What is The Effect?

The titular end-times in my current work in progress encompass the end of the universe. You can’t get more end-timesier than that. Trapped on the last planet, my hero – mathematician Markusz Zielinski – and a dead engineer are trying to work out how to stop it.

The universe isn’t ending all at once but parts of it are in a most disturbing fashion due to ‘the Effect’. Before Markusz and friends can work out how to control or reverse the Effect, I had to work out what it does and a timeline for how it’s operated on my fictional universe.

So what does the Effect do? Here’s an extract from my current draft describing the destruction of the Ambergis Sector:

Sylfe muted her augments and the projected images vanished, leaving Teel speaking into empty air. She had no desire to see this timelapse of destruction. She’d studied it too many times both in real time and through every possible visualisation. To the naked eye it began with a strange attenuation of form, as if giant fingers were drawn across the face of the stars, smearing vacuum and matter, stretching out shapes until they blended and ran together. Stellar mass, atomic structure, the fabric of space, it all became malleable. And then jump-stutter motion, an insane acceleration as the entire volume of space snapped together, matter and energy streaking inward. To look at it was to feel unhinged from reality, caught up in a vertiginous plunge into annihilation. An endless fall that stripped every thought and feeling away because what was thought and feeling in the face of this? How could the individual possibly measure against something so full of awe and so horrific? And when it ended you felt as if nothing made sense anymore. A blinding flash and nothing, no vestige of what had been there, no singularity, just a slow red blossoming of energy drifting out like an underwater flower. Six stars, eight colonised planets and eighteen billion dead.

Observations of the Effect show that regions of space are somehow forced together very quickly. The speed of the Effect may indicate that time is somehow running at an accelerated rate or that some other mechanism is permitting super-luminal movement within standard spacetime.

By experimentation, the following has been discovered by the beginning of the novel. The observed Effects are caused by a localised increase in the gravitational effect of dark matter, coupled with a phase change in dark energy. Both enter a higher energy state and the combined immpact causes a massive deflationary wave, pulling all matter within the proscribed area rapidly into the epicentre. Time becomes non-linear and non-constant, entropy increases exponentially.

As the available matter is forced together it quickly becomes superdense. The separate forces of gravity, electromagnetism and the weak and strong interactions are fused together in the high energy levels of the compressed space into an electronuclear force theorised to exist during the Grand Unification epoch that occurred shortly after the Planck epoch in the very early formation of the universe.

At these high densities extreme quantum gravitational effects take hold. Mini black holes are created and zip about through quantum tunneling, time dilates, runs faster, slower, backwards, space and time waves interact and disrupt each other. The region of space breaks down, all matter converted to energy, like a reverse big bang. And then the energy vanishes, leaving behind trace exotic particles and an expanding bubble of ‘Teel-Attar’ radiation.

The Effect is observed for the first time twenty-one years before the beginning of the novel.

  • 21 years ago – Rapid collapse of the Hoagmern Nebula in less than a day was observed by Thousand Worlds scientists. The distance to the nebula meant the event had occurred 120,000 years ago. The scientific community lit up with observations and theories.
  • 20 years and 10 months ago – Stellar system N1289-C, eleven light months from the edge of Thousand Worlds space, collapsed in a matter of a few hours. Observations indicated that while the extent of the collapse was far smaller, the energy signature and the outcome were the same.
  • 20 years and 9 months ago – The Thousand Worlds Congress directed their Cooperative Sciences and Technology Organisation (CSTO) to form a scientific task force to address the observed threat. Scientists from across the Thousand Worlds were co-opted to join the Task Force. Cosmologist Kelan Teel was one of the first to join the theoretical team.
  • 18 years ago – Observations of the expanding red glow that was left after the Effect, led Teel to theorise it was similar to Cherenkov radiation and indicated the Effect was causing matter to move faster than the speed of light. The experimental team under Task Force leader Javed Attar confirmed Teel’s theory and also discovered the glow was anisotropic along a single, consistent axis. It was a notable artefact of the data, but it wasn’t obvious if it meant anything. The radiation was named Teel-Attar radiation. At this point a further five events had been observed at different distances and sizes within the observable light cone.
  • 16 years ago – Based on observations of a further thirty collapses, Teel theorised a mechanism that would lead to a massive increase in the condensing effect of dark matter. Though it still did not account for the violence of the Effect and despite initial skepticism, it withstood a number of tests and led to experimental breakthroughs in correctly determining the speed of the collapses as a constant. With the Task Force leader Javed Attar standing down due to ill-health, Teel found himself thrust into a leadership position.
  • 13 years ago – The first collapse occurred inside Thousand Worlds space, destroying the colonised Ambergis Sector. At this point, observed collapses in the light cone numbered 4,500. The Effect was accelerating.
  • 11 years ago – Helena Murchadh joined the Task Force. Observed Effects numbered 150,547, sixteen occurring within Thousand Worlds space. She sought out Teel because she had an idea about the anisotropic nature of the Teel-Attar radiation. Working together they were able to calculate that the anisotropic axes were all pointing to the same location. It hadn’t been obvious because the axes pointed at the coordinates of the location at the time the Effect hit that particular area, not at the time the Effect was observed by Task Force scientists. Some of those Effects occurred hundreds of thousands of years ago, skewing the outcome unless the data was corrected for that time delay. The single point that was the focus of the combined anisotropic axes was the planet Garia. This caused a major stir, and an increased focus by Congress on the Garia system.
  • 9 years ago – A mathematical paper by Markusz Zielinski contained a proof for quantum entanglement over large areas of space persisting since before the inflation of the early universe. One outcome was a possible predictive model for where the Effect may strike next. Markusz was co-opted onto the Task Force and worked closely with the theoretical and experimental teams. Three more events followed, and the locations matched a predictive model based on Markusz’s mathematics. The mathematics also retrospectively fitted the location of all previously observed Effects with a certainty of over 98.8%.
    This meant that the Task Force could predict where the Effect would strike next which greatly assisted evacuation efforts. Running the model forward indicated, with less certainty as it was projected, that Garia would be one of the last systems to be impacted. This was the trigger for Congress to implement the Redout project.
  • 8 years ago – A device designed primarily by Helena Murchadh detected a previously unforeseen element of the Effect: the phase change of dark energy into a different kind of field at a much higher energy level. Markusz assisted with the mathematics and determined they’d discovered the elusive ‘inflaton’ long theorised to have driven inflation. But in this case the direction of force created a rapid deflation of spacetime. The field was dubbed the ‘deflaton’.
  • 7 years ago – The Task Force began to make real progress in discovering and understanding the fine scale workings of the Effect. Observed Effects passed the 100 million mark. The night sky was now noticeably different for observers in every corner of the Thousand Worlds, familiar points of light and constellations replaced with spectral red blossoms.
  • 5 years ago – Helena suggests a novel approach to the problem of controlling the Effect. Based on their analyses it may be possible to fabricate a device that operated in the substrate of four-dimensional space to disrupt the phase change that creates the deflaton field. Construction and testing begins. The Effects are predicted to be increasingly prevalent in local Thousand Worlds space. This presents an opportunity for direct experimentation.
  • 4 years ago – A prototype device is fired into the epicentre of the next predicted collapse. It’s a failure but the data gathered during its functioning is used to make adjustments and improvements. Another prototype fails. And another. But the Task Force feels it is making incremental progress. The pressure to succeed is immense.
  • 2 years ago – A seventh prototype is developed. Based on the previous failures a physical placement is required on a planet near the predicted epicentre. Another failure, but again the data is useful.
  • 1 year ago – well… you’ll need to read the finished novel to find out what happened then.

“Picture credit: Red universe. Texture #1” by __Blanca__ is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

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