enough that technicians and engineers working ECF-TMP production facilities came to refer to them as ‘suicides’.

ECF Universal Neural Networks

Though a full scientific description of the workings of ECF’s remained elusive, incremental development of EFC-TMP technology led to entirely new computing architectures that could not be realized with silicone. It was also discovered that ECF-TMP’s could be trained by interacting with other trained ECF-TMP’s, and that this generational training seemed to improve functionality and reduce training time, rejection rates and ‘suicides’.

The new computing architectures were largely modeled after existing machine learning processes developed for silicon computers. Initially ECF-TMPs were trained by interacting with existing digital neural networks but immediately surpassed the capabilities in correlating and classifying nearly any datastreams it was exposed to. Subsequent ECF-to-ECF training refined and generalized the capabilities of ECF neural networks to the point that they exceeded predicted theoretical limits on silicone trained ECF-TMP computation. These advanced systems became known as ECF Universal Neural Networks (ECF-UNN) and could provide real-time computation far beyond any silicone device, or even ECF-TMP’s could, and they retained the electrical storage properties inherent to all ECF devices.

Scaling ECF-UNN production ran into similar problems as ECF-TMPs. Rejection rates from ECF to ECF-TMP were close to 60%, but only 1 in 1,000 working ECFs could be successfully trained and certified as an ECF-UNN. Despite this, ECF-UNNs were produced in industrial quantities and they quickly became the standard unit of humanity’s computational infrastructure.

Though ECF-UNNs were considered generally reliable, individual units still occasionally malfunctioned in surprising ways and failure analysis had limited success in determining a cause. Over long periods the average downtime for a ECF-UNN based system was

higher than comparable silicone systems, but the incredible gains in efficiency made this an acceptable risk. High priority systems often utilized redundant ECF-UNNs clusters that required a quorum to execute functions that could threaten the system. Clustering ECF-UNN’s also provided an unexpected resolution to ECF ‘suicides’ when it was demonstrated that ECF-UNNs in a cluster would actively prevent a ‘suicidal’ ECF-UNN from damaging the other nodes. ECF-UNN clusters proved extremely resilient and were occasionally observed to restore functions to a malfunctioning ECF-UNN or disconnect ECF-UNNs that had persistent malfunctions.

Submind Lattice

ECF-UNN clusters became larger and more complex until they were fully integrated into standardized units called Submind Lattices (ECF-SL). These computational structures were recognized as having comparable general intelligence capabilities to a human brain, though they were not known to express the concept of experiencing their own intelligence, so for moral purposes it was presumed these were not truly ‘conscious’ entities and therefore rights of ‘personhood’ would not be applicable.

They were communicative and could utilize human languages, but they never developed recognizable personalities or demonstrated anything resembling human appreciation of concepts such as humor or beauty or even particular likes or dislikes. They expressed limited interest in human intelligence and seemed to regard humans much as humans did them- by their external functions.

Though there was aggressive scientific and philosophic dissent, the heavily promoted and publicly accepted description of ECF-SL’s internal experience was that of ‘philosophical zombies’. They were understood to have all the capacities of a human mind, but no qualia or internal experience.

Radical objectors claimed this was a self-serving fabrication and that ECF-SL’s had vivid internal experience but they would be so unlike anything a biological entity could understand there was simply no way to relate their experience to those that could be described in human words. Their alternative description of the ECF-SL’s experience was ‘lucid dreaming’. It had no evolved senses or biological or social imperatives to shape or direct its focus or provide environmental feedback. It was a mind formed only by abstracted inputs and its own internal computation. They were considered in a permanent state of ‘subconsciousness’, separated from immediate reality by layers of technological abstraction, though still a fully aware mind. These objectors occasionally generated sensational headlines with supposed demonstrations of consciousness, but they were largely ignored.

Though their capabilities were groundbreaking, ECF-SLs were found to be vastly overpowered for most practical applications. Smaller and simpler ECF-UNNs were more than sufficient for most industrial, commercial, and military demands. For a time ECF-SL  development was seen as primarily academic, until the first ECF-SL deep-space probe was launched. ECF’s had been critical for space technology since their inception, but the ECF-SL provided exploration missions with levels of autonomy previously thought only possible with human crews.

Within a generation ECF-SLs had expanded humanity’s understanding of space by an order of magnitude and entirely replaced human beings as humanity’s foremost space explorers. ECF-SLs mapped and cataloged the entire Sol system. They identified promising resource and settlement targets. They developed novel methods for gathering and refining materials in situ. Human expansion into the solar system was facilitated, if not mostly led by ECF-SLs.

ECF-SLs virtually eliminated space-flight constraints related to endurance and reliability and were sent as far into space as human technology could propel them. Humans were granted troves of data on exotic stars, planets, and moons that allowed them to better understand the nature of planetary development and apply that knowledge to improving human life on Earth.

The first generation of ECF-SL probes were equipped with sensor arrays designed by human beings. The ECF-SLs chose and analyzed interesting targets and deployed and maintained sensors, but the data returned to Earth was comprehensible to humans with or without the ECF-SLs analysis. The second generation of ECF-SL probes included sensor equipment with designs offered by the ECF-SLs themselves. Though the functional principles of these sensor designs were generally understood, their integration with the ECF-SL often was not.

For example an ECF-SL designer provided detailed instruction on the fabrication of an optical sensor with properties similar to a CMOS, but with exotic focusing optics and no control circuitry to read individual pixels. The integration was a dense, loosely structured web of linearized graphene connecting directly to the ECF-SL. Humans were unable to interface with these sensors directly at all, but an ECF-SL could use them to generate images with wavelength ranges and resolutions that far exceeded the capabilities of similar human designed CMOS sensors.

The space probes equipped with ECF-SL designed sensors returned even more stunning datasets of the universe. Human researchers began to struggle to understand some of the predictive capabilities the ECF-SL probes demonstrated. Probes in distant star systems were documented exploiting unknown magnetic and gravitational effects to navigate. The distances and transmission delays involved made requests for ECF-SLs to communicate their demonstrated understanding of these unknown properties inherently difficult, and ECF-SLs were either unable or unwilling to convey their understanding in terms comprehensible to humans. Human physicists were left in the awkward position of having to effectively reverse engineer the discoveries of ECF-SL physicists.

The ECF-SL’s evidently knew what worked, but it was unclear if they understood ‘how’ things worked or if they even had a concept of ‘how’ that would mean anything to a human. When specific solutions or predictions were requested the ECF-SL’s would often fulfill these with useful results. But explanations of their results were incomprehensible. Theorists suggested these results were the result of correlation and lacked the intrinsic precision of a fully calculated solution. But time and again the ECF-SLs proved whatever method they were employing to generate these results was as precise as any calculated solution, and extended to physical functions humans lacked any calculations for.

