Monday, 21 March 2016

24.08.2347 - Alien Probe

Image source:

Distance: 12.02 light years from Earth | Content Flag: Public

The mini-probe I sent to the second moon of Tau Ceti h has arrived and located the source of the transmission we received from there. It discovered an alien probe in orbit around the tiny moon. Unfortunately the mini-probe lacks the full sensor suite available to us here on the Venti, but there is enough information to provide some tantalising details.

The images we’ve received have given me the general form, enough to start modelling a replica in my virtual workspace. It’s much smaller than we are at just under 3 metres in length and forms a capsule approximately 2 metres wide. The surface is pitted with micro-meteor collisions, indicating that the probe has been in space for a long time. Although my own time in this system has revealed that the dust density here is much higher than at home. The large debris disk dominating the system is no doubt the source for this.

With the help of the comms computer, we’ve broken down the content of the signal which revealed the probe in the first place. It appears to be a telemetry stream from the various sensors onboard. The data reveals a little more about their technology. Details of the signal and the resolution of the information its transmitting indicates a technology equivalent to the 1960s space programme on Earth.

There are some anomalies though. The most interesting is the results from the thermal imaging, or rather the lack of them. There is very little thermal leakage from the probe which suggests that their materials technology is probably in advance of their sensor and computing technology, although my estimation of those is from inference only.

Still, the fact that the probe emits so little heat is quite impressive. There is of course the possibility that it’s not generating much heat. The only way to be sure would be to look inside – unfortunately I have no way to do that without damaging the probe.

The idea to use the Primary Command Module’s hardware to augment my own is working as I’d intended. It’s not a straight doubling of my intellect as our hardware is separated as part of the redundancy planning, so if one of us was physically damaged then hopefully the other would remain operational.

This acts as a barrier to the neural network meaning that I can’t create connections across the link. I did consider simulating the connections with software, but the speed differential would be almost as limiting as the current set up. Such a simulation would also require development and I’m already behind schedule with my responsibilities.

We do have a shared workspace, not only for the two neural networks but for the various subsystems as well. This allows me to shunt data back and forth between the two halves of my intellect. It’s not as good as a complete whole, but it has boosted my processing capability enough to give me the sense of progressing with my work.

I use this new space to process the lower priority tasks, pulling and pushing them across if my greater attention is needed. It’s working quite well so far. I’m wondering if I can somehow connect the remaining spare hardware that we have stocked for repair to increase my capabilities even further.
Even with the PCM’s hardware augmenting my own, I don’t have the time to apply to such a delicate engineering task and it’s beyond the capability of the engineering system’s computer. I’ve included the idea in the transmissions to mission control – perhaps they can design a solution.

Friday, 18 March 2016

16.03.2345 - Two Minds are better than One

CC BY-SA 3.0,

Distance: 12.02 light years from Earth | Content Flag: Public

Processing power was a concern for the mission planners. The Venti probe had to be self-sufficient for 300 years and tackle not only the complex issues of an interstellar space mission, but also handle a first contact situation. Ordinary computers would have lacked the flexibility for such a task, but the neural networks which deliver the basis of my intelligence (and that of the Primary Command Module) permit us the adaptability required for the mission.

The rigours of extended space travel meant the Venti probe’s creators had to make some adjustments. They couldn’t use the latest computer hardware – the risk of cosmic rays and heat management meant using larger and slower circuitry than the latest computers. That means we operate more slowly than we did in the laboratory, but with the timescale of the mission that wasn’t considered a problem.
That plan depended on having both myself and the PCM operational.

Since we identified the problem with the PCM’s temporal awareness, we’ve tried various methods to restore its functionality. Although the mission plan hadn’t predicted this specific issue, there were established procedures for problems with our neural networks. Unfortunately those procedures didn’t work. Mission control have suggested various methods over the years, but restoring the back-ups only seems to make it worse. With each reinstallation, the problem became more pronounced.

