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Zodijak Taurus
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Mammals constitute the most obvious class of animal alive on Earth today. When we say 'animal' in ordinary conversation, we're mostly referring to mammals, cats, dogs, elephants, cows, mice, rabbits, whatever. There are about 4,000 species of mammals, and they are astonish¬ingly diverse in shape, size, and behaviour. The largest mammal, the blue whale, lives in the ocean and looks like a fish but isn't; it can weigh 150 tons (136,000 kg). The smallest mammals, various species of shrew, live in holes in the ground and weigh about an ounce (30 g). Roughly in the middle come humans which, paradox¬ically, have specialized in being generalists. We are the most intelligent of the mammals, sometimes.
The main distinguishing feature of mammals is that when they are young their mother feeds them on milk, produced by special glands. Other features that (nearly) all mammals have in common include their ears, specifically the three tiny bones in the middle ear known as the anvil, stirrup, and hammer, which send sound to the eardrum; hair (except on adult whales); and the diaphragm, which separates the heart and lungs from the rest of the internal organs. Virtually all mammals bear live young: the exceptions are the duck¬billed platypus and the echidna, which lay eggs. Another curious feature is that mammalian red blood cells lack a nucleus, whereas the red cells of all other vertebrates possess a nucleus. All is this is evidence for a lengthy common evolutionary history, subject to a few unusual events of which the most significant was the early sep¬aration of Australia from the rest of Gondwanaland. Modern studies of mammalian DNA confirm that basically we are all one big happy family.
When the dinosaurs died out, the mammals had a field day. Released from dinosaurian thrall, they could occupy environmental niches that, only a few million years before, would merely have pre¬sented a dinosaur with an easy meal. It seems likely that the current diversity of mammals has a lot to do with the suddenness with which they came into their kingdom, for a while, almost any lifestyle was good enough to make a living. However, it would be wrong to imagine that the mammals came into existence to fill the gaps left by the vanished dinosaurs. Mammals had coexisted with dinosaurs for at least 150 million years.
Harry Jerison has suggested that before the dinosaurs became really dominant, many mammals were able to make their living in daylight, and they evolved good eyesight to do so. As the dinosaurs became a bigger and bigger problem, the mammals adopted a lower profile, mostly staying hidden undergound during the day. If you're a nocturnal animal, you rely on a really good sense of hearing, so evolutionary pressures then equipped the mammals with excellent ears, including those three little bones. However, they retained their eyesight. So when the mammals again dared to venture out into the daylight, they had good eyesight and good hearing. The combination gave them a substantial advantage over most remaining competitors.
Mammals evolved from an order of Triassic reptiles known as therapsids, small, quick-moving hunters, mostly, though some were herbivores. Compared to other reptiles, the therapsids were not especially impressive, but their low-profile lifestyle led, in stages, to the distinctive features of mammals. A diaphragm leads to more efficient breathing, useful if you need to run fast. It also lets the young animals continue to breathe while mother is feeding them her milk, changes to animals 'co-evolve' as a whole suite of coop¬erative attributes, not one at a time. Hair keeps you warm, and the warmer you are, the faster all your bodily parts can move ... and so on.
All this makes it difficult to decide when the mammal-like rep¬tilian ancestors of the therapsids became reptile-like mammals ... but, as we've said, humans have problems with becomings. There was no such point: instead, there was a mostly gradual, but occa¬sionally bumpy, transition. The earliest fossils that can definitely be identified as mammals come from 210 million years ago, creatures rejoicing in the name 'morganucodontids'. These were shrews, probably nocturnal, probably insect-eaters, probably egg-layers. Darwin's detractors objected to having apes as their ancestors: heaven knows what they would have thought about bug-eating egg-laying shrews. But there's good news too, if you're of that turn of mind, because morganucodontids were brainy. Not especially brainy for a shrew, but brainy compared to the reptiles from which they evolved. Admittedly, this was largely because the therapsids were as thick as two short ... er, slices of tree-fern, but it was a start.
How do we know that these early shrews were true mammals? One of the bits of an animal that survives as a fossil far more often than any other bit is the tooth. This is why palaeontologists use teeth, above all else, to identify species of long-dead animals. There are plenty of species for which the sole evidence is a tooth or two. Fortunately, you can tell a lot about an animal by its teeth. On the whole, the bigger the tooth is, the bigger the animal, an elephant's tooth today is a lot bigger than an entire mouse, so whatever animal it came from, it couldn't be mouse-sized. If you can find a jawbone, a whole array of teeth, all the better. The shape of a tooth tells us a lot about what the animal ate, grinding teeth are for plants, slicing teeth are for meat. The arrangement of teeth in a jawbone tells us a lot more. The morganucodontids made a major breakthrough in tooth design: teeth that interlocked when the jaws were brought together, very effective at cutting bits off meat or insects. They also paid a heavy price for their teeth, one that we still pay today. Reptiles continually produce new teeth: as old ones wear down, they get replaced. We produce just two set of teeth: milk teeth as children and the real thing as adults. When our adult teeth wear out, the only replacements available are artificial. Blame the mor¬ganucodontids for this: if you want to take advantage of precisely interlocking teeth, you have to maintain that precision, which is impractical if you keep discarding teeth and growing new ones. So they grew only two sets of teeth, and we have to do likewise.
From this we can deduce more. With only two sets of teeth, the morganucodontids had to have some special trick for feeding their young, something different from the reptiles with their continuous succession of teeth. There isn't room for a full set of adult teeth in a baby shrew, and if teeth only come in two stages, you can't add the odd one every so often as the jaw grows bigger. The easy solution is to have babies with no teeth at all, to start with. But what can they then eat? Something nutritious and easily digested, milk. So we think that milk-production evolved before those high-precision interlocking teeth. This is one reason why the morganucodontids are definitely placed among the mammals.
Amazing what you can learn from a few teeth.

As they prospered and diversified, mammals evolved into two main types: placental mammals, where the mother carries the young in her uterus, and marsupials, where she carries them in a pouch. The marsupial that springs most readily to mind is the kangaroo, pos¬sibly because it springs most readily to almost anything, as for example in The Last Continent:

'And ... what's kangaroo for "You are needed for a quest of the utmost importance"?' said Rincewind, with guileful innocence.
'You know, it's funny you should ask that...’
The sandals barely moved. Rincewind rose from them like a man leaving the starting blocks, and when he landed his feet were already making running movements in the air.
After a while the kangaroo came alongside and accompa¬nied him in a series of easy bounds.
'Why are you running away without even listening to what I have to say?'
I've had long experience of being me,' panted Rincewind. 'I know what's going to happen. I'm going to be dragged into things that shouldn't concern me. And you're just a halluci¬nation caused by rich food on an empty stomach, so don't try to stop me!'
'Stop you?' said the kangaroo. 'When you're heading in the right direction?'

Australia alone has over a hundred species of marsupials, in fact most native Australian mammals are marsupials. Another seventy or so are found in the same general region, Tasmania, New Guinea, Timor, Sulawesi, various smaller neighbouring islands. The rest are opossums and some diminutive ratlike creatures, mainly in South America, though ranging into Central America and for one species of opossum right up into Canada.
It looks as though placental mammals generally win out against marsupials, but the difference isn't so great, and if there aren't any competing placental mammals then marsupials do very well indeed. There are even some close parallels between marsupials and pla-centals, a good example is the koala 'bear', which isn't a true bear but looks like an unusually cuddly one.
Most marsupials resemble 'parallel' placentals; a very curious case is the thylacine, otherwise known as the Tasmanian tiger or Tasmanian wolf, which is distinctly wolflike and has a striped rear. The thylacine was officially declared extinct in 1936, but there are persistent reports of occasional sightings, and suitable habitat still exists, so don't be surprised if the thylacine makes a comeback. National Park Ranger Charlie Beasley reported watching one for two minutes in Tasmania in 1995. Similar sightings have been reported from Queensland's Sunshine Coast since 1993: if these sightings are genuine, they are probably of thylacines whose recent ancestors escaped from zoos.
Why such a concentration of marsupials in Australia? The fossil record makes it clear that marsupials originated in the Americas -most probably North America, but that's not so certain. Placentals arose in what is now Asia, but was then linked to the other continents, so they spread into Europe and the Americas. Before placen¬tal mammals really got going in the Americas, marsupials migrated to Australia by way of Antarctica, which in those days wasn't the frozen wasteland it is now. Australia was already moving away from South America, but hadn't yet gone all that far, and neither had Antarctica, so presumably the migration involved 'island hopping', or taking advantage of land bridges that temporarily rose from the ocean. By 65 million years ago, oddly enough, the time that the dinosaurs died out, though that's probably not significant -Australia was well separated from the other continents, Antarctica included, and Australian evolution was pretty much on its own.
In the absence of serious competition, the marsupials thrived -just as ground birds did in New Zealand, and for the same reason. But back in the Americas and elsewhere, the superior placental mammals ousted the marsupials almost completely.
Until a few years ago it was assumed that the placentals never made it to Australia at all, except for the very late arrival of rodents and bats from South East Asia about 10 million years ago, and sub¬sequent human introduction of species like dogs and rabbits. This theory was demolished when Mike Archer found a single fossil tooth at a place called Tingamarra. The tooth is from a placental mammal, and it is 55 million years old.
From the form of the tooth it is clear that this mammal had hooves.
Did a lot of placental mammals accompany the marsupials on their migration Down Under? Or was it just a few? Either way, why did the placentals die out and the marsupials thrive?
We have no idea.
Early marsupials probably lived in trees, to judge by their forepaws. Early placentals probably lived on the ground, especially in burrows. This difference in habitat allowed them to coexist for a long time. Marsupial extinctions in the Americas were helped along by humans, who found marsupials especially easy to kill. Humans stayed out of Australia until the Aborigines arrived 40,000-60,000 years ago. When European settlers turned up, from 1815 onwards, they very nearly wiped out numerous marsupial species.
The evolutionary history of the placenta! mammals is controversial and has not been mapped out in detail. An early branch of the fam¬ily tree was the sloths, anteaters, and armadillos, all animals that look 'primitive', even though there's no earthly reason why they should, because today's sloths, anteaters, and armadillos have evolved just as much as today's everything else's, having survived over the same period.
Mammals really got going during the early Tertiary period, about 66 to 57 million years ago. The climate then was mild, with deciduous forests at both poles. It looks as if whatever killed the dinosaurs also changed the climate, so that in particular it was much more rainy than it had been during dinosaur times, and the rainfall was distributed more evenly throughout the year, instead of all coming at once in a rainy season. Tropical forests covered much of the planet, but they were mainly inhabited by tiny tree-dwelling mammals. No big carnivores, not even big plant-eaters ... no leop¬ards, no deer, no elephants. It took the mammals several million years to evolve bigger bodies. Possibly the forests were much denser than they had been when there were dinosaurs around, because there weren't any big animals to trample paths through them. If so, there was less incentive for a big animal to evolve, because it would¬n't be able to move easily through the forest.
Once mammalian diversity started to get going, it exploded. There were tigerlike animals and hippolike animals and giant weasels. By modern standards, though, they were all a bit lumpish and cumbersome, nothing as graceful as the slim-boned creatures that came later, such as gazelles.
By 32 million years ago, Antarctica had reverted to being an ice¬cap, and the world was cooling. Mammalian evolution had settled down, and what changes did occur were relatively small. There were bear-dogs and giraffe-rhinoceroses and pigs the size of cows, llamas and camels and sylphlike deer, and a rabbit with hooves. By 23 mil¬lion years ago, the climate was warming up again. Antarctica had separated from South America, making big changes to the flow of ocean currents: now cold water could go round and round the south pole indefinitely. The sea level fell as water got locked up in ice at the poles; with more land exposed and less ocean the climate became more extreme, because land temperatures can change more quickly than sea ones. Falling sea levels opened up land bridges between previously isolated continents; isolated ecologies started to mix up as animals migrated along the new connections. And round about this time, the evolution of some mammals took an unusual turn. A U-turn.
They went back to the sea.
The land animals had originally come out of the sea, despite the wizards' best efforts to stop them. Now a few mammals decided they'd be better off going back there. The wizards consider such a tactic to be a spineless piece of backsliding, giving up and going back home. Even to us it looks like a retrograde step, almost counter-evolutionary: if it was such a good idea to come out of the oceans in the first place, how could it be worthwhile to go back again? But the evolutionary game is played against a changing back¬ground, and the oceans had changed. In particular, the available food had changed. So in the mid-Eocene we find the earliest fossils of whales, such as the sixty-foot (20 m) long Basilosaurus, which had a pair of tiny legs at the base of its long tail. We've found fos¬sils of its ancestors, and they really did look like small dogs.
The Mediterranean sea was dammed, Africa came into contact with Europe, and creatures previously confined to Africa spread into Europe, among them elephants, and apes. Horses evolved, as did true cats (such as the famous sabre-toothed tiger). By five mil¬lion years ago, most of today's mammals were represented in recognizable form, and the climate had become similar to today's.
The scene was set for the evolution of humans.
Not that it had all been set up in order to lead to us, you appre¬ciate. Our early ancestors just happened to be in a position to take advantage of the world as it then was. They did so.