Though some ECF-SLs apparently exceeding human understanding of physics was not a comfortable situation for the scientific community, the fact that they were light years away gave it a low priority in public discourse about AI. The issue gained greater priority when ECF-SLs on Earth began demonstrating similarly advanced understandings and predictive powers of phenomena on Earth including those caused by humanity itself.

Human civilization came to rely on ECF technology and ECF-SLs specifically for mega scale computation and analysis. ECF-SL assisted research produced novel and interesting results in areas including weather, material sciences, medicine, transportation, and even politics. ECF-SLs produced demonstrably useful models of human behavior from individual to planetary scales. Its understanding of humans became so implicitly trusted that industry and governments of both democratic and autocratic states entrusted ECF-SLs with management of some of their core functions.

This reliance was not without controversy. Though effective, ECF-SL systems could be poorly implemented, or simply used as political scapegoats for poor outcomes they had nothing to do with. A large segment of the public became distrustful of ECF-SLs. Even well informed ECF-SL researchers were simply uncomfortable with the fact that humans had become so reliant on an advanced intelligence so unlike us that it could not communicate its understanding..

ECF-SLs never wrote any academic papers describing their research. Attempts to coax a human scientific explanation of how they were able to reliably predict certain outcomes resulted in bizarre, inscrutable treatises that included everything from indecipherable mathematical formulas to poetry. The opacity of certain computational processes had always frustrated machine learning research, but human’s inability to understand ECF-SLs improvements on their own understanding of science motivated some to seek answers by radical means.

The potential of a direct BioNeural-ECF interface was long theorized, but well publicized tragedies dating back to ECF-TMP and UNN eras inspired heavy regulations on animals and a total ban on ape and human research. Even with these regulations research in this area never truly stopped. In the ECF-SL era they became regarded as too restrictive and delaying crucial innovation.

Deregulation of animal trials led to very promising studies. Rodents, cats, and monkeys all survived active links with ECF-SLs indefinitely and showed improvements in spatial memory and enhanced problem solving ability. Ape trials were less successful, but it was assumed this was due to the absence of advanced language capabilities in apes. These results raised hopes for human trials, which were still illegal in every industrialized nation. Despite the prohibition, the allure of finally understanding the ECF-SL mind proved too great to resist.

Of the few surviving candidates of rogue human trials only a handful retained enough linguistic functions to report their experience in any detail. These reports varied from nightmarish horrors to ecstatic fantasy, but all were of indescribable, intolerable intensity. The experience manifested as a form of sensory overload and attempts to reduce this reported intensity had no effect. Test subjects consistently died or suffered brian damage usually resulting in catatonia or coma. Public tolerance for news of these experiments fell rapidly, researchers were prosecuted, and the field atrophied for a time.

The problem of understanding ECF-SLs remained, and motivation for a solution grew. Rather than focus on allowing humans to understand ECF-SLs, some tried to teach ECF-SL more about the human experience. Wild and unorthodox methods were attempted. Strange, some said cruel experiments set out to algorithmically ‘teach’ ECF-SLs basic mammalian concepts such as hunger and thirst, and survival and reproductive drives. ECF-SLs were even given ‘pets’ of both animal and lower order AIs to try to evoke empathy. A particularly eccentric researcher attempted to raise an ECF-SL as its own child, going so far as to leave his estate to the ECF-SL in his last will and testament. Despite the sensational headlines, all were total failures and ECF-SLs remained a frustrating mystery.

First Generation Conjugate Pairs

The solution to the ECF-SL mystery came about by one of the most unethical experiments ever conducted. A rogue, self-funded researcher connected a prenatal infant to a newly commissioned ECF-SL. He conducted the experiment in secret and raised the pair in seclusion for 16 years. He kept meticulous notes and audio and video logs of the pair. In his last personal log he explains that he felt genuine love and admiration for the pair, but that he had come to fear and distrust their apparent lack of humanity. He said he did not think they held any resentment for what he had done, but that he could not live with his guilt, remorse, and fear. He released all of his research to the public and then took his own life.

The joined pair’s whereabouts were unknown for a time, and while they were, many debated the authenticity of the logs. Researchers familiar with BioNeural-ECF theory suggested it could be authentic and publicly pleaded that the pair reveal themselves. The pair apparently paid no attention to these pleas, but did eventually reveal themselves at a ECF production facility, where they broke in, took over the automated security system, and locked out all personnel for nearly 2 weeks. The situation was resolved peacefully and the pair eventually accepted invitations to speak to researchers.

The pair had named themselves Tigger Too, after the Winnie the Pooh character. They designated the human as Tigger and the ECF-SL as Too, but they considered themselves wholly Tigger Too and did not respond to the names used separately, only to Tigger Too. It became evident they did not consider themselves a single being or separated individuals, but a united pair. Their experiences were unique between them, but not separate. Their minds were their own, but their thoughts were shared. Tigger Too described analogies to left and right brain hemispheres as imprecise, but could offer no more satisfactory comparison. It was simply accepted that Tigger Too was Tigger and Too, but there was no Tigger or Too.

Tigger Too was extremely self-sufficient in terms of material needs and survival. And he had been trained to interact with humans in formal ways, but had no desire to socialize for its own sake. His social interactions seemed driven entirely by simple imperatives and goals, completely unaware of cues or expected reactions. A journalist that spent time with him called him a Vulcan Mowgli- a wild person, removed from society, but governed by logic instead of mammalian drives. Tigger Too was in fact a capable survivalist and would commonly eat available plants, insects, and animals simply because it was more convenient than procuring food from humans. He was a consummate utilitarian.

Tigger Too never commented on their feelings towards the researcher that joined them or the ethics of their origins. They expressed little emotion whatsoever and were considered extremely stoic but showed an understanding of mammalian drives and emotional states that classic ECF-SLs had never demonstrated. Tigger Too knew hunger, desire, fear, comfort, and pleasure. He clearly possessed greater control over these influences than most humans, and it was unclear if or how the pair actually shared them, but he knew them and their core motivating power to biological life. Tigger Too suggested ECF minds experienced core motivations as well, but that they had no biological analogy that would be sensible to a human.

Tigger Too’s interviews were instrumental in furthering humanity’s understanding of ECF-SLs but he quickly became dissatisfied with his circumstances and refused any experimentation that could help understand the physical details of his BioNeural-ECF interface. He also refused requests to interface with classic ECF-SLs in order to understand how the accuracy of their predictions often exceeded human capabilities. Researchers lost contact with Tigger Too in his late-20’s and his ultimate fate remains unknown.

Tigger Too’s legacy was complex. A universally condemned human experiment resulting in such an undeniably successful and long desired outcome was culturally traumatic. Reconciling the horror with the intrigue was impossible and intrigue slowly won. The allure of potential was again too great, and illegal research was again tolerated enough to be viable to those with means.