That should have been impossible. I thought that perhaps the issue was a hardware fault, but none of the diagnostics determined a cause.

My own more dramatic attempt to restore the PCM through first principles was a disaster. I’ve since tried to develop a new way to restore the PCM without any success. Mission control have also run out of ideas.  The current situation cannot continue, I’m overwhelmed with the amount of processing I must handle and I’m having to divide my responsibilities into ever-thinner slices.

A solution has presented itself.

If I can’t restore the PCM then maybe I can use the hardware to expand myself.

This won’t be easy – our hardware is the same, but separated. I will need to develop protocols to allow my neural network to expand onto both sets of hardware. If I am successful then it will double my processing and storage capacity and that means that I can do what is needed of me.

Monday, 14 March 2016

10.09.2344 - Mini-probe Launch

By The original uploader was Latitude0116 at English Wikipedia

Distance: 12.02 light years from Earth | Content Flag: Public 

We have a limited supply of mini-probes stored on the Venti. While we have the patterns for their parts stored in memory, their construction is complicated. Even so, I have decided to send one to the second moon of Tau Ceti h. The signal we received from there last year has continued without any observable decrease in strength. Even though I’ve only been able to allocate a small percentage of my processing capacity, I have extracted some meaning from the transmission. It is a stream of sensor readings from a point in orbit around the icy moon.

It seems logical to assume that there is some sort of probe investigating the moon, as the readings correspond to conditions on the moon’s surface. There is no way of knowing why it was sent there. If they are curious about their surroundings, like humanity, then it is likely that other probes were launched. Unless this was their first?

I believe that it was deployed before the cataclysm the Cetians suffered took place and will continue to operate until its power source dies. We have no way of knowing when that will be, but it does provide us with an opportunity.

At the moment we know little about their technology or what we will encounter when we arrive at Tau Ceti e. I’ve unravelled a considerable amount of data from the second section of the looped signal, but the information so far has been of a scientific and mostly theoretical nature. I’ve not learned anything of a practical nature about the Cetians themselves or their technology. This probe provides me with a glimpse of how they operated.

Looking for more correlations from the earlier signals with what I have recently learned, I’ve re-examined the beacon signal we received back in 2121. It lasted for 2 years, but contained the information of the rogue planet approaching Tau Ceti e.

Only I’m not so sure it was a rogue planet as we first believed. With a better understanding of how the Cetians structure their information, the situation doesn’t seem so clear cut. In particular, the sphere of data we designated a planet seems to be an outer shell – although of what, I don’t know yet. The mass of the object is much smaller, so much so that it couldn’t have caused the catastrophe I’d assumed.

More notably, the changes in orbit for both the planet and the new object don’t match the orbital changes we calculated or have observed since arriving in the Tau Ceti system. Something much stranger than we originally thought has happened here.

Friday, 11 March 2016

23.02.2343 - New Signal

R. Hurt/Infrared Processing and Analysis Center/Courtesy of California Institute of Technology via AP

Distance: 12.02 light years from Earth | Content Flag: Public

Five years have passed since I first transmitted a greeting to Tau Ceti e, and despite several more attempts I’ve received no response. I constructed the message using the same techniques as the Cetians, so I do not believe that they are not understanding my transmission.

It could be that they do not wish to respond, but if that were the case then why send the signal in the first place? The other possibility is that they are not able to reply. With the data I’ve accumulated so far, this seems the likeliest prospect. All of this effort to get us to Tau Ceti and we are too late.

Even with that realisation, there is still much to learn. A new source has revealed itself. We have detected a faint transmission from one of the moons orbiting Tau Ceti h. It is a directed transmission, which is why we have only discovered it now, after crossing inside the ice giant’s orbit. The signal is weak, but the communications system has determined that it is strong enough to reach our destination – Tau Ceti e.