We can trace the ancestry of modern mammals, indeed all living creatures that still exist today, by mapping out changes in their DNA. The rate at which DNA mutates, acquires random errors in its code, leads to a 'DNA clock' that can be used to estimate the timing of past events. When this technique was first discovered, it was widely hailed as a precise and therefore uncontroversial way to resolve difficult questions about which animals' ancestors were more closely related to what. It is now becoming clear that precision alone cannot provide definitive answers to such questions.
The issue of interpretation, what does this result mean?, can still be controversial, even if the result itself can be made precise. For example, S. Blair Hedges and Sudhir Kumar have applied the DNA clock to 658 genes in 207 species of modern vertebrates: rhi¬nos, elephants, rabbits, and so on. Their results suggest that many of these lineages were around at least 100 million years ago, coex¬isting with the dinosaurs, though no doubt the early elephant and rhino ancestors were rather small. The fossil record agrees that there were mammals then, but not those. The molecular biologists claim that the fossil record must be misleading; palaeontologists are convinced that the DNA clock sometimes ticks faster and some¬times ticks slower. The debate continues, but for what it's worth, our money is on the palaeontologists.
One big surprise about mammal DNA is how much of it there is. You might expect a sophisticated creature like a mammal to be 'hard to build' and therefore require more DNA, just as the blue¬print for a jumbo jet has to be more complicated than that for a kite.
Not so.
Mammals have less DNA, shorter genomes, than many appar¬ently simpler animals, for example frogs and newts.
There's a good reason for this apparent paradox, and it illumi¬nates the difference between DNA and a blueprint. DNA is more like a recipe, and a recipe that makes a lot of assumptions about what else you have in your kitchen, so that none of that needs to be spelled out in the recipe book. In essence, the kitchen for mammals has a really well controlled oven, capable of ensuring nice, even cooking temperature, so a whole lot of tricks about what to do if the temperature changes need not be mentioned. In the frog kitchen, on the other hand, the temperature goes up and down depending on the time of day and the weather, so the recipe has to deal with all contingencies, requiring more DNA code. By 'kitchen' here we mean the environment in which the embryonic animal has to develop. For a frog, the kitchen is a pond. For a mammal, the kitchen is mother.
Mammals evolved good temperature control, unlike the rep¬tiles, they are warm-blooded, but what matters is not so much being warm, as being controllable. Frog DNA is full of genes for making lots of different enzymes, together with instructions along the lines of 'use enzyme A if the temperature is lower than 6°C, use B if the temperature is between 7°C and 11°C, use C if the temperature is between 12°C and 15°C ...' Mammal DNA just says 'Use enzyme X', knowing that mother will take care of temperature variations. Frog DNA is a rocket: mammal DNA is a space elevator.
How did this change take place? Perhaps when mammals first evolved, their DNA gained extra instructions, but after tempera¬ture control evolved, a lot of the DNA became redundant, and it either got dumped or got subverted to other uses. On the other hand, we have no idea what the DNA of early mammals actually looked like, maybe it was all shorter in those days, maybe today's frogs and newts have much more extensive recipes than ancient ones. But on balance it seems more likely that mammals just elimi¬nated a lot of surplus instructions.
Modern technology uses the same trick. Because the machinery that makes today's consumer goods is extremely precise and accu¬rate, those goods can be simpler than they were in the past. A soft drinks can, for example, is little more than a piece of aluminium that has been formed into a cylinder, with another flat bit on top to act as a lid, a weak line for the tab to tear along, and a ring (or nowa¬days a lever) attached to the tab. It replaces the bottle, which consisted of two or more bits of moulded glass 'welded' together, a metal cap, and a slice of cork. The simplicity of the can comes at a price: very careful control of the forming process.
There are many scientists who insist that an organism's DNA determines everything about it, even though it manifestly does not, and they argue that the mother's temperature-control system is included in her DNA recipe. This may well be true, but even if it is, 'this organism's' DNA has somehow migrated to another organism (mother, not her offspring). As soon as two generations are involved in implementing the genetic blueprint, a gap opens up into which things can be inserted that are not genetic at all. We've already men¬tioned several, for example prions in the reproduction of yeast.

Our mammalian ancestry may even be responsible for one of the more bizarre modern myths, persistent tales of people being abducted by aliens. Ufologists allege that one American in twenty now claims to have undergone such an experience (but they would, wouldn't they?). If true, this figure is a remarkable and not very happy comment either on the critical faculties of that great nation or on the habits of an unknown spacefaring species. Be that as it may, a lot of people are convinced that strange aliens, usually with big black eyes and pear-shaped heads like the ones in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, landed a UFO near them, loaded them on board, and took them for a flight round the solar system while carrying out weird experiments, often of a sexual nature, on them. After which they were calmly returned to the very spot from which they had been abducted, as if absolutely nothing had happened.
The first thing to say is that without doubt many of these expe¬riences are false. Ianonce did a radio broadcast which included a woman who had undergone a convincing experience of being abducted, except that she knew she hadn't really been, because her family told her she'd been asleep beside the fire the whole time. Jack once met a woman who claimed that the aliens abducted her and took away her baby. So he asked a question that nobody else had thought to ask, the woman included: 'Were you pregnant?'
The point is that to the victims, the experience felt real. Even though logic told them it couldn't have happened, they either did¬n't apply the logic, or they did but still remembered the experience vividly. We deduce that the human mind sometimes has vivid mem¬ories that do not correspond to real events. Of course we must also observe that just because some alien abductions aren't real, that doesn't imply they all aren't. However, if we can find a sensible mechanism for otherwise reasonable people believing that they really were carted off in a UFO, then the burden of proof shifts dra¬matically and evidence of abduction stronger than sincere expressions of belief becomes necessary.
Reports of alien abductions are not new. Back in the Middle Ages, however, they would have been either flights on witches' broomsticks or encounters with fabulous creatures like the succubus, a demon in a woman's body who allegedly had sex with men while they slept. The witches of Discworld employ broomsticks for transport only. The sex bit doesn't appeal to them at all, except for Nanny Ogg, of course.
Folk tales of succubi and their like can be found worldwide. In Newfoundland people tell of an ancient hag sitting on their chests at night, and in Vietnam they speak of the 'grey ghost'. What seems to be going on is some common mental pattern, overlaid with cul¬tural influences. That's why abductions by witches riding broomsticks have gone out of vogue, but abductions by aliens rid¬ing UFOs are flavour-of-the-decade.
Susan Blackmore thinks that all of these experiences are, and were, caused by 'sleep paralysis'. This is a feature of the mind that prevents sleeping people from moving their limbs as they would if they were acting out their dreams. Such a 'mental switch' is impor¬tant for any animal that dreams: you don't really want to go sleepwalking out of your cosy burrow and straight down a preda¬tor's throat. Plenty of mammals dream, most of us have seen a cat or dog asleep with its legs twitching, and the evidence from record¬ings of the brain's electrical activity is that the animals are engaged in something that closely resembles the brain activity of a dreaming human. We can't be sure whether cats have visual dreams like we do, but sleep and dreaming take place in primitive parts of the brain, so they probably go back a long way in our evolutionary his¬tory. At any rate, if the sleep paralysis system malfunctions, people who are partially awake may undergo sleep paralysis. Experiments show that in such cases they typically get a strong impression that 'somebody is there'.
This feature of the human mind may go back to the time, just after the meteorite hit, when the nocturnal mammals suddenly awoke in a world without dinosaurs. Their senses of hearing and sight, previously separate from each other because they had evolved at very different periods and in very different circumstances, would have become linked together. When their ears heard something strange, their visual sense would kick in and make them feel that they could see what was causing it. We inherited this tendency, but we interpret it in terms of the current culture: bogeymen, witches, maybe even dragons a few centuries ago, aliens with big black eyes today. The sexual link is straightforward, too: dreams about sex are very common anyway.
Oh, yes, one more thing: since we've all watched Close Encounters, we know exactly what an alien must look like ... just as everyone used to know that witches soared through the air on a broomstick. So our visual system knows what shape it should give to whatever it sees when we get that funny feeling that something is haunting us. And flying saucers have come on nicely, too, from being the rivet-studded things that were all the rage in galactic cir¬cles in the early Fifties.
Stories of people seeing ghosts may well have the same explana¬tion. You've read the tales, you know what a ghost ought to look like (maybe you watched Ghostbusters or a Stephen King movie), and you're trying to sit up all night in the Haunted House. You're think¬ing about ghosts, about headless horsemen and Elizabethan ladies who walk through walls and go transparent, and then you start to doze off because it's 2 am and you've been up all night... The sleep paralysis circuit glitches ... Aaaaagh!



Eventually he said, 'Can we stop this project, Ponder?'
'Er ... are you sure, sir?' 'Well, what is it achieving? I mean, really'? Y'know, I thought, all you had to do is get a world working, and before you could say "creation" there'd be some creature who'd stand up, getting a grip on its surroundings, gaze with a certain amount of intelligence and awe at the infinite sky and say...’
‘...that thing's getting bigger, I wonder if it's going to hit us,' said Rincewind.
'Rincewind, that remark was extremely cynical and accurate.'
'Sorry, Archchancellor.'
Bonder's lips were moving quietly as he worked things out.
'We could start running it down, yes. The thaumic reactor hasn't been putting so much into it in the last week. We've nearly used up the fuel.'
'The squash court will have a rather high thaumic index, sir, so whoever goes in to pull the switch will suffer a certain amount of...’
There was the sound of something spinning. The wizards looked at Rincewind's chair, which finally fell over on to the flagstones. Of its former occupant there was no sign, although there was the dis¬tant sound of a slamming door.
The Dean sniffed.
'Strange behaviour,' he said.
'I suggest we give it one more day of our time,' said Ridcully. 'I was hoping we might create a world, gentlemen, but instead it's clear to me that any life in this universe has to get used to living in ... in some kind of huge celestial snow globe. Fire and ice, ice and fire. Gentlemen, round worlds are intrinsically flawed. If there's any hidden gods on ours, they're pretty damn well hidden.'
'The Omnians say "Don't play God. He always wins",' said the Senior Wrangler.
'I dare say,' said Ridcully 'So ... one more day, gentlemen? And then we can get on with something sensible.'

The red sun rose quickly over the parched veldt. The apes stirred in their cave, which was little more than a rocky overhang, and saw the big black rectangle looming over them.
The Dean tapped it with his pointer
'Do try to pay attention today, will you?' He turned and chalked rapidly across the blackboard. 'Here we have R ... O ... C ... K, rock. Can anyone tell me what you do with it? Anyone? Anyone? Look, stop doing that, will you?' He tried to hit an ape with his vir¬tual pointer, and then flung it away in disgust. It vanished.
'Filthy little devils,' he muttered.
'Not getting anywhere, Dean?' said Ridcully, appearing beside him.
Wo, Archchancellor. I've tried to explain to them that they've probably got just a few million years, and that's pretty hard to do in sign language, let me tell you. But the only word they know is S-E-X, and they don't waste time spelling it, oh no! For this I skipped breakfast?'
'Never mind. Let's see how the Senior Wrangler's getting on.'
'They're just bad copies of humans, if you ask me...’
The wizards vanished.
One of the apes knuckled over to the blackboard, and watched it disappear from view as HEX completed the spell.
He hadn't the faintest idea what had been happening, but he had been impressed by the stick that had been waved about. That seemed to have gone now. That didn't worry the ape, which knew about things vanishing, often, these days, a member of the clan would vanish overnight, with a lot of snarling in the shadows.
There was probably something you could do with a stick, he thought. Hopefully, it might involve sex.
He poked around in the debris and found not a stick but a dried-up thighbone, which had a sufficiently stick-like shape.
He rattled it on the ground a few times. It didn't do anything much. Then he reluctantly decided it would probably be impossible to mate with at the moment, and hurled it high into the air.
It rose, turning over and over.
When it fell, it knocked him unconscious.

The Senior Wrangler was sitting under a virtually-there beach umbrella when the other wizards arrived. He looked as downcast as the Dean.
A group of apes was playing in the surf.
'Worse than the lizards,' he said. 'They had some style, at least. When this lot pick up anything, they try to see if they can eat it. What's the point of that?'
'Well, I suppose they can find out if it's edible,' said Ridcully.
'But they just mess about,' said the Senior Wrangler. 'Oh, no ... here we go again ...'
There was a raucous shrieking as the tribe rushed out of the waves and swung up into the nearby mangrove trees. A shadow sped beyond the surf and headed back into the blue water, to an unre¬garded chorus of simian catcalls and mangrove seeds.
'Oh yes, and they like throwing things,' said the Senior Wrangler.
'Seafood is good for the brain, my granny always said,' said Ridcully.
'This lot couldn't eat too much of it, then. Yell, throw things, and prod stuff to see what it does, that's the extent of their capabil¬ities. Oh, why didn't we discover the lizards earlier? They had class?’
'Wouldn't have stopped the snowball,' said Ridcully.
'No. You were right, Archchancellor. It's so pointless.'
The three wizards stood looking gloomily out to sea. In the mid¬dle distance, dolphins stitched their way across the water.
'Should be coming up to coffee time,' said the Dean, to break the silence.
'Good thinking, that man.'
Rincewind was wandering in the next bay, staring at the cliffs. Oh, things were killed off on the Discworld, but... well... sensibly. There were floods, fires and, of course, heroes. There was nothing like a hero for a species whose number was up. But at least some actual thought went into it.
The cliff was a series of horizontal lines. They represented ancient surfaces, some of which Rincewind had virtually walked on. And in many of them were the bones of ancient creatures, turned into stone by a process Rincewind did not understand and rather distrusted. Life had some how come out of the rocks of this world, and here you could see it going back. There were whole layers of rock made out of life, millions of years of little skeletons. Faced with a natural wonder on that scale, you could only be overawed by the sheer chasms of time or else try to find someone to complain to.
A few rocks fell out, halfway up the cliff. A couple of small legs waved uncertainly in the strata, and then the Luggage tumbled out, slid down the pile of debris at the foot of the cliff, and landed on its lid.
Rincewind watched it struggle for a while, sighed, and pushed it the right way up. At least some things didn't change.
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Zodijak Taurus
Pol Žena
Poruke 18761
Zastava Srbija


You KNOW WHAT'S GOING TO HAPPEN TO THE APES -they're going to turn into us. But why do we have them playing in the surf? Because it's fun? Yes ... but more significantly, because the seashore is central to one of the two main theories about how our ape ancestors acquired big brains. The other, more orthodox theory places the evolution of the big brain out on the African savannahs, and we know that some of our ancestors lived on the savannahs because we've found fossils. Unfortunately, seashores aren't a good place to leave fossils. You often find them there, but that's because they were deposited when the area wasn't a seashore at all, and the sea has subsequently eroded the rocks to expose the fossils. In the absence of direct evidence of this kind, the surfing apes theory has to take second place ... but it does explain our brains rather neatly, whereas the savannah theory rather sidesteps this issue.

Our closest living relatives are two species of chimpanzee: the stan¬dard boisterous 'zoo' chimp Pan troglodytes and its more slender cousin the bonobo (or pygmy) chimp Pan paniscus. Bonobos live in very inaccessible parts of Zaire, and weren't recognized as a sepa¬rate species of chimpanzee until 1929. We can to some extent unravel the past evolutionary history of the great apes by compar¬ing their DNA sequences. Human DNA differs from the DNA of either chimpanzee by a mere 1.6%, that is, we have 98.4% of our DNA sequences in common with theirs. (It is interesting to specu¬late on what the Victorians would have made of this.) The two species of chimpanzee have DNA that differs by only 0.7%. Gorillas differ from us, and from both chimps, by 2.3%. For orang¬utans, the difference from us is 3.6%.
These differences may seem small, but you can pack an awful lot into a small percentage of an ape genome. A big chunk of what we have in common must surely consist of 'subroutines' that organize basic features of vertebrate and mammalian architecture, tell us how to be an ape, and tell us how to deal with things we've all got -like hair, fingers, internal organs, blood ... The mistake is to imag¬ine that everything that makes us human and not a chimpanzee must live in that other 1.6% of 'special' DNA, but DNA doesn't work that way. For example, some of the genes in that 1.6% of the genome may organize the other 98.4% in a completely new way. If you look at the computer code for a wordprocessor and a spread¬sheet, you'll find they have an awful lot in common, routines for reading the keyboard, printing to the screen, searching for a given text string, changing fonts to italic, responding to a click on the mouse ... but this doesn't mean that the only distinction between a spreadsheet and a wordprocessor lies in the relatively few routines that are different.
Since evolution involves changes to DNA, we can use the sizes of those differences to estimate when various ape species diverged from each other. This method was introduced by Charles Sibley and Jon Ahlquist in 1973, and while it needs to be interpreted with caution, it works well here.
A convenient unit of time for such discussions is the 'Grandfather', which we define to be 50 years. It's a good human length, being about the age difference between the child and the grandparent who says 'When I was young ...' and passes on a sense of history. In these terms, Christ lived 40 Grandfathers ago, and the Babylonians go back about 100 Grandfathers. That's not a lot of grandads, passing down through recorded human history recollec¬tions like '... we never had any of this modern cuneiform when I was a lad ...' and'... bronze was good enough for me'. Human time is not very deep. We've just been good at packing a lot into it.
DNA studies indicate that the two chimp species diverged about 60,000 Grandfathers ago, three million years. Humans and chimps diverged 80,000 Grandfathers earlier, so a chain of only 140,000 grandfathers unites you and your chimplike ancestor. Who was also, we hasten to point out, a modern chimpanzee's manlike ancestor. Humans and gorillas diverged 200,000 Grandfathers ago; humans and orangutans diverged 300,000 Grandfathers ago. So among these animals, we are most closely related to a chimpanzee, and least closely related to the orangutan. This conclusion is borne out by physical appearance and habits, too. Bonobos really like sex.
If those times seem rather short for all the necessary evolution¬ary changes, bear two things in mind. First, that they were estimated by using a realistic rate for DNA mutations; second, that according to Nilsson and Pelger an entire eye can evolve in a mere 8,000 Grandfathers, and lots of different changes can, should, and did evolve in parallel.
The most striking feature of humans is the size of our brains: bigger, in comparison to body weight, than any other animal. Strikingly bigger. A detailed story of what makes us human must be extraordinarily complicated, but it's clear that big, powerful brains were the main invention that made it all possible. So we now have two obvious questions to think about: 'Why did we evolve big brains?' and 'How did we evolve big brains?'
The standard theory addresses the 'why'. It maintains that we evolved out on the savannahs, surrounded by lots of big predators, lions, leopards, hyenas, and without much cover. We had to become smart in order to survive. Rincewind would instantly see one flaw in this theory: 'If we were so smart, why did we stay on the savannahs, surrounded by lots of big predators?' But, as we've said, it fits the fossil evidence. The unorthodox theory addresses the 'how'. Big brains need lots of brain cells, and brain cells need lots of chemicals known as 'essential fatty acids'. We have to get these from our food, we can't build them ourselves from anything sim¬pler, and they're in short supply out on the savannahs. However, as Michael Crawford and David Marsh pointed out in 1991, they are abundant in seafood.
Nine years earlier Elaine Morgan had developed Alister Hardy's theory of the 'aquatic ape': we evolved not on the savannahs, but on the seashore. The theory fits a number of human peculiarities: we like water (newborn babies can swim), we have a funny pattern of hair on our bodies, and we walk upright. Go to any Mediterranean resort and you see at once that an awful lot of naked apes think that the seashore is the place to hang out.

Brains are fascinating. They are the physical vehicle for minds, which are even more interesting. Minds are (or, at least, give their owners the vivid impression that they are) conscious, and they have (or, at least, give their owners the vivid impression that they have) free will Minds operate in a world of 'qualia', vivid sense impres¬sions like red, hot, sexy. Qualia aren't abstractions: they are 'feelings'. We all know what it's like to experience them. Science has no idea what makes them the way they are.
Brains, though ... we can make progress on brains. On one level, brains are a kind of computational device. Their most obvious physical components are nerve cells, arranged in complicated net¬works. Mathematicians have studied such networks, and they find that what networks do is to carry out interesting processes. Give them an input and they will produce an output. Allow their inter¬connections to evolve by selecting for specific associations of input and output, such as responding to an image of a banana but not to an image of a dead rat, and pretty soon you've got a really effective banana-detector.
What makes the human brain unique, as far as we can tell, is that it has become recursive. As well as detecting a banana, it can think about detecting a banana. It can think thoughts about its own thought processes. It is a pattern-recognition device that has turned its attention to its own patterns. This ability is what lies behind human intelligence. It probably underpins consciousness, too: one of the patterns that the pattern-recognition device has learned to recognize is itself. It has become 'self-aware'.
As a result, brains operate on at least two levels. On a reduc¬tionist level they are networks of nerve cells sending each other incredibly complex but ultimately meaningless messages, like ants scurrying around inside an anthill. On another level, they are an integrated self, the anthill as a personality in its own right. Douglas Hofstadter's Godel, Esther, Bach includes a sequence where Aunt Hillary (who is an anthill, use the American pronun¬ciation of 'Aunt') has a meeting with Dr Anteater. When Dr Anteater arrives, the ants go into a panic, they change their actions. To Aunt Hillary, who operates on the emergent level, this change represents the knowledge that Dr Anteater has arrived. She is entirely happy to watch Dr Anteater consuming a meal of 'her' ants. Ants are a virtually inexhaustible resource, she can always breed new ones to take the place of the ones that got eaten.
The link between the ants and Hillary's 'anthilligence' is emer¬gent, felicitously, it. operates across what we have termed 'Ant Country'. The same action means one thing for the ants, but some¬thing quite different, and transcendent, for Hillary. Replace Hillary by yourself, your self, the 'you' that you feel is experiencing your thoughts, and ants by brain cells, and you're contemplating the connection between mind and brain.
Now you've gone self-referential.

Neural networks are what the brain is built from, but there's more to evolving a brain than just assembling big neural nets. Brains operate in terms of high-level 'modules', a module for running, another for recognizing danger, another for putting the whole ani¬mal on the alert, and so on. Each such module is an emergent feature of a complex neural network, and it wasn't designed: it evolved. Millions of years of evolution trained those modules to respond instantly and exquisitely.
The modules aren't separate. They share nerve cells, they over¬lap, they're not necessarily a well-defined region in the brain, any more than 'Vodafone' is a well-defined region of the telephone net¬work. According to Daniel Dennett, they are like a collection of demons, operating by 'pandemonium'. They all shout, and at any given instant, whoever shouts loudest wins (quite a lot of the Internet has borrowed this design).
Modern humanity has built a culture around those modules, an idea that we'll explore later, and in so doing has subverted them to new purposes. The module for spotting lions has become, in part, a module for reading Discworld books. The module for sensing bodily movement has, in part, turned into one for doing certain kinds of mathematics, those parts of mechanics where a physical 'feel' for the problem may well be precisely that. Our culture has rebuilt our minds, and our minds have in turn rebuilt our culture, over and over again, in each generation.
Such a radical restructuring must have simpler precursors. A key step towards the human mind was the invention of the nest. Before there were nests, baby organisms could carry out only very limited experiments in behaviour. If every time you try out a new game you get gobbled up by a python, novelty will not carry a pre¬mium. In the comfort and relative safety of the nest, however, the error part of trial-and-error is no longer automatically fatal. Nests let you play, and play lets you explore the phase space of possible behaviours and find new, sometimes useful, strategies. Further along the same path lies the family, the pack, and the tribe, with cer¬tain shared behaviours and mutual protection. Meerkats, a kind of mongoose, have an intricate tribal structure, and take turns doing the dangerous (because more exposed) job of Lookout.
Humans have turned such tactics into a global strategy: adults devote huge amounts of time, energy, food, and money to the task of bringing up their children. Intelligence is both a consequence of this brilliantly successful strategy, and a cause.

The Dean would be well advised to take this link between family life and intelligence into account. He's trying to educate the apes by the direct route (R ... O ... C ... K ...) but all they have on their tiny minds is S-E-X. Many school teachers will sympathize ... but if only he realized that sexual bonding is a major factor in humanoid family life, and family life engenders intelligence ,..
Bonobos are the perfect model for the Dean's sex-mad apes. They are promiscuous in the extreme, making use of sex where we would be content with a smile and a wave or a gentlemanly hand¬shake. Female bonobos have serial sex with dozens of males, or with females, almost in passing; the males do likewise. Adults engage in sexual activities with children, too. It all seems very casual. It helps bond the tribe. For them it seems to work fine.
Ordinary chimps are promiscuous by the standards of orthodox human morality, though probably no more than many humans are. Pairs of males and females will disappear together for a few days, and then form new partnerships ... Humans generally mate for life (a term meaning 'until we get fed up') and one reason is the enor¬mous amount of effort that a human couple must put into raising the kids. Sex helps to cement the parental relationship, encouraging each parent to trust the other. This .may be why, even in an allegedly sexually relaxed age, most people see extramarital flings as a form of betrayal, and why, despite that, the erring partner is more often than not allowed back into the family fold.
It's not surprising that we have sex on the brain: our brains have been moulded by sex. The Dean should let sex take its course, for intelligence will surely follow ... You just have to think on the scale of Deep Time. There's no rush.



RINCEWIND SAT IN A CORNER of the High Energy Magic building. It was deserted at the moment. News had got around that the project was really being ended this time, and wizards had drifted away to lunch.
The round world spun in its protective globe and also, by means of a physics only a wizard might understand, in a space that was infinite only on the inside.
'Poor old bloody place,' he said, to the world in general. 'Never really stood a chance, did you.'
It was a small grunt, from the other side of the huge room. Rincewind wandered over, and found the Librarian peering into the omniscope.
'Oh, they've got sticks now,' said Rincewind, looking down at a ragged party of apes. 'And a lot of good it'll do them, too.'
'The lizards had sharp shells on the end of theirs, and are they around today? I don't think so. And the crabs were doing well. Even the blobs were trying to make a go of things. There were some bear sort of things that looked promising. Doesn't matter. One winter the snow doesn't melt, next thing there's a two-mile wall of ice lam¬inating you to the bedrock. Or there's a funny light in the sky and then you're trying to breathe burning water.' He shook his head wearily. 'Nice place, though. Nice colours. Particularly good hori¬zons, once you get used to them. Lots of dullness, punctuated by short periods of death.'
'Ook?' said the Librarian.
'Well, maybe they do look a bit like you,' said Rincewind. 'Most of the lizards looked a bit like the Bursar. Maybe it's just coincidence. Everything has to look like something, after all. As above, so below.'
In the omniscope, some distance behind the ape clan, something lean and powerful was tracking them in the long grass.
The Librarian thumped on the desk.
'Sorry. It's not up to me. "Live and let live", you know that's always been my motto. Well, "let me live", really, but that's almost the same thing.'
Hands waving wildly over his head, which only happened when he was really in a hurry, the Librarian ran out of the room.
Rincewind caught him up as he entered the main building, and then trotted along after him as the ape wound his way through the university's less salubrious regions, the realm of broom cupboards, old storerooms and the studies of the very much lesser members of staff. Even using all the shortcuts, it still took quite a while to reach the office of the Egregious Professor of Cruel and Unusual Geography, with the name 'Rincewind' written on it in chalk.
The orangutan flung the door back and knuckled purposefully towards the big stack of boxes.
'Er ... that's the rock collection,' said Rincewind. 'Er ... I was filing them ... er ... they belong to the University, I really don't think you should be throwing them out like that...’
The Librarian straightened up, bearing aloft a couple of large rocks that Rincewind recognized as noduley, sharp, brittle, unfriendly rocks.
'Er ... why are you ...' Rincewind began.
The Librarian walked across to the Luggage and gave it a kick. The lid opened obediently, and the rocks were thrown inside. The ape went back for more flints.
'Er ...' said Rincewind, but left it at that. This did not seem to be a time to raise objections.
He had to run after the Librarian and the Luggage all the way back to the High Energy Magic Building. By the time he got there, the ape was pounding heavily on one of HEX's keyboards.
Rincewind tried again.
'Er ... should you be ...'
He was interrupted by the rattle of the machine's writing device.
It spelled out: +++ New Suit Parameters Accepted +++
On the far side of the room, where the skeletal virtually-there suits flicked on the verge of non-existence, one changed shape. The shoulders widened. The arms grew longer. The legs shortened…
+++ Adjustment Complete. On You It Looks Good +++
Rincewind backed away as the Librarian, cradling a large flint nodule in each arm, stepped in the magic circle and began to shim¬mer as the suit enclosed him.
'You're not going to interfere, are you?' said Rincewind.
'No, no, that's fine, fine, no problem at all,' said Rincewind. It is never wise to argue with an ape holding a rock. 'It's about time someone did.'
The Librarian flickered, and became a ghost in the air.
Rincewind stood alone in the empty room, whistling nervously. In its alcove, HEX began to sparkle, as it always did when it was try¬ing to allow a wizard to interact with the project.
'Blast!' said Rincewind at last, striding over to the suits. 'He's bound to muck it up ...'

Lightning fried the evening sky, turning it purple and pink.
Above the little hollow in the cliff, where the tribe clustered and flinched, a sleek black shadow moved like an extension of the night. It wasn't hurrying. Dinner wasn't going anywhere. When the light¬ning faded its eyes gleamed for a while.
Something grabbed its tail. It spun around, snarling, and a fist extended on the end of a very long arm hit it right between the eyes, lifting it off the ledge.
It landed heavily on the ground, jerked for a moment, and lay still.
The ape horde scattered around the rocks, screaming, and then stopped to look back.
The big cat didn't move.
Another bolt of lighting hit the ground nearby, and a dead tree exploded into flame. Against the violet corona of the storm, red in the light of the burning tree, a huge figure stood holding a large stone in the crook of each arm.
As Rincewind said, it was a vision you were unlikely to forget.

*   *   *

Rincewind couldn't eat here. Well, not in the usual, definitive way. He thought he could probably manipulate lumps of food into his mouth, but since the food would technically remain in a different universe to his, he was afraid it might drop straight through him, to general embarrassment and the puzzlement of spectators.
Besides, he didn't feel like flame-grilled leopard.
The Librarian had been working furiously. He'd turned the area into a boot camp for people who were barely upright and wouldn't know what to do with a boot anyway. The apemen had taken to fire quite quickly, after a few misdirected attempts to eat it or have sex with it, and several of them had progressed to setting fire to them¬selves.
They'd learned cookery, too, initially on one another.
Rincewind sighed. He'd seen species come, and he'd seen them go, and this one could only have been put on the world for enter¬tainment value. They had the same approach to life as clowns, with the same touch of cheerful viciousness.
The Librarian had progressed to lessons in flint-knapping, using the flints brought in via the Luggage. They'd certainly picked up the idea of hitting rocks against other rocks, or anything else in range. Sharp edges intrigued them.
Finally Rincewind wandered over to the Librarian and tapped him on the shoulder.
'We've been here all day,' he said. 'We'd better get back.'
The orangutan nodded, and stood up. 'Ook.'
'You think it'll work?'
Rincewind looked back at the apemen. One of them was indus¬triously hacking at the corpse of the cat again.
'Really? But they're just like ... hairy parrots.'
'Eek ook.'
'Well ... yes. That's true.' Rincewind took a final look at the horde. Two of them were squabbling over the meat. Monkey see, monkey do ...
'I'm glad it was you who said that,' he said.

Less than a Discworld second had passed by the time they returned. By the time they looked in the omniscope, several fires were already visible on the night side of the world.
The Librarian looked pleased. 'Oook,' he said.
Progress means smoke. But Rincewind was not entirely con¬vinced. Most of the fires were forests.

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Poruke 18761
Zastava Srbija


PROGRESS MEANS SMOKE ... The human race has certainly made a lot of progress over the years, then. How did we do that? Because we're intelli¬gent, we've got brains. Minds, even. But other creatures are intelligent, dolphins, especially. And all they seem to do is enjoy themselves in the sea. What have we got that they haven't?
Many discussions of the mind treat it essentially as a question about the architecture of the brain. The viewpoint is that this deter¬mines what brains can do, and then the various things that we associate with minds, the difficult problems of free will, con¬sciousness and intelligence, come out of neurophysiology. That's one approach. The other common one is to view the problem through the eyes of a social scientist or an anthropologist. From this viewpoint the mind's capabilities are pretty much taken as 'given', and the main questions are how human culture builds on those capabilities to create minds able to think original thoughts, feel emotions, have concepts like love and beauty, and so on. It may seem that between them these two approaches pretty much cover the territory. Link them, and you have a complete answer to the question of mind.
However, neurophysiology and culture aren't independent: they are 'complicit'. By this we mean that they have evolved together, each changing the other repeatedly, and their mutual coevolution built on the unpredictable results of that ongoing interaction. The view of culture building on, and changing, brains is incomplete, because brains also build on, and change, culture. The concept of complicity captures this recursive, mutual influence.
We call the brain's internal capabilities Intelligence'. It is con¬venient to give a similar name to all of the external influences, cultural or otherwise, that affect the evolution of the brain, and with it, the mind. We shall call these influences extelligence, a term that HEX has picked up thanks to once-and-future computing. Mind is not just intelligence plus extelligence, its inside and out¬side, so to speak. Instead, mind is a feedback loop in which intelligence influences extelligence, extelligence influences intelli¬gence, and the combination transcends the capabilities of both.

Intelligence is the ability of the brain to process information. But intelligence is only part of what is needed to make a mind. And even intelligence is unlikely to evolve in isolation.
Culture is basically a collection of interacting minds. Without individual minds you can't have a culture. The converse is perhaps less obvious, but equally true: without a shared culture, the human mind cannot evolve. The reason is that there is nothing in the envi¬ronment of the evolving mind that can drive it towards self-complication, becoming more sophisticated, unless that brain has something else fairly sophisticated to interact with. And the main sophisticated thing around to interact with is minds of other people. So the evolution of intelligence and that of extelli¬gence are inextricably linked, and complicity between them is inevitable.
In the world around us are things that we, or other human beings, have created, things which play a similar role to intelli¬gence but sit outside us. They are things like libraries, books, and the Internet, which from the viewpoint of exteiligence would be better named the 'Extranet'. The Discworld concept of 'L-space' -library-space, is similar: it's all one thing. These influences, sources not just of information but of meaning, are 'cultural capital'. They are things that people put out into the culture, which can then sit there, or even reproduce, or interact in a way that individuals can't control.
The old artificial intelligence question: 'Can we create an intel¬ligent machine?' viewed the machine as a once-off object in its own right. The problem, people assumed, was to get the machine's architecture right, and then program intelligent behaviour into it.
But that's probably the wrong approach. Of course, it is certainly conceivable that the collective extelligence of all the human beings interacting with that machine could put a mind into it, and in par¬ticular endow it with intelligence. But it seems much more likely that, unless you had a whole community of machines interacting with each other and evolving, providing the requisite extelligence too, then you wouldn't be actually able to structure the Ant Country of the neural connections of the machine in a way that could gen¬erate a mind. So the story of the mind is one of complicity and emergence. Indeed, mind is one of the great examples of complic¬ity.
The internal story of the development of the mind can be summed up as a series of steps in which the key 'player' is the nerve cell A nerve cell is an extended object that can send signals from one place to another Once you've got nerve cells you can have net¬works of nerve cells; and once you've got networks, then a whole pile of stuff comes along free of charge. For example, there is an area of complexity theory called 'emergent computation'. It turns out that when you evolve a network, randomly chosen networks, arbitrary networks, not constructed with specific purposes, they do things. They do something, which may or may not seem mean¬ingful; they do whatever it is that that network does. But you can often look at what that network does, and spot emergent features. You discover that even though its architecture was random, it evolved the ability to compute things. It carries out algorithmic processes (or something close to algorithmic processes). The ability to do calculations, computations, algorithms seems to come free of charge once you've invented devices that send signals from one place to another and react to those signals to send new signals. If you allow evolution you don't have to work hard to create the abil¬ity to do some kind of processing.
Once you've got that facility, it's a relatively short step to the ability to do specific kinds of processing that happen to be useful -that happen to offer survival value. All you need is the standard Darwinian selection procedure. Anything that's got that ability sur¬vives, anything that hasn't, doesn't. The ability to process incoming information in ways that extract an interesting feature of the out¬side world, react to it, and thereby make it easier to evade a predator or to spot food, gets reinforced. The brain's internal architecture comes from a phase space of possible structures, and evolution selects from that phase space. Put those two together and you can evolve structures in the brain that have specific functions. The brain's surroundings certainly influence the development of the brain.

Do animals have minds? They do to some extent, depending on the animal. Even simple animals can have surprisingly sophisticated mental abilities. One of the most surprising is a funny creature called a mantis shrimp.
It's like the shrimps you put inside a sandwich and eat, except that it's about 5 inches (12 cm) long and it's more complex. You can keep a mantis shrimp in a tank, as part of a miniature marine ecol¬ogy. If you do, you'll find that mantis shrimps cause havoc. They tend to destroy things, but they also build things. One thing they love building is tunnels, which they then live in. The mantis shrimp is a bit of an architect, and it decorates the front of its tunnel with bits and pieces of things, especially bits and pieces of what it has just killed. Hunting trophies. It doesn't like to have just one tunnel - it's discovered that if you have one tunnel with one entrance, that's more correctly known as a 'trap'. So it likes to have a back entrance too, and more. By the time it's been in the tank for about two months, it's riddled the entire tank with tunnels, and you find it sticking its head out at one end or the other without seeing it pass between.
Years ago, Jack used to have a mantis shrimp called Dougal. Jack and his students discovered that they could set Dougal puzzles. They would feed it shrimps and it would come out and grab the shrimp. Then they would put the shrimp inside a plastic container with a lid and after a little while Dougal would like to take the lid off the container and eat the shrimp. And then they put an elastic band around the container to hold the lid on, and Dougal would learn to take the band off and open the container and eat the shrimp. And after a while if they stuck a shrimp in on its own, you could almost see the mantis shrimp coming out and looking disap¬pointed: 'They haven't set me a puzzle, this is no fun, I don't want to play this game!' And it would take a long look at the shrimp and then go back into its tunnel without grabbing it.
Although we can think of no way to prove this, everyone got the strong impression that the shrimp was developing a little bit of a mind. Its brain had the potential to do so, and humans had provided it with the kind of context that would help it develop that potential. Wild mantis shrimps don't go out and play with elastic bands, because those aren't part of their environment, but if you give them that kind of stimulus, you change them. Because we've got minds, we also have the capacity to create a little bit of mind in a lot of other creatures.

Mind is a process, or a network of processes, going on inside the brain. It needs a certain amount of interaction with other minds in order to get anywhere. There isn't an evolutionary feedback loop that would train an incipient mind and make it develop unless it was getting somewhere. So where does such a loop occur? Human beings are part of a reproductive system, there are a lot of us, and we keep breeding new ones. In consequence, a large part of the environment of any human being is other human beings. In many ways this is the most important part of our environment, the part we respond to most deeply. We have all sorts of cultural systems, such as education, that exploit exactly this feature of our environ¬ment to develop the kind of mind that fits into the existing culture and helps to propagate it. So the context for an individual mind, as it evolves, is not that mind, it's lots of other minds. There is a com-plicit feedback loop between the entire collection of minds, and that of each individual.
Human beings have taken this process to such an extreme that part of that feedback loop has escaped from our control and is now outside us. In a sense, it has a mind of its own. This is extelligence, and we can't do without it. A lot of what makes us human is not passed on genetically, it is passed on culturally. It is passed on by the tribe, it is passed on through rituals, by teaching, by things that link brain to brain, mind to mind. Your genetics may make it possi¬ble for you to do this, it may make you better or worse at it than others, but genes don't actually encode the information that gets passed on. This process is the 'Make-a-Human-Being-Kit'. Each culture has devised a technique for putting into the minds of the next generation what it is that will make them put it into the minds of the generation after that, a recursive system that keeps the cul¬ture going. Lies-to-children often feature prominently.
We are running into problems doing this today, because old-style tribal cultures, even national cultures, are becoming intermingled with an international culture. This leads to clashes between what used to be separate cultures, triggering their breakdown. Go into any city in the world and you see adverts for Coca-Cola. Global commerce has put things into various cultures that are different from what they would have developed of their own accord. Coca-Cola does not have a huge influence on the Make-a-Human-Being-Kit, though, so it's acceptable to most cultures. On the whole, you don't find religious fundamentalists complaining about the existence of a Coca-Cola bottling factory in their country (well, you do, but generally because it's just a way of saying 'USA out!') However, if some fast-food chain in Islamic or Jewish countries was trying to sell porkburgers, there'd be plenty of protests.
Extelligence has become so powerful and so influential that nowadays one generation's culture may be radically different from the previous generation's culture. Second-generation immigrants often have an even worse problem, a culture clash. They've grown up in the 'new' country, and they've absorbed how that country works. They speak the language far more fluently than their parents ever can, but they've still got to please their parents. When they're at home, they have to behave in the manner of their original culture. But when they're at school, they have to live in the new culture. This makes them feel distinctly uncomfortable, and that can break the cultural feedback loop. Once the loop is broken, parts of the cul¬ture cease to be transmitted to the next generation: they drop out of the Make-a-Human-Being-Kit.
In this sense, extelligence is out of our control. It escaped our control when it became reproductive: extelligence being used to copy (bits of) extelligence.
The key step was the invention of printing. Prior to written lan¬guage, extelligence was passed on by word of mouth. It still lived in people's minds: it was what the wise men and women of the village, the old people, knew. And all the while extelligence resided in human memories, it couldn't grow, because one person can remem¬ber only so much. When you could write things down, extelligence expanded a bit, but there is only so much that you can write down by hand. And it can't spread very far. So mostly you get things like the Egyptian monuments, the history of some particular ruler, his greatest battles, excerpts from the Book of the Dead ...
Another important but apparently mundane function of writing in human society is taxes, accounts, keeping track of property. These sound dull compared with the list of battles, but a growing society needs something better than an old man's memory of 'who owns what' and 'who paid how much'. The list was a great inven¬tion.
With printing came the possibility of disseminating information far more widely, and in quantity. Within a few years of printing becoming established in Europe there were fifty million books in existence, which means more books than people. Printing was a very slow procedure in those days, but nonetheless there were lots of printing presses, and you could sell whatever you printed, so there were plenty of pressures that encouraged printing to flourish. And then complicity really set in, because what's on a piece of paper can come back and bite you in the ankle. The rulers started putting constitutional rights and obligations down on paper, to protect their own position: once it's down on paper that the king has certain rights and obligations, then the paper can always be referred to later, and used as an argument.
But what the kings didn't realize, to start with, is that when they put their rights and obligations down on paper, they were implicitly constraining their own actions. The citizens could read what was on the paper too. They could tell if their king was suddenly assuming rights or obligations that were not on the piece of paper. The whole effect of law on human society started to change when you could write the law down, and anyone who could read could see what the kw was. This didn't mean that the kings always obeyed the kw, of course, but it meant that when they disobeyed it, everyone knew what they were doing. That had a big effect on the structure of human society. One minor aspect of it is that we always appear to be nervous of people who write things down...
At that point, extelligence and intelligence began to interact complicitly. Once an interaction becomes complicit, there's no way for an individual to control it. You can push things out into the extelligence, but you can't predict what influence they will have. What's out there is growing in a way that may be mediated by human beings, but, for example, the people printing books were krgely printing them independently of their contents. Early on, anything in print would sell.
All words had power. But written words had a lot more. They still do.

So far we've talked as if extelligence is a single unified external thing. In some sense it is, but what is actually important is the inter¬face between extelligence and the individual. This is a very personal feedback loop: we meet selections from extelligence through our parents, the books we read, the teachers who teach us, and so on. This is how the Make-a-Human-Being-Kit works, this is why we have cultural diversity. If we all responded to the same pool of extelligence in exactly the same way, we would all be the same. The whole system would suddenly become a kind of monoculture rather than a multiculture.
Human extelligence is currently going through a period of mas¬sive expansion. Much more is becoming possible. Your interface to extelligence used to be very predictable: your parents, teachers, rel¬atives, friends, village, tribe. That allowed clusters of particular kinds of subculture to flourish, to some extent independently of the other subcultures, because you never got to hear about the others. Their world view was always filtered before it got to you. In Whit, lain Banks describes a strange Scottish religious sect, and children who grow up in this sect. Even though some members of the sect are interacting with the outside world, the only important influences on them are what's going on within the sect. Even by the end of the story the character who has gone into the outside world and inter¬acted with it in all sorts of ways has one idea in mind and one only, to become the leader of the sect and to continue propagating the sect's views. This behaviour is typical of human clusters, until extelligence intervenes.
Today's extelligence doesn't have a single world view, like a sect does. It doesn't really have a world view at all. Extelligence is becoming 'multiplex', a concept introduced by the science-fiction writer Samuel R. Delany in the novel Empire Star. Simplex minds have a single-world view and know exactly what everyone ought to do. Complex minds recognize the existence of different world views. Multiplex ones wonder how useful a specific world view actually is in a world of conflicting paradigms, but find a way to operate despite that.
Anyone who wants to can get on the Internet and construct a webpage about UFOs, telling everybody who accesses that page that UFOs exist, they're out there in space, they come down to Earth, they abduct people, they steal their babies ... They do all these things and it's absolutely definite, because it's on the web.
A prominent astronomer was giving a talk about life on other planets and the possibility of aliens. He made out the scientific case that somewhere out in the galaxy intelligent aliens might exist. At that point a member of the audience put his hand up and said 'we know they exist: it's all over the Internet.'
On the other hand, you can access another page on the Internet and get a completely different view. On the Internet, the full diver¬sity of views is, or at least can be represented. It is quite democratic; the views of the stupid and credulous carry as much weight as the views of those who can read without moving their lips. If you think that the Holocaust didn't actually happen, and you can shout loud enough, and you can design a good web page, then you can be in there slugging it out with other people who believe that recorded history should have some kind of connection with reality.
We are having to cope with multiplexity. We're grappling with the problem right now: it's why global politics has suddenly become a lot more complicated than it used to be. Answers are in short sup¬ply, but one thing seems clear: rigid cultural fundamentalism isn't going to get us anywhere.



EXTELLIGENCE BLOOMED, faster than HEX could cre¬ate extra space in which to apprehend it. It reached the seas and spread out across the conti¬nents, left the surface of the world, spun webs across the sky, reached the moon ... and went fur¬ther, as intelligence sought things to be intelligent about.
Extelligence learned. Among many other things, it learned to fear.

The HEM filled up again as the wizards returned, unsteadily, from lunch.
'Ah, Rincewind,' said the Archchancellor. 'We're looking for a volunteer to go into the squash court and shut down the reactor, and we've found you. Well done.'
'Is it dangerous?' said Rincewind.
'That depends on how you define dangerous,' said Ridcully.
'Er ... liable to cause pain and an imminent cessation of respira¬tion,' suggested Rincewind. 'A high risk of agony, a possible deficit of arms and legs, a terminal shortness of breath...’
Ridcully and Ponder went into a huddle. Rincewind heard them whispering. Then the Archchancellor turned, beaming.
'We've decided to come to a new definition,' he said. 'It is "not as dangerous as many other things". I beg you pardon ...' He leaned over as Ponder whispered urgently in his ear. 'Correction, "not as dangerous as some other things". There. I think that's clear.'
'Well, yes, you mean ... not as dangerous as some of the most dangerous things in the universe?'
'Yes, indeed. And among them, Rincewind, would be your refusal to go.' The Archchancellor walked over to the omniscope. 'Oh, another ice age,' he went on. 'Well, that is a surprise.'
Rincewind glanced at the Librarian, who shrugged. Only a few tens of thousands of years could have passed down there. The apes probably never knew what squashed them.
There was a lengthy rattle from HEX's write-out. Ponder walked over to read it.
'Er ... Archchancellor? HEX says he's found advanced intelli¬gence on the planet.'
'Intelligent life? Down there? But the place is a snowball again!'
'Er ... not life, sir. Not exactly.'
'Hang on, what's this?' said the Dean.
There was, thin as a thread, a ring around the world. Spaced at regular distances were tiny dots, like beads, and from them more tiny lines descended towards the surface.
So did the wizards.

Wind howled across the tundra. The ice was only a few hundred miles away, even here at the equator.
The wizards faded into existence, and looked around them.
'What the hell happened here?' said Ridcully.
The landscape was a welter of scars and pits. Roads were visible where they had buckled up through the snow, and there were the ruins of what could only have been buildings. But half the horizon was filled with what looked very much like an etiolated version of one of the giant shellfish proposed by the Lecturer in Recent Runes. It must have been several miles across at the base, and extended upwards beyond the limit of vision.
'Did any of you do this?' said Ridcully accusingly.
'Oh, come on? said the Dean. 'We don't even know what it is.'
Beyond the tangle of broken roadways the snow blew across deep trenches gouged out of the ground. Desolation reigned.
Ponder pointed towards the huge pyramid.
'Whatever we're looking for, it's in there,' he said.

The first thing the wizards noticed was the mournful bleating noise. It came and went in a regular way, on-off, on-off, and seemed to fill the entire structure.
The wizards wandered onwards, occasionally getting HEX to move them to different places. Nothing, they agreed, made much sense. The building was mostly full of roadways and loading docks, interspersed with massive pillars. It creaked, too, like an old galleon. They could hear the groaning noises, echoing far above. Occasionally, the ground trembled.
It was clear that important things happened in the centre. There were tubes, hundreds of feet high. The wizards recognized cranes, and failed to recognize huge engines of unknown purpose. Cables thick as a house rose into the darkness above.
Frost sparkled off everything.
Still the bleat went on.
'Look,' said Ponder.
Red words flashed on and off, high in the air.
'"A-L-A-A-M",' the Dean spelled out. 'I wonder why it's doing that? They seem to have invented magic, whoever they are. Getting letters to flash like that is quite difficult to do.'
Ponder disappeared for a moment, and then came back.
'HEX feels that this is a dumb-waiter,' he said. 'Er ... you know ... for lifting things to another level.'
'Going where?' said Ridcully.
'Er ... up, sir. Into that ... necklace around the world. HEX has been speaking to the intelligence here. It's a sort of HEX, sir. And it's nearly dead.'
'That's a shame,' said Ridcully He sniffed. 'Where's everyone gone, then?'
'Er ... they made huge ... sort of... big metal balls to live in. I know it sounds stupid, sir. But they've gone. Because of the ice. And there was a comet, too. Not very big. But it scared everyone. They built the ... the beanstalk things, and then they ... er ... mined metal out of floating rocks, and ... they left.'
'Where've they gone?'
'The ... intelligence isn't sure. It's forgotten. It says it's forgot¬ten a lot.'
'Oh, I understand? said the Dean, who'd been trying to follow this, 'Everyone's climbed up a great big beanstalk?'
'Er ... sort of, Dean,' said Ponder, in his diplomatic voice. 'In a manner of speaking.'
'Certainly messed the place up before they went,' said Ridcully.
Rincewind had been watching a rat scuttle away into the debris, but the words sunk in and exploded in his head.
'Messed up?' he growled. 'How?'
'Say again?' said Ridcully.
'Did you see the weather report for this world?' said Rincewind, waving his hands in the air. 'Two miles of ice, followed by a light shower of rocks, with outbreaks of choking fog for the next thou¬sand years? There will be widespread vulcanism as half a continent's worth of magma lets go, followed by a period of moun¬tain building? And that's normal.'
'Yes, well...’
'Oh, yes, there are some nice quiet periods, everything settles down, and then, whammo!'
'There's no need to get so excited...’
'I've been here!' said Rincewind. 'This is how this place works! And now, please, you tell me how, I mean how, can anything living on this world possibly mess it up? I mean, compared to what hap¬pens anyway?' He paused, and gulped air. 'I mean, don't get me wrong, if you pick the right time, yes, sure, it's a great world for a holiday, ten thousand years, even a few million if you're lucky with the weather but, good grief, it's just not a serious proposition for anything long term. It's a great place to grow up on, but you would¬n't want to live here. If any thing's got off, the best of luck to them.'
He waved a finger at the rat, who was watching them suspi¬ciously. Underneath them, the ground trembled again.
'See him?' he said. 'We know what's going to happen. In a mil¬lion years or so his kids are going to be saying, wow, what a great world the Big Rat made for us. Or it'll be the turn of the jellyfish, or something that's still bobbing around under the sea that we don't even know about yet! There's no future here! No, that's wrong ... I mean there's always a future, but it belongs to someone else. You know what chalk's made of here? Dead animals! The actual rock is made of dead animals! There were some ...'
Even in his overheated state, he paused. It probably wasn't a good idea to remind people about the apes. A vague, suspicious guilt was nudging him.
'There were these creatures,' he said, 'and they were using lime¬stone caves. Limestone's made from ancient blobs, I saw it being made, like snow in the water ... and these creatures are living in the bones of their ancestors! Really! This place ... this place is a kalei¬doscope. You smash it up, wait a moment, and there's another pretty pattern. And another one. And another o ...'He stopped. And sagged. 'Could I have a glass of water, please?'
'That was a very ... interesting speech,' said Ponder.
'A point of view, certainly,' said Ridcully.
The other wizards had, however, lost interest. They usually did, if the speeches were not given by them.
'Shall I tell you something else?' said Rincewind, a little more calmly. 'This world is an anvil. Everything here is between a rock and a hard place. Every single thing on it is the descendant of crea¬tures that have survived everything the world could throw at them. I just hope they never get angry ...'
The Senior Wrangler and the Dean had ambled towards a huge cylinder. The word 'MAETNANS' was painted in large black let¬ters on the side.
'Hey, you chaps!' the Dean shouted. 'There's something talking inhere ...'
The inside of the cylinder reminded the wizards of a lighthouse. There was a spiral staircase; shaped cupboards lined the walls. Lights glowed dimly, whole constellations of them. Certainly the builders of this thing had discovered magic.
The 'A-L-A-A-M' word still blinked on and off in the air.
'I wish that wretched thing would stop,' said the Senior Wrangler.
The light vanished. The sound stopped.
'They've probably invented demons,' said the Dean airily. 'Listen ... hello.'
A pleasant female voice said, 'Elevator Unstable.'
'Oh, magic,' said Ridcully flatly. 'Well, we know how to deal with magic. We want to go up in the magic box, voice.'
'Do we?' said Ponder
'Anything better than staying in this gloomy place,' said Ridcully. 'It'd be quite an interestin' experience, too. We'll take one last look the world and then, well ... frankly, that's it.'
'Instability Rising', said the voice. It did not sound worried by the news.
'What did it say?' said the Dean. 'Sounded like name of a place,'
'Very good, very good,' said Ridcully 'Now let's be going shall we?'
The pattern of lights moved. Then the voice said, as if it'd been thinking it over, 'Emerjansi Override.'
The door slid shut. The cylinder jerked. Shortly afterwards, some pleasant music started, and didn't really get on anyone's nerves for several minutes.
The rat watched the thing rise up the cables in the centre of the pyramid.
The ground shook again.

Slowly, the web around the world came apart.
Ice walls had attacked some of the cable moorings on the ground, but instability was already there, working inexorably as it had done for the past few weeks, turning little movements into big movements.
Slowly, one cable broke free from its pyramid, glowing red-hot as it was jerked through the atmosphere, flailing across the sky.
Around the curve of the world, the others danced and groaned...
When the end finally came, it took only a day. The lines folded around the centre of the world, writhing incandescently across hundreds of miles of snow. The necklace tore apart far above. Some bits drifted away. Others spun gently towards the surface, to impact hours later.
A ring of fire burned for a while around the equator.
And then the cold returned.
As the wizards said, it would all be the same in a hundred million years' time. But it would be different tomorrow.
In the deserted High Energy Building, HEX turned the omniscope outwards, homing in on signs of the strange new life.
It found comet cores, strung on cables thousands of miles long. There were dozens of these trains, many millions of miles from the frozen world, accelerating into the abyss between the stars.
Lights twinkled on their surfaces. The extelligence inside appeared to be travelling hopefully.

A yellow cylinder tumbled gently across the darkness. It was empty.

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RINCEWIND'S IMPASSIONED SPEECH HAS A POINT. If you think he's overstating his case, and that the Earth is really an idyllic place to live, bear in mind that he's been on our planet a lot longer than we have, and he's seen a lot that we've missed, because we experience the world on a much shorter timescale than the wizards have done. We think the planet's a great place. We grew up here. We were made for it, and it's just right for us ... at the moment. Tell that to the dinosaurs. You can't, can you. That's the point.
We're not suggesting that you sell up everything and start build¬ing a lifeboat. But even the United States congress is beginning to wonder just how safe our planet really is, and politicians are not usually known for taking long-term views. The sight of Shoemaker-Levy 9 smashing into Jupiter raised a few political eyebrows. Tentative schemes are afoot to set up a defence system against incoming comets and asteroids. Spotting them early enough is the trick. Find them quickly, and a modest little rocket motor can save our planetary bacon.
It is in many ways amazing that life on Earth has survived every¬thing that the universe has so far thrown at it. Evolution runs on Deep Time, less than a hundred million years hardly counts. Life is extremely resilient, but individual species are not. They last a few million years and then they become obsolete. Life persists by changing, by being a series of opening chapters. But, being human, we'd like to see our own story turn into at least a block¬buster dekalogy.
We can take small comfort in one thing. Although right now we don't worry enough about incoming disaster from Up There, we do worry a lot about home-grown disaster Down Here: nuclear warfare, biological warfare, global warming, pollution, overpopulation, destruction of habitat, burning of the rainforests, and so on. However, there's no danger that human actions will wipe out the planet. Compared to what nature has already done, and will do again, our activities barely show up. One large meteorite packs more explosive power than all human wars put together, a hypothetical World War III included. One Ice Age changes the climate more than a civilization's worth of carbon dioxide from car exhausts. As for something like the Deccan Traps ... you wouldn't want to know how nasty the atmosphere could become.
No, we can't destroy the Earth. We can destroy ourselves.
No one would care. The cockroaches and the rats will come back, or if the worst comes to the worst the bacteria miles below ground will start to write a new opening chapter in the Book of Life. Someone else will read it.
If we really deserve the name Homo Sapiens, then we can do at least two things to improve our chances. First, we can learn to man¬age our impact on the environment. The fact that nature deals the occasional death blow doesn't hand us an excuse to imitate it. We invented ethics. Our environment is sufficiently buffeted by various forces that the last thing it needs is humanity throwing extra span¬ners in the works. At the most selfish level, we might be buying ourselves some time.
We could use that time to put some of our eggs in another bas¬ket.
One of the great dreams of humanity has been to visit other worlds. It's starting to look as though this might be a very good idea, not just for fun and profit, but for survival.
We'd better say right now that none of this is science fiction. Or, rather, yes, it is science fiction, it's the very stuff of science fiction, because some of the best science-fiction writers (you don't see their stuff on TV) have been dealing with it for many decades. But that does not mean it's not real. Ices Ages happen. Big, big rocks come screaming out of the sky, and you need rather more than Bruce Willis flying the Space Shuttle as if it was the Millennium Falcon to stop them.
Our urge to explore the universe may be just another case of monkey curiosity, but there seems to be a deep impulse that urges us to find new lands to map and new worlds to conquer. Maybe there's an inbuilt urge to spread out, one leopard can't eat all of you if you spread out.
It is an urge that has driven us into every corner and crevice of our own planet, from the ice-floes of the Arctic to the deserts of Namibia, from the depths of the Mariana Trench to the peak of Everest. Most of us incline to Rincewind's view of a comfortable lifestyle and much prefer to stay at home, but a few are too restless to be happy anywhere for very long. The combination is a powerful one, and it has shaped our species into something very unusual, with collective capabilities beyond the understanding of any indi¬vidual. We may not always use that combination wisely, but without it we would be greatly diminished. And it's offering a real opportu¬nity.
Even a dream can work miracles. When Columbus (re-)discov-ered America, and Europe found out that it existed, he was looking for a new route to the Indies. He had convinced himself, on grounds that most scholars at the time found totally spurious, that the Earth was considerably smaller than was generally thought. He calculated that a relatively short voyage westward, from Africa, would lead to Japan and India. The scholars were right, Columbus was wrong, but it is Columbus that we remember, because he made the world smaller. He had the courage to set sail into an empty sea, sustained only by the belief that there was something important on the other side.
At least we can see where we ought to go. Columbus had to back a hunch.

Apollo-11 was the first practical method for getting out of the Earth's gravity well altogether. By this we don't mean that the Earth's gravitational pull becomes zero if you go far enough away, which is a common misconception: we mean that if you go fast enough, then the Earth's gravity can never pull you back down. Celestial mechanics operates in the phase space of distance and velocity, its 'landscape' involves speeds as well as lengths. Only when we understood enough about gravity and dynamics to appre¬ciate this point did we stand any chance of making technology like Apollo work.
You can see this clearly from earlier suggestions, which were imaginative, in an earthbound sort of way, but fantastic and impractical, at least on Roundworld. In 1648 Bishop John Wilkins listed four possible ways to leave the ground: enlist the aid of spir¬its or angels, get a lift from birds, fasten wings to your body, or build a flying chariot. If we wanted to be charitable, we could interpret the last two as aircraft and rockets, but Wilkins was clearly unaware that the Earth's atmosphere doesn't extend all the way to the Moon. A sixteenth-century engraving by Hans Schauffelein depicts Alexander the Great carried into space by two griffins, no notice¬able improvement. Bernard Zamagna conceived of an aerial boat, and others suggested the use of balloons.
Every age fantasized about technology that already existed. In Jules Verne's From the Earth to the Moon of 1865 the journey was accomplished by firing a space capsule from a huge gun in Florida; its 1870 sequel Around the Moon involved a series of such capsules, forming a space train. Verne got Florida right, he knew that the Earth's spin produces centrifugal force, which helps the capsule to leave the planet more easily, and he knew that this force was great¬est at the equator. Since the protagonists in his book were American, Florida was the best bet. When NASA started launching rockets, it came to the same conclusion, and the space facility at Cape Canaveral was born.
Big guns have deficiencies, such as a tendency to laminate pas¬sengers to the floor because of rapid acceleration, but modern technology does make it possible to avoid this by applying the accel¬eration gradually. Rockets are more practical from the engineering point of view. In 1926 Robert Goddard invented the liquid fuel rocket. The first one rose to the dizzy height of 40 feet (12.5 m). Rockets have come a long way since then, taking men to the Moon and instruments to the edge of the solar system. And they are much better rockets. Even so, there's something ... inelegant about heading off the planet on a giant disposable firework.
Until recently, there has been a general assumption that the energy to get into space has to be carried with the craft. However, we already have the beginnings of one way to get off the Earth that keeps the power source firmly on the ground. This is laser propul¬sion, in which a powerful beam of coherent light is aimed at a solid object and literally pushes it along. It takes a lot of power, but pro¬totypes invented by Leik Myrabo have already been tested at the High Energy Laser System Test Facility at White Sands. In November 1997 a small projectile reached a height of 50 feet (15m) in 5.5 seconds; by December this had been improved to 60 feet (20 m) in 4.9 seconds. This may not sound impressive, but compare with Goddard's first rocket. The method involves spinning the pro¬jectile at 6000 revolutions per minute to achieve gyroscopic stability. Then 20 laser pulses per second are directed towards a specially shaped cavity, heating the air beneath the craft and creat¬ing a pressure wave of thousands of atmospheres with temperatures up to 30,000° Kelvin, and that's what propels the projectile. At higher altitudes the air becomes very thin, and a similar craft would need an onboard fuel source. Fuel would be pumped into the cav¬ity to be vapourized by the laser A megawatt laser could lift a 2-pound (1 kg) craft into orbit.
It is also a very powerful weapon…
Another possibility is power beaming. It is possible to 'beam' electromagnetic power from the ground in the form of microwaves. This isn't just fantasy: in 1975 Dick Dickinson and William Brown beamed 30 kilowatts of power, enough for thirty electric fires -over a distance of one mile. James Benford and Myrabo have sug¬gested launching a spacecraft using millimetre range microwaves which are not attenuated by the atmosphere. This is a variation on the laser method and would use the same kind of projectile.
Both of these methods rely on a lot of raw power, betraying traces of the basic engineering assumption that getting into space needs a lot of energy to overcome the Earth's gravity. They do have the advantage that the raw power is just sitting on the planet; the 1,000 megawatt power station your laser launcher would require could generate for the National Grid when a launch wasn't going on.
A method of greater subtlety is the bolas, first proposed in the 1950s. Traditionally, a bolas is a hunting device made by tying three weights to strings and then tying the ends of the strings together. When thrown, it spins, pulling the weights apart, until the strings hit the target, at which point the weights spiral rapidly inwards and deal a killing blow. The same sort of device could be set up in a ver¬tical plane above the equator, a bit like a giant ferris wheel with only three spokes. On the ends of the spokes would be pressurized cab¬ins. The lowest part of the bolas's swing would be somewhere in the lower atmosphere, the top part way out in space. You would fly up in an aircraft, transfer to the first passing cabin, and be whisked skywards. The biggest obstacle to making such a machine is the cable, which has to be stronger than any known material, but car¬bon fibre is well on the way to combining enough strength with enough lightness. Friction with the atmosphere would gradually slow the bolas's rotation down, but that could be compensated for using solar power arrays up in space.
The most celebrated device of this type, however, is the space elevator. We discussed this in the opening chapter, both as a serious technological idea and as a metaphor: here we give a few more details. In essence, the space elevator starts out as a satellite in geo¬synchronous orbit. Then you drop a cable from it to the ground, and the rest is a matter of building a suitable cabin and, again, find¬ing suitable material for the cable. You get the material up there using rockets or a whole cascade of bolases (and once you've got a small cable you can haul up the stuff for the bigger one). You only need to do all this once, so the cost is irrelevant over the longer term.
As we emphasized at the start of the book, once there is as much traffic is coming down as is going up, getting off the ground is essentially free and requires zero energy. At that point you build your interplanetary spacecraft up in space, using raw materials from the Moon or the asteroid belt. So the space elevator gives you a new place to start from, which is why we've used it as a metaphor for processes like life.
The idea of a space elevator was originated by the Leningrad engineer Y.N. Artsutanov in 1960, in an article in Pravda. He called it a 'heavenly funicular' and calculated that it could lift 12,000 tons per day into orbit. The idea came to the attention of Western scien¬tists in 1966, thanks to John Isaacs, Hugh Bradner, and George Backus. These scientists weren't interested in getting into space: they were oceanographers, the only people seriously interested in hanging things on long cables. Except that they wanted to hang them down into the ocean bottoms, not up into space. The oceanog¬raphers were unaware of the earlier Russian work, but Artsutanov's anticipation quickly became known to Western scientists too. The astronaut and artist Alexei Leonov published a painting of a space elevator in action in 1967.
Such a simple but mostly impractical idea is likely to occur to lots of people, but wouldn't become widely known because it's not practical with current or near-future technology, and that means that it will be re-invented independently by many people. In 1963 the science-fiction author Arthur C. Clarke considered suspending a lower satellite by cable from a geosynchronous one, as a way to increase the number of effectively geo- synchronous satellites for communication purposes. Later he realized that the same method would lead to the space elevator, an idea that he developed in his novel The Fountains of Paradise. In 1969 A.R. Collar and J.W. Flower also considered suspending a lower satellite by cable from a geosynchronous one And in 1975 Jerome Pearson suggested an 'orbital tower' that was essentially the same idea.
You can, of course, suspend more than one cable, once you've got one space elevator you can lift everything else that you need into space at low cost, so why not go the whole hog? Charles Sheffield's The Web Between the Worlds envisages a whole ring of space eleva¬tors round the equator. This is what the wizards have found. Ironically, because human civilization has taken such a short time to develop, on evolutionary timescales, the wizards missed us ...

Having built your space elevator, you're now in a position to colo¬nize other worlds. The obvious first destination is Mars. You get there in a cloud of small, mass-produced ships, and once you've got there one of the first things you do is drop down a cable and build a Martian space elevator. You're up in orbit anyway, so why not take advantage of the fact? Again, this is the metaphorical aspect of the space elevator: as soon as just one exists, it opens up a vast range of new possibilities. However, you'll probably need to land a team by some other method in order to construct the complex at the bottom to which the cable will be tethered.
Mars isn't a great place to live, so the next step is to terraform it, to make it more earthlike. There are reasonably plausible methods for doing that, detailed at length in Kirn Stanley Robinson's series Red Mars, Green Mars, Blue Mars. Mars is no improvement when it comes to meteor-strikes, but at least the colony on Mars is unlikely to get wiped out at the same time as the main population on Earth. Because life is reproductive, if one of them does get wiped out, it can quickly be re-colonized from the other. After a few cen¬turies, you'd hardly notice any difference. Still, it may be better to be more ambitious and go to the stars. By the time we're ready for that, we'll have interferometer telescopes good enough to spot which stars have suitable planets. The only problem, then, will be to get there.
There are plenty of suggestions, and we won't add to them. Think of mid-Victorians predicting life in the 1990s. The dynamic of extelligence is emergent or, to put it another way, we haven't the faintest idea what we'll think of next but it'll probably surprise us.
One way, if all else fails, is the Generation Ship, a huge vessel that can hold an entire city of people, who live, breed, educate, and die throughout the centuries-long journey. Make it big and inter¬esting enough, and they may even lose interest in the destination. The Discworld almost counts as one of these; it's on a journey, the inhabitants don't know where they're going, the designers have given it a small controllable sun (thus doing away with all those nasty fluctuations) and no less than five bio-engineered creatures positively delight in clearing local space of intrusive debris ...
Back on our world, you could take a really long-term view and seed the galaxy with genetically engineered bacteria, carefully tailored so that whenever they find a suitable planet they eventually evolve into humanoid life (or life, at least). We would die out, but maybe our fleet of cheap, slow ships might seed a few new Earths somewhere.
There's no shortage of ideas. Some might even be practical. The galaxy beckons. We might die trying, but since we're going to die anyway, why not try?
And what will we find out there? Will we find a radically differ¬ent kind of 'space elevator', for instance? Well, if there are aliens that live on neutron stars, as Robert L. Forward describes in Dragon's Egg, then they might escape by tilting their world's mag¬netic axis, turning it into a pulsar, and surfing its plasma jet. Perhaps all those pulsars were formed in this way. Like any 'space elevator', if you can manage the trick once, the rest is easy. The inhabitants of one neutron star managed it, and colonized all the others, founding the Pulsar Empire ...
And since we can envisage new kinds of physical space elevator, there must surely also be new kinds of metaphorical space