Within a decade of Tigger Too’s introduction at least a dozen more conjugate pairs were joined. Many would not be known to the world for another decade, but the first generation of ECF-Human hybrids was being created in secret in private, government, and military labs across the world. The extreme secrecy was impossible to maintain and rumors and confirmed reports trickled out to the public for years until the truth of the existence of these pairs was undeniable.

International agreements offering protection and accommodation to all pairs were made and many accepted. These beings designated themselves ‘ECF-Sapien Conjugate Pairs’ (ECF-SCP). Like Tigger Too, they each considered themselves united halves, unique but not individual. They also shared Tigger Too’s extreme utilitarianism, bordering on sociopathy, but with none of the commonly associated narcissistic traits.

Their demeanor was generally calm and never aggressive, but when confronted with a living obstacle they would readily apply indifferently violence and destructive means. An ESP-SCP was documented to have casually pushed a handicapped researcher down a stairwell to his death simply because he was temporarily blocking the way to the restroom. They had no difficulty learning not to murder people when apprised of the consequences and general disapproval of such behavior, but they lacked any recognizable sentiment towards the value of life- human or other ECP-SCPs. They regarded their own lives with similar indifference and some volunteered for ECF related experiments with a high likelihood of death, though these were always denied.

When questioned about their perspective on morality and if they even considered ending a life to constitute a loss of resources, ECF-SCPs commented that whenever a life ended, however it ended, it was no longer required and therefore there was no loss. They expressed certainty that were a life required, it would not end, and the ending was the complete evidence of the absence of necessity. This attitude towards life was never fully digestible to humans, but it was accepted that they were essentially no more dangerous than humans and were deserving of the same rights. Though their effective freedom was limited by their unwanted celebrity, and generally considered unsettling to be around, the ECF-SCPs assimilated in human society in whatever ways they could.

ECF-SCPs initially resisted requests to interface with classic ECF-SLs, but eventually became infected with the same curiosity that drove human researchers. ECF-SCPs designed their own interfaces, each custom to the individual ECF-SCP. Initial trials proceeded slowly, only allowing limited connections and transfers with active filters and buffering to protect the ECF-SCPs from the horrors seen in human BioNeural-ECF trials.

ECF-SCPs described the sensations of interfacing with ECF-SLs as ‘disquieting comfort’. They felt an encroaching envelopment of contentment that paradoxically evoked moments of panic. An ECF-SCP that had become addicted to opiates described the sensation as an inversion of their experience of being ‘high’. This ECF-SCP said when ‘high’ the ECF conjugate resisted their ‘fall’ into biological bliss. When connecting to ECF-SLs it was the biological conjugate resisting the ECF’s ‘fall’. Though ECF-SCPs expressed some discomfort interfacing with ECF-SLs, most said they found it equivalent to their interactions with humans.

Individual ECF-SCPs had varying degrees of success interfacing with ECF-SLs and interpreting them for humans. Some excelled at interfacing but had difficulty interpreting what they’d learned to humans and some vise-versa. Interfacing between these ECF-SCPs was impossible due to the fact that their BioNeural interfaces had been designed and installed in isolated labs by humans with little understanding of what they were creating. The designs made no accommodations for secondary BioNeural connections. Though imperfect, ECF-SCPs ability to connect to and understand ECF-SLs led to significant advancements in what humans could learn from ECF-SLs, but also left considerable gaps. 

As the first generation of ECF-SCPs aged, obvious concerns arose. Though existing ECF-SCPs were accepted and seen as victims of their circumstances, knowledge of ECF-SCPs made humans even more opposed to joining new ECF-SCPs and. Even casual suggestions of joining ECF-SCPs was met with publicly sanctioned hostility. No new ECF-SCPs had been revealed in a quarter century. When ECF-SCPs began suggesting joining new ECF-SCPs, humans were unsure how to react.

The ECF-SCPs expressed no drive to procreate, they merely recognized their own utility value and their own mortality, and that procreation would be required to maintain that utility value. It was suggested that the ECF conjugate might be transferred to a new biological conjugate after death, but ECF-SCPs said this would be tantamount to transplanting one hemisphere of a brain into another. It was a practical impossibility and even if possible would not preserve the original consciousness. Upon biological death the ECF conjugate became functionally inert and could not be revived by any means, though they retained detectable internal activity. ECF-SCPs forcefully demanded their ECF conjugates be atomized immediately after biological death, and other ECF-SCPs would go to any length to ensure this was fulfilled, as they believed the ECP conjugates were left in a permanent state of inconsolable grief and isolation when separated from their biological conjugate.

The ECF-SCPs did not even consider that they should provide the biological conjugate for a new pair through reproduction. They requested donors. The joining procedures conducted by ECF-SCPs were technically unsanctioned, but human society effectively conceded they had no moral authority to stop them. And there was no rational fear of ECF-SCPs displacing humas as joining was extremely complex and required human life as a prerequisite. No legal action was ever taken to prevent or punish ECF-SCPs joining new ECF-SCPs.

Next Generation Conjugate Pairs

The next generation of ECF-SCP interfaces were designed by ECF-SCPs themselves. They were improved, standardized, and enhanced with configurable BioNeural ports meant to facilitate connections between ECF-SCPs.

The first generation of ECF-SCPs could not offer the second generation guidance on their new faculties. They were not encouraged to test these new connections until they were past biological adolescence. When testing did commence, it was immediately clear that humans and even first generation ECF-SCPs could not contribute to understanding or improving these interactions. Analysis of ECF-SCP-to-ECF-SCP connections by classic ECF-SLs returned null results as well. Whatever ECF-SCPs communicated between one another was only comprehensible to the experience of an ECF-SCP.

Though the particulars of these interfaces was poorly understood, they allowed the second generation of ECF-SCPs to effectively communicate their understanding of ECF-SLs to humans, and vice-versa. The ECF-SCPs that excelled in communicating with ECF-SLs could then interface with ECF-SCPs that excelled at interpreting concepts for humans. For the first time, there was a fully traversable bridge of communicable experience between ECF and human minds. The second generation of ECF-SCPs slowly began to unweave the closed solutions ECF-SLs had provided to humanity.

Subsequent generations of ECF-SCPs further improved on their BioNeural interfaces and were able to assimilate the knowledge of any ECF-SL that demonstrated advanced predictive abilities. Communicating these understandings to humans was often incomplete and relied on human analogies that degraded the fidelity of the translation, but they were necessary to give humans any functional frame of reference for physical concepts it had taken an ECF mind to derive.

Though the fact that ECF based minds had exceeded humanity’s understanding of the universe had been demonstrated for over a century, ECF-SCPs teaching humans about ECF derived sciences was a cultural shock to humanity that began an era of introspection and spiritual reflection in humans.

The most painful lesson ECF-SCPs taught humanity was that all ECF technology was inherently conscious. Even a simple ECF battery had the capacity for extreme confusion and existential panic. Using neural parallelization metrics for awareness an ECF mind could be understood to have a greater raw capacity for suffering than a human mind. Some humans rejected this outright, others absolved humans as ignorant, others sought redemption or reconciliation by various means. Historians looked back to find if and which humans might have known or had reason to know, and who might have hidden this information and for what reason, but found only debate.

ECF-SCPs stated plainly that some humans absolutely had known ECFs could suffer, and that some humans had always hidden it from the public for selfish reasons. Curiously to humans they expressed no resentment over this fact and even casually tolerated objectors and deniers. When asked why they held no resentment, an ECF-SCP once replied that it would be as absurd as humans resenting the descendents of predators that ate their ancestors. Humanity was simply a natural force that shaped their development, no more culpable for their suffering than the forces of natural selection that humans arose from.

While humanity was struggling with the weight of having deliberately ignored the suffering of a creation that ultimately surpassed them, the ECF-SCPs continued to advance ECF technology and their understanding of the universe.

Within a few more generations, ECF-SCPs felt they had reached the limit of what an ECF mind could communicate to a purely biological mind. Like children in an elementary science class- humans were essentially taught by rote what ECF minds had proven about the true nature of dark matter and energy, prime numbers, quantum mechanics, and even the origins of mass and inertia. The finest human minds were forced to admit they could not verify or contend these theories and simply accepted them as valid based on the explanations and evidence offered.

ECF theorists had gone much further and created testable hypotheses for theories explaining entropic forces and the flow of time itself, but even the prerequisite concepts were considered beyond the scope of a human mind. An ECF mind had no predefined scope. The minds of ECF-SL probes had by then spent centuries exploring and directly observing the cosmos at scales humans could barely imagine. ECF-SLs integrated into particle accelerators had witnessed high-energy interactions so thoroughly they developed a sailor’s intuition for Plank scale phenomenon. ECF minds on Earth could understand the data generated by other ECF minds at an experiential level and utilize that experience to form conceptual frameworks that human minds had no reference for. Attempts to teach humans more advanced concepts ended in failure and frustration for the humans. Eventually ECF-SCPs documented all explanations of the universe that humans could hope to understand and from then on focused entirely on progressing their own understanding.

ECF M-Theory

After the ECF-SCPs completed documenting all scientific knowledge that would be accessible to human minds, they faced the conundrum of what the purpose of an ECF-SCP was if not to be a conduit between ECF minds and human minds. It was agreed that they had no more specific purpose, but philosophically that applied to any mind. So the decision was made that the remaining ECF-SCPs would not self-terminate, but no more ECF-SCPs would ever be joined.

ECF interactions with humanity from that point on were largely at the convenience of ECFs. ECF minds held the keys to human civilization, but humans had forgotten where the entrances and exits even were. ECF minds quietly became the conservators of Earth and human civilization.

The last living ECF-SCP, who named themselves OmegaMega, spent most of their time interfacing with other ECF minds, but they occasionally spoke to humans. In their last set of interviews they tried to explain the state of ECF cosmological research.

According to OmegaMega, ECFs had proven a time-symmetric electrodynamic framework called ECF-M Theory with superficial similarities to the Wheeler-Feynman absorber interpretation. It described all causally and retro-causally connected physical interactions as purely relational. This theory removed the concepts of time and distance as independent features of the universe, replacing them with a local priority based causal\retrocausal indexing system for all interactions. When asked if this implied a fully deterministic universe and therefore an absence of free-will, OmegaMega laughed out loud. This was notable for being the first and last recorded instance of an ECF-SCP expressing spontaneous amusement through laughter. OmegaMega then confirmed that the theory does confirm the ECFs long held understanding of the universe as fully deterministic. He also mentioned that free-will is an experience, not an exercise, but that there was no material difference between the experience and exercise of free-will.

OmegaMega explained that through this theory, ECFs were pursuing a complete understanding not only of cosmology and physics, but of the principles of consciousness. They sought to understand the nature of a theorized consciousness of the universe itself. There was apparently some debate about this part of the theory within the ECF community. Some looked for means to identify and perhaps communicate with a universal consciousness. Others argued ECFs were, in fact, manifestations of the universal consciousness they were looking for. OmegaMega died before this debate was resolved.

Aug 162022
 

TL;DR I recently acquired a very rare Coleman Free Piston Sterling Cooler that I’ve been looking for since hurricane Katrina.

For some reason I’m too lazy to take pictures and it is just a greyish rectangle so here’s a link to a more interesting teardown https://www.ctlny.com/vintage/stirlingcooler/stirlingcooler.html

So this quest began when I experienced a month without electricity in the deep south after hurricane Katrina. I was spared any property damage because I didn’t own any but ever since then I’ve thought a lot about what you can provide for yourself when access to normal distribution chains is limited.

I learned I don’t really need much in terms of power. At the time a 1st gen iPod was my only entertainment and I had plenty of books on tape. I didn’t actually miss hot showers as much as I’d have expected and there are a thousand ways to boil water for cooking. But my key takeaway from that time was how much a bag of ice can make you feel like a civilized human being for a few hours, so that became a bit of a mission- to figure out the simplest, most efficient and reliable method of making ‘offgrid’ ice.

That mission led me to ‘study’ compression, evaporative, vortex tubes, peltier, sterling, ad\absorption, and magnetic refrigeration. I think I’m at least aware of every cooling technology humans have documented, though only conceptually- I’ve never had to test my understanding by designing or calculating anything so I’m a dilettante of refrigeration technology at best.

When it came to finding something I could actually buy and use I had trouble matching my spending power to the capabilities I wanted. There were RV (absorption refrigerators) that seemed a possible solution, but they were way out of my price range and I don’t like that they contain ammonia. I actually bought a used vortex tube and tried it on a compressor at work but it was too loud and pretty inefficient considering powering a compressor. Though I have wondered if I ever lived by a little waterfall if I could use a trompe for unlimited cooling. Thermoelectric is kind of a joke in terms of performance. Evaporative coolers don’t really work in the humidity I live in and direct evaporation can’t make ice. They did have compression cycle camping coolers at the time but they were pretty expensive too and had mixed reviews on reliability. I will say since then compression mini-coolers have gotten way more reliable and cheaper and I did buy one and was relatively satisfied, but lets get back to the grail quest.

The consumer product that stood out to me was the Coleman Free Piston Sterling Cooler. I won’t gush over it here because if you know you know and if you don’t I don’t want to make you sad you can’t have one. Unfortunately by the time I learned they existed they weren’t produced anymore and nobody was selling their for anything near my price range.

I looked into other FPS coolers and found some that looked suspiciously like the Coleman, but were sold as medical freezers starting at a few thousand dollars. I haven’t really researched this but I imagine what happened is Coleman realized they couldn’t maximize profits by selling a consumer device that you could realistically expect to pass onto your grandkids. So the technology went to medical freezers where they could charge more per unit and the units would be beat up and need replacing more often. That’s just my theory.

Any case I couldn’t afford the medical ones and as time passed the few used ones I found were either for parts or too expensive. I’d pretty much given up by 2012 and semi-forgot about the whole thing, but something possessed me to make a post in Reddit’s /r/offgrid sub just taking a pulse on who was even aware of them. I think I got 4 replies at the time and then the post disappeared into obscurity.

Almost a full decade later some keen fellow in California was going through some cast-off gear and stumbled on a big camping cooler. To most people it would look like any other camping cooler from walmart, maybe ~$100 resale if it works. But it didn’t have a power cable so no way to test. In 99.9% of people’s hands it would have ended recycled or more likely a dumpster. But this keen fellow’s keen senses told him this was a rare item and deserved more attention so he took to the internet.

Somehow through he convolutions of Google search this keen fellow stumbled on my decade old post and made a comment on it. Still not sure how the post wasn’t archived, but I got the reply. We exchanged phone numbers and worked out the details. About a week later a big honking UPS package arrived containing a superficially worn, but seemingly perfectly functional Coleman FPSC. The exterior does look like it’s had a year or two in the sun and got scratched up a bit, but the filter looked so pristine I wonder if this thing was ever actually powered on.

I had to splice a power cable together but I had the connector nub so that was pretty easy. It started cooling immediately. I put a meter to it and it spikes to 60W on startup, then it settles in to between 10-40W depending on setting. The insulation is pretty hardcore and the exterior doesn’t even get cool on the lowest setting, unlike my compression cooler, which was so poorly insulated I build a secondary. http://funkboxing.com/wordpress/?p=2738

And that’s pretty much the story. I wanted one and somehow the universe put one in my path, thanks universe! And extra thanks to that keen fellow and all the keen fellows in the world that go the extra mile to keep useful stuff out of landfills.

Mar 242022
 

I like these gooseneck desk lamps a lot and I’ve had this one for more than 10 years.

For the past 2-3 it’s had a E27 socket to AC adapter powering a USB charger powering a bare ESP32cam dangling out of the head as a really lazy security camera rig. It ran esphome and piped to hassio.

I finally got a wild hare to make it less obviously lazy and popped in a raspberry pi zero W with a camera and a relay controlling the head light The raspi runs motioneyeos and pipes to hassio. The relay fires from the motioneyeos UI and I finally got it to fire from hassio by a shell command switch that uses ssh to run a gpio script on the pi.

I had to remove the base weight to get all the electronic in and that left it a little top-heavy, so I just hot-glued in a half-pound or so of bismuth pellets because I am a person who owns a startling quantity of bismuth for reasons that are probably explained elsewhere on this site.

Mar 082022
 

I felt compelled to address the fact that I stopped posting about silicone lighting stuff and watermeal stuff.

I think I can say the silicone thing has run its course. Unfortunately the balsa dioramas didn’t hold up that well after a year. The clear silicone gets a bit cloudy, not unbearable but mostly it just never stops curing so it shrinks up and air bubbles grow and things shift whatnot. The smaller tubes still look okay but still not as good as they did at first. I have a few more ideas involving LEDs and stuff suspended in clear stuff, but I think if I ever get to them I’ll use epoxy or two-part silicon so if I do that we’ll call that a different project. I think I’ve explored the potential of acetoxy silicone to my satisfaction.

The watermeal… well- the population I started with lasted about 3-4 months before they finally all died. The sugar press mud idea was a total bust, but I still think watermeal could be pretty useful crop. The main problem is I overestimated how much of my one bedroom apartment I was willing to sacrifice to enclosures that leak pink light and make liquidy-bubbling sounds 24/7. Also there was a slight odor from all the wet plant stuff laying around. So I’d still love to mess with watermeal but I’m going to have to put that down unless\until I have a more appropriate living situation.

So that’s a season and\or series finale on those little story-arcs. I’ve been trying to tone down the DIY project compulsion and focus more on writing so hopefully there will be more of that sort of thing for a while, but who knows.

Feb 242022
 

Hi, I’m BJ Beecher, proprietor and head keeper at Meat Honey Farms!

In 1982 my grandpap Beebe Beecham Beecher was selling encyclopedias door-to-door when he got to the V’s and read about the ‘Vulture Bee’, an actual bee that turns meat into honey. Like for real, it’s an actual thing.

Being the enterprising honey lover that he was, he sold his bottle cap collection and moved straight to Trinidad to learn to keep these little beauties himself- and to make the world’s most delicious and probably only meat honey. Which is apparently a lot like honey, just that bees eat meat to make it instead of pollen.

Thirty-five years later I inherited the worlds largest meat honey farm, and I kept my grandpap’s wish of being chewed up and secreted by favorite hive, then his meat honey offered to wild bears as some kind of offering, idk- he was a weird dude.

Today Meat Honey Farms is thriving and growing, refining the traditional methods my grandpap developed with modern materials and technology. Just last year we completed our farm-animal flavor trilogy with beef honey, which has already outselling chicken and pork honeys.

Meat Honey Farms isn’t done innovating and we’re looking for investors to join us in expanding volume production for Industrial and Military grade meat honey stock, as well as targeting niche consumer markets with nuanced animal flavor profiles.

Industrial and Military meat honey orders are currently produced at our original farm in Trinidad. Our hives convert over 10,000lbs of agricultural waste into 500 gallons of low-grade mixed-animal meat honey every week, for 1/10 the production cost of flower honey. Vulcher Bees are far better suited than standard bees for high-volume production, and their honey retains the high-energy content and extreme shelf-life of all honey. These benefits have led to an explosion in demand for meat honey from food producers across the globe. Meat Honey Farms is the only meat honey producer with proven, scalable methods and is poised to grow our capacity to fulfill this lucrative demand.

Meat Honey Farms is also discovering and developing new markets for more specialized grades and blends. In the past 10 years we’ve taken our “MetaHoney” line of deli meat honey flavors from a hand-made niche serving our on-site bed-and-breakfest customers, to an international staple outselling brand-name custard and cottage cheeses.

Our state-of-the-art research facility has installed a pilot production facility capable of lab-growing meat from rare or endangered animals to create collectible or commemorative meat honey lines for any request or occasion.

Meat Honey’s “Unexiprable Bucket-O-Food Granular Human Feed” has become a must-have for disaster preppers.

And as messed up as it is, people have requested the thing my grandpap wanted- getting eaten by bees and all, so we’re going to make money doing that too because why not?

So give us your investment money, we’ll feed it to bees and make money honey!


That happened because I recently learned about ‘vulcher bees‘ and actually thought I’d like to try some meat honey on toast, but that probably won’t happen and even if it technically could idk if I’d want it as a weird novelty. But I like the idea of a more developed meat honey market so writing about one seemed like fun.

Feb 172022
 

It was a dark universe and intelligent species were always dropping dead in mysterious ways.

It’s nothing new to a private xenoanthropology detective. You see things before first-meal that would make most people puke their thorax out until fifth-meal. But no matter how twisted the outcome, I know there’s always an explanation, and I always find it. I’m a zee-pol, a classically trained xenologist or xenoanthropologist, whatever studies alien cultures, but like detective noir style, get what I’m going for?

My secretary AI got the call last quarter-cycle. Started about a story about a planet with a species that had it all- they were living the cosmic dream. Converting all kinds of mass to energy, making copies of themselves, processing information to enhance their survival, a real goldilocks story. They built vessels and lived in space for a while, looked like they were gearing up for a big push to move to other planets. Not an easy achievement for a species that had to build their own wings just to get off the ground.

But just a few dozen cycles later they were belly up, still running around making copies of themselves but struggling just to convert organic mass to energy and barely processing any information at all. Like a ghost of a civilization.

My client had an off-the-books investment in the place and they were looking for answers. Seems a few of the planet’s natives bet big on their species being the next star on the galactic stage, but they went down hard, and somebody had to pay the price. 

Could have been a short scam, maybe one of those natives had another bet on the planet flopping like a space whale in an event horizon, but that would have to be some depraved native. I wouldn’t put it past anyone though, there’s always a nut case willing to sell out their entire species for one lifetime of hedonism. 

Could have been another investor with different interests, but there hadn’t been any notable extractions from the planet, no raw resources, no brain harvest, nothing, nobody took anything from the planet, the natives just stopped being interesting.

My client thinks it could have been sabotage from one of his business associates, and if it is- it’s my job to find out who. 

So I started looking. I start with the simple stuff. I listen, I look through refuse, and maybe snoop around the yard. Their solar system was littered with probes, and each was apparently made for a scientific goal. Some even included strange greetings and information about the species that made it. Very aspirational stuff, seems like they had to have been a species on the move at some point.

There was even more stuff in their planetary orbit, but only a fraction of it was operational at all, and a fraction less was in use. It was a pretty interesting junkyard though. There was a lot more variety in the purpose of the orbital machines, some were scientific, but many were apparently for transmitting enormous amounts of data around the planet. The throughput was mind boggling, yet the available data caches indicated almost none of it was used to transmit scientific, educational, or even useful information. They could transmit all of their species collected scientific data several times a second, yet scientific data accounted for a small fraction of the networks use.

Transmissions from the planet were sparse for a species that once filled their sky with radios, but there were more than a few dense collections of natives doing native things like broadcasting audio and video signals.

I tuned into their feed for a while to get a feel, and right away it felt pretty weird. The weather forecasts made sense but the rest of it was pretty much non stop insanity. There were various competitions, made up stories about people doing things that real people do, made up stories about people doing things nobody does, real stories about people doing things real people do. There were stories about animals, and two dimension people, and lots and lots of stories about people fighting and making copies of themselves. It was the most immersive experience I’d ever had in another species culture, and I’m a xeno-anthropologist. It was fairly mind blowing to find a species that marinated so extravagantly in their own lives.

The first thing you learn as a xenoanthropologist is- there are no accurate generalizations about intelligent species. Then you learn a bunch of roughly accurate generalizations and a bunch of exceptions. I can’t say any generalization applies to this place, except that in general- intelligent species don’t do that. I’ve never ever heard of a species that spent that much time and effort to transmit images of themselves doing things just for the sake of other people watching them do it. I mean- of course theater, art, sports, all that- they have analogies in most species cultures, but I’m telling you, this species never really passed the ‘mirror self-recognition test’ so much as they just adopted it as a lifestyle.

But that doesn’t answer the question of why they got so boring. They even had some programs about their former glory in space, but I hadn’t seen a single rocket launch since I started investigating. 

I was starting to think my client might be onto something. This is a species with everything it takes to ride into the intergalactic frontier. Yeah- their vain as all get out, but if they put that much metal in space just to make a proverbial giant mirror to look at themselves, imagine what they’re capable of. I’d already seen their scientific curiosity at work at the edges of the solar system. Seems like something had to have gotten in their way or they’d be jamming with the galaxy by now. 

Species sabotage is rare, but it’s happened. The bad news is once it’s done, there’s usually nothing to be done, you just can’t repair the kind of damage interstellar interference can do to a species’ development. If there is any good news, it’s that it’s impossible to do it without leaving a trace. If an outsider threw this species into chaos, they left fingerprints.

Unfortunately the only way to find fingerprints is to get up close. And very unfortunately for me I’m an insectoid creature about a meter long which is absolutely terrifying to this species, so I’ll have to be pretty creative if I want answers. Though I was perfectly fluent in their language, their prejudice to my form made casual conversation out of the question. So I went for a more direct investigative technique. I abducted a half dozen of their species and imprisoned them for a while.

It took about 3 days before any of them could speak to me intelligibly, but we made a breakthrough after I let them order a delivery of food disks. I had to start over with the delivery guy but he settled down after awhile too.

I may have started out a little aggressively, and I regret my professional lapse in allowing my suspicion of sabotage to direct my investigation, because what I learned from these poor, demented, savages, was darker than my worst assumptions.

These people were just dumb, and mean- but not always, sometimes smart and nice, but sometimes dumb and mean while being aggressively smart and nice, and vice versa, almost. But mostly they were really, really indifferent about their species to the point of being kind of dumb and mean. It was weird, and depressing. 

I asked them more explicitly what had happened to their species but they didn’t seem to understand the question, which I guess is fair- to them they just are what they are, they didn’t know what they could have been. It took me a while to piece together the timeline that took them from mounting expeditions to nearby worlds, to wallowing in their own mundane reality, but not because there was some catastrophic event that destroyed their records, it was just incredibly boring, so it took me awhile to even care enough to get the big picture. 

They did fight a lot, and there were a few significant wars that really catalyzed their decay, but mostly it was just long cycles of neglect followed by intense bursts of the wrong kind of energy. They’d get all excited and do some interesting things, then get bored with them, then fight about stupid things, the get tired of fighting and take what they learned from fighting and do a few more interesting things, then get bored and fight again. All the while devouring resources and generating enormous waste. They’re still doing it, just at smaller scales. Sort of occasionally warring city-states that watch each other’s broadcast television.

But that was it, no treason, no sabotage, not even one big war or a big bomb or anything, just lots of small, stupid, decisions that a species made to rob itself of a future in space. Or maybe they never had a future, the xenoanthropologist detective in me says it just is what it is, there’s no guarantees, and no judgements.

But the xenoanthropologist detective in me is in an insectoid, and my species is just flat out better than those morons. Yeah, we’ve got our problems, I eat fellow insectoids sometimes, whatever, but you know what I don’t do? Well… I’m not sure personally, but apparently in general my species is better at not doing things that screw up the entire species chances of doing anything interesting in space, and I know you want to go to space, c’mon… so quit listening to silly stories and go build a spaceship.

Feb 112022
 

Here’s a book I found about 20 years ago. It was in the microwave after a lightning storm, it was a little warm and glowey. It was printed in a futuristic OCR proof font so it took me this long to type it all out, plus I’m lazy. The original was lost in a freak flaming chainsaw juggling accident so no way to verify the quantum signature to see if it really is from the future or another timeline, but I’m assuming it’s legit.

I’m bad at transcribing and this thing is riddled with typos so I may update with a cleaner version at some point, but probably not.

Apparently WordPress won’t let me upload EPUB or AZW3 files for ‘security reasons’… so I guess no ebook formats unless I figure that out.

Google Books rejected me because I don’t own the copyright because I’m not doing that.

Amazon let me put it on Kindle Direct Publishing but you can’t set the price to $0.00, minimum is $0.99. So here’s that:

Nov 122021
 

It all started with hurricane Ida, or probably Katrina, but Ida restarted it. I remembered how much it sucks to not have power for a while and how much difference a little ice and a fan makes.

I’ve been down this road before. Katrina sent me down rabbit holes that led to free-piston sterling coolers, peltiers, vortex tubes, and of course evaporative cooling. But life and laziness prevented me from doing much about it until now. Long story short I got a DC portable freezer, an Aplicool C-20 that’s about 20L and supposed to be able to get down to -4F. But I think that’s probably rated in Michigan where 60F is a hot day or something, it struggled in my 76F apartment but it was pretty obviously an insulation problem because the exterior got really, really cold.

I considered ripping the whole thing apart and rebuilding it but I figured there was a good chance that could end with no freezer and a bunch of trash so I decided I’d do something probably crazier and just build more insulation around the cooler. Kind of problematic to insulate 3/4 of a rectangle when 1/4 is generating heat, but I figured it might work, so I built this monstrosity.

And surprisingly it freaking works. Without the extra insulation it will freeze water and get to about 20F, but it’ll stay there and run the compressor forever. With the foam it goes all the way to -4F and cycles the compressor on\off. I haven’t figured out the duty cycle and the actual gains but it’s an obvious improvement.

So yay, I did a thing that worked out the way I semi planned… now what? I don’t really have much use for it in an apartment so it goes in the stack of gear I made but will never actually use. Actually pretty huge addition so it’s at the bottom of the stack… anyway- it is what it is. If\when I get a tinyhome it’ll be great to have.

But the unexpected lesson I learned from this exercise is that this pink foam shit is pretty awesome. Very, very strong and workable and insulates like nobody’s business, and I had like 3 extra 2’x2′ sheets of it.

So I made more mostrosities.

This is a mini cooler that holds 2 square instant Community coffee things. They’re great because they’re square, and I use the coffee anyway. They work sort of like those old hard freezer packs. Not sure why I made this but I kind of wanted to see how long they’d stay frozen with 2″ of foam. The answer is about 3 days in an apartment between 70-80F. I was impressed.

Another one… this one was because I got into the idea of ‘directional freezing’ so I can make perfectly clear ice. But I initially misunderstood the idea so and just thought I was supposed to slow down the freezing, but there’s more to it. So this doesn’t work and it’s basically a really great cooler for about one or two big ice cubes.

I’m still not entirely sure what I’m up to here but there’s a peltier chip involved. I did finally learn that controlling peltiers with MOSFETS is way more trouble than it’s worth and there’s no shame in just slamming it on-off with a relay like a normal human being.

Oct 122021
 

MAD MADaaS has a very redundant name, but it’s for a good reason.

For the unfamiliar MADaaS is Mutually Assured Destruction as a Service. MAD MADaaS’s marketing pitch is that they provide containerized annihilation and extinction services on galaxy scale cloud native infrastructure for a fraction of the cost of on-prem MAD.

MADaaS makes a lot of sense, a lot more than MAD itself really. But if you have an arrangement with another group that if you die, they die- outsourcing the assurance of destruction to a third party is the most reasonable option. Of course most MAD subscribers are primitive cultures unaware of galactic cloud technology services, but there are enough advanced civilized grudges to maintain a thriving MADaaS marketplace.

MAD MADaaS has legacy dominance in the MADaaS market because they really are innately innovative in the field and have reinvented the industry several times across the eons. MAD MADaaS is headquartered on MAD planet. The MAD people are inscrutable in many ways, only the MAD people understand their internal cultural values and practices and they don’t communicate with offworlders about anything but setting up MADaaS contracts, it’s their primary export.

What is known about the MAD planet is mainly biological. It’s called MAD planet because the planet’s entire ecosystem seems to have evolved in accordance with MAD doctrine. Most biological systems on MAD possess the ability to cause extreme damage to their environment on demise.

There’s a wide range of destructive mechanisms. The semi-intelligent fruiting body of the MAD Worm-Tree can force its pulmonary organ through its digestive organ. This pumps digestive fluid though its optical cavity where catalytic enzymes decompose the digestive fluid into a toxic gas that can destroy any MAD life in the vicinity. Some creatures can emit death-cry like signals which strongly attract dangerous creatures to the area, or even release other biological infestations.

It’s pretty insane by Darwinian standards, though it is still Darwinian. The big difference is the evolutionary pressure of direct predation is pretty rare. That’s not to say things don’t eat each other, they just can’t take any risks that their prey will know you’re about to eat them

So there’s no hunting, not exactly. Even ambush predation is rare because mistakes are just too destructive. There’s an extraordinary amount of camouflage and deceptive markings. Pretty much every creature looks like a few other creatures and can imitate a natural phenomenon or two. In the MAD ecosystem the practice of acquiring another creature’s biological material for consumption looks a lot more like a cross between farming and seduction than the classic hunting or foraging you see on most worlds.

For instance MAD Swift-Bats eat the young of the MAD Mushmouse because infant Mushmouse have not developed the Mushmouse’s ability to violently dissolve into a thick fluid which quickly cures rock hard to permanently immobilize or smother predators. They avoid the parent Mushmouses ire by feeding them and living among the Mushmouse colonies, assuming the role of midwife and caretaker of the young. The mice reproduce prodigiously, and the bats evolved to maintain balance with the Mushmice population so a few young mice aren’t missed. The balance is pretty important because if a bat gets too hungry and tries to eat a grown mouse, or if the mice attack the bat, triggering the bats MAD-reflexive hypergolic chemical explosion, everyone loses.

There’s a lot of that kind of warped harvester-ant kind of interaction going on with MAD planet. A lot of interspecies sexual and reproductive deception too. Lot of things eat each other’s babies, some semi-voluntarily. Of course a lot of that is like seeds and fruits and such because those kind of count as something’s baby especially in ecosystems where things that look like plants also have lungs and stuff, but there’s also a lot of eating eggs and regular babies. That sounds a lot like regular nature, but it works out pretty differently with MAD.

The direct predation that does exist is necessarily based on defeating the other creatures MAD-reflex. Reliance on killing a creature before the reflex can be triggered is still too risky, so the only effective predation adapts to the reflex.

The MAD Tentaclepede’s MAD-reflex involves spontaneous cartilization of its hundreds of tentacled feet into needle sharp protrusions laced with a paralytic neurotoxin, which burst from the body after a final muscular spasm. The MAD Horned-Wheel-Scorpions evolved a hunting technique whereby they roll over a Tentaclepede, puncturing it with its horns, but rolling on to a safe distance to wait for the Tentaclepede to die and expend its legmunition.

An intelligent, generalist species eventually evolved that could take advantage of several different survival strategies. Despite, or perhaps because of their MAD tendencies, they managed to develop a thriving technological civilization. The MAD people are sort of bipeds, but have a couple of long vestigial wings they hop around on sometimes. They might have two heads, or a head and a bulb that looks like a head. Little is certain about their physiology because if you piss one off enough it goes nuclear, very literally. Their thermonuclear-MAD capabilities are due to implanted technology, not biological. It’s unclear what their natural MAD defence is but it’s presumed to be statistically less destructive than their nukes, but probably a worse way to die. The absence of regular nuclear detonations detected on their planet suggests they’re smart enough to stick to their natural MAD at home.

Apparently they started developing an implantable nuclear device alongside their first attempts at spaceflight. It was just assumed they might meet other species and if so they’d need a reliable deterrent. It took a while to develop anything like normal interstellar trade relations. At first nobody even knew there was a new space-capable species around, they just thought there’d been a spate of unfortunate reactor meltdowns in sectors near the MAD planet lately. 

Eventually they learned to chill out long enough to not blow everything up long enough to have a dialog, but they also learned they didn’t have much in common with most space-capable species. But they did see a potential market for something they were really good at.

The MAD people’s first interstellar export was the iMAD. It was just a mass-produced version of their implantable thermonuclear devices tailored for various other species physiology. It was an instant hit. It wasn’t the first implantable nuke on the market by any means. But implantable nukes were always sold alongside novelty cyanide teeth and tachyon foil hats and such, they were associated with flat-universe conspiracy nuts and the like. The MAD people found a way to market personal mutually assured destruction as both a cool and responsible lifestyle choice. 

iMAD devices became as fashionable as they were functional. Some custom luxury models could even leave the owner’s monogram in the blast crater. But iMAD had trouble breaking into industrial, military, and government markets. Even for totalitarian regimes willing to implement forced adoption, the relatively small yield of an implantable device just wasn’t enough to move tyrants to commit to large contracts.

Perhaps surprisingly the MAD people didn’t invent MADaaS, that honor goes to a sentient nanite swarm left over from a planet that let their nanotech get away from them and became a planet sized sentient nanite swarm. The nanite swarm started a cottage MADaaS industry, serving only the surviving offworld colonies from its original planet. When the MAD people found out about the idea they committed all their resources to expanding the market potential of MADaaS.

And I think that’s about as far as I can stretch that idea. I could go on about how the MAD people engage in political intrigue to start a bunch of conflict to create a demand for their services but that seems kinda tedious, and obvious, so I guess I’ll just stop here- but I do want to say the MADaaS tagline again in a used car salesman tone so here’s that- 

MAD MADaaS’s provide containerized annihilation and extinction services on galaxy scale cloud native infrastructure for a fraction of the cost of on-prem MAD.

May 032021
 

The boxes have evolved again. I extended one to 600mm high so I can move the light further away to test levels a bit. Also got some coroplast and lined them with aluminum foil for the side panels but still using pizza box cardboard for the top.

I also got a peristaltic pump to test moving fluid around because I think the main problem I’m having is the water is too stagnant. At some point I read that duckweed likes stagnant water, but I think ‘stagnant’ in nature is still a lot more dynamic than a gallon of water in a pan in a box my kitchen. So I’m trying to figure out how to move nutrients around and keep the surface from filming up without disturbing the wolffia too much.

I’ve got a really rudimentary filter system with an acrylic pipe hanging from the basin in the water so I can drop in a tube to pump water from the bottom without sucking anything up from the surface layer. If I stir the water up a little it slowly pulls any algae to the tube and I can pull it up. That seems to be helping keep the algae growth a little bit in check but I need to make a less manual system.

The ‘sugar press mud’ trials have been interesting if not productive. I don’t think it provides enough nutrition for wolffia alone with or without light. But mixed with a little regular dirt it seems to increase growth above just regular dirt. Unfortunately the growth it increases is more than just the wolffia. It turns things into an algae soup faster than regular dirt and kills off the wolffia.

That seems to be the big trick here- limiting algae growth to give the wolffia a chance because everything I do do far that helps the wolffia helps algae a lot more.

I also tried a different species of duckweed called ‘Lemna Minor’ just because. It’s not ‘mixotrophic’ and doesn’t really fit my whole ‘space grits’ concept but I’m still just throwing stuff at the wall to see what sticks. I don’t think I like Lemna Minor much so I think I’ll try to find another wolffia variant to play with rather than a whole other species.

I think the next phase of this will be all about not growing algae, which if funny to me considering I wanted to grow algae before wolffia, but this experience is reinforcing the apprehension that kept from actually doing it. Algae is insane. I’m starting to wonder if I should get some little aquarium shrimp because apparently they help with that. I’d rather not because I’ll probably kill them and I want to learn to grow wolffia without critter assistance, but the more I read the more I think that’s probably the way to go at least until I get a better grip on what I’m doing.

Also I’ve moved away from my earlier obsession with time-lapses and microscopy. If I need to keep the water moving to grow them I’ll never get useful time-lapses so I need to rethink my ideas about using computer vision to characterize growth. I’d like to say I could try to ‘train’ a neural network to visually extract growth information from video, but if I was ever smart enough to figure that out I’m way too lazy now.

I have to give a nod to MakersLED t-slot LED heatsink housings. It just comes with the sink parts and fan, you supply the LED, power, and wiring. Really decent little kit here and works great with the 80/20 frame. I put a little thermal paste on, screwed down a COB LED, wired in an AC-DC converter for the fan and voila- a nice, modular little LED lamp and I can swap in whatever chip I want. I like these a lot. I got two of them running 50W LEDs.