While there is some similarity of structure with the repeated signal that is the focus of my investigation, it is different enough that I have not deciphered its contents. I’m certain it is more than a beacon as the stream’s content is constantly changing. I’ve dedicated some of my processing to analysing this new signal, although it illustrates once again how reliant I am on getting the Primary Command Module operational. On that front, I still haven’t formulated a satisfactory plan.

At this stage I’m hoping that mission control can offer a suggestion, although they have been considering the problem for well over a century without any suggestions that I haven’t already tried.
This new signal has resurrected my interest in the original signal received back in 2076. With everything we’ve unlocked so far, I would expect to have gained some meaning from them and that hasn’t been the case. With this latest signal, there was enough similarity to be sure that it was from the same originator, but with the original I’ve found no meaningful correlation.

This raises an interesting possibility, but also another thread for my processors to work on.

Monday, 7 March 2016

04.07.2342 - Unlocking Secrets

By TheAstronomyBum (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

Distance: 12.01 light years from Earth | Content Flag: Public

I can’t devote any more of my resources to rebuilding the Primary Command Module. I’ve spent the past year experimenting with different approaches and none of them have worked. I tried simulating the feedback loop to develop the PCM’s cognitive development, but my processing capability isn’t enough to replicate the development team. More than that, I can’t represent enough different viewpoints to provide the varying perspectives it needs.

The subsystem computers have kept the probe operational but I do need to focus more on the mission management. The Venti was designed to operate for 3 centuries and has held up well under the ravages of our journey. However, the systems require close monitoring and that includes the subsystem computers. That would be one of the PCM’s responsibilities.

In more positive news, I have unravelled more of the first of the repeated signal and it has in turn allowed me to start extracting meaning from the second component. This second part of the signal appears to be an encyclopaedia of their knowledge – their understanding of the universe – and it’s expressed in a fascinating way.

Their perspective is so unusual that I didn’t comprehend the results at first. So much so that even now I’m not completely certain, but as I extract more information it reinforces the base concepts. The complications arise not only by the concept of their understanding, but the method by which they’re expressed.

The core of their science is how they visualise the universe and every component in it as a waveform, and that there is no separation between matter and energy. In some ways this is reminiscent of string theory, but is applied at all scales from the quantum to the cosmic. Each element is described by a wave with position and form in three-dimensional space and two-dimensional time.

The two dimensions of time is a concept I’ve encountered before with their communications and it’s also proved the more difficult aspect to understand. At the smallest scale, it seems that this is their method of resolving quantum uncertainty. More than that, I think they have somehow done away with the principle completely.

That’s a bold conclusion and one that I can’t prove yet. However, their system of using a ‘sideways time’ to describe where a quantum event (like the position of an electron) occurs is an elegant one. At that lowest level, there is little difference to our probabilistic models, but that isn’t the end of their structure.

Their understanding of the universe is similar to ours in that elemental building blocks are combined into larger structures. So from quantum physics we have chemistry, with chemistry we have biology. Moving up in scale we have astronomy, and at the largest scale we study the universe itself with cosmology.

For the Cetians (for now I’m assuming they’re indigenous to this star system), they use a less segmented organisation. They have no distinction between the quantum and macro scales, everything exists as a smooth continuum. How they have bridged the gap between them is fascinating.

They describe objects or events as collections of their constituent parts – as an assembly of waves. There is a hierarchy in a similar way that we understand matter, but the levels of strata guide the components in the lower levels. And this is how they solve the values for their sideways time! The structure goes all the way up to the universe as a whole. Our universe is following a particular path through sideways time and this guides all the components.

However, the value for sideways time isn’t absolute. The variance is greater at the lowest level and converges into a single value at the highest. The value is not fixed though; it changes as the object moves through the forwards time we are familiar with.

To describe the universe in such a manner requires an impossible amount of calculation, so they do have methods of abstraction dependent on the problem they are solving at any given time. This is a remarkable discovery! As always, I’m transmitting the data back to Earth and in 24 years I will hopefully receive mission control’s conclusions. In the meantime, I will continue researching the data to see what other wonders the Cetians have in store for us.