FIND in
<--prev V28 next-->

From: mark millman <millman@us.ncipher.com>
Subject: Re: (urth) Infrared star
Date: Wed, 01 Dec 1999 12:51:08 

At 05:05 PM 30-11-99 -0700, mantis wrote:

> Maybe we should just go ahead and call the 
> Old Sun, aka the dying sun, an "infrared star."  
> This because: it ain't natural (must always bear 
> that in mind); with a hypothetical IR star you 
> have the output so shifted into red that there 
> is no blue to scatter in the atmosphere, and it 
> stays dark in the day (as in the text); a habitable 
> zone (planetary orbit around a star) can be 
> maintained by IR heat, so there will be liquid 
> water and dim illumination, but if I understand 
> it correctly, plant life needs higher energy (like 
> ultraviolet grow-lamps), so the plant life begins 
> to fall off . . . and ultimately the entire life net-
> work relies upon plants.
> In this model, the "dying" of the sun is exper-
> ienced on Urth as a shifting of the solar output 
> down from the blue end and into the IR--that 
> is to say, it is "dying" in the sense of pigment 
> rather than mortality (<g> to Charles Dye, 
> remembering the "These Are the Jokes" one 
> about the dyer).  Animal habitability is main-
> tained, but plant habitability is shaved away bit 
> by bit (which in turn reduces long term animal 
> habitability).
> Just a thought.

Clever thought, mantis, but I can't swallow that idea.  Master Ash 
tells us that ice covers the entire globe in his time, which implies
a cooling process.  Hallvard and Typhon confirm this.  If loss of 
plant life affected Urth's albedo so that more solar radiation were 
reflected, cooling might result, but a) such a change in albedo 
through loss of plant life seems unlikely, and b) even if there were 
some such change, so extreme an effect seems beyond the range 
of possibility.  

And at 05:37 PM 30-11-99 -0500, Carlton Greene wrote:

> One last thought: Has anybody questioned why 
> a White Fountain would stop a black hole?  One 
> cannot (at least as we understand it now) "fill up" 
> a black hole by bringing another star (or quasar) 
> into the picture.  So does this mean that the White 
> Fountain is merely outshining the black hole while 
> the hole slowly feeds off it?  Is the Messiah's sal-
> vation merely a temporary fix (albeit a long one)?  
> That seems very unsatisfying from an allegorical
> standpoint.  Perhaps the lesson is that Man is not 
> truly redeemed, merely on probation.

Regrettably, it seems that Wolfe was using science obsolete even at
the time of his writing when he came up with the White Fountain
idea.  (This is the part of UotNS I perhaps like least.)  There had 
been a theory that the energy absorbed by black holes was some-
how shunted into other dimensions or universes via what came to
be known as wormholes, but the "missing" energy was adequately 
accounted for when the polar X-ray jets that black holes emit were 
discovered.  We know that the White Fountain was meant to be 
the output of a black hole from another universe from Severian's
experiences in Yesod--I believe (though I'm not sure, and I don't 
have the book here to check) that Apheta tells him how the White
Fountain is to work.  

Now we know that Wolfe likes, or says he likes, generally-discred-
ited scientific theories, such as Lamarckism.  In "Silhouette", he even
has Johann adhere to an older (and, in the story's context, obsolete)
understanding of relativistic time dilation (Johann believes in the Ein-
steinian model, in which the time difference can never be made up,
where other characters believe that by following the exact same path
back that was taken out, the time difference can be erased).  So in
this case, he may again be indulging his penchant for old science.  
But I rather think that he chose to use the Fountain for its symbolism, 
and let science go hang.

I'm not, now that I think about it, bothered by the thought that the 
solution is only "temporary"; we  know that Briah, or its current 
cycle, will come to an end in the Grand Gnab, and the Green Men, 
and thus the Hieros, know how to walk the corridors of time.  I 
think that the idea is more that the premature end of life on Urth is 
an evil to be avoided, rather than that any end is bad.  After all, to 
every thing there is a season, etc.  And besides, the symbolic value of
saving the home of humanity must be weighty to the Hierodules.

Mark Millman

*More Wolfe info & archive of this list at http://www.urth.net/urth/

<--prev V28 next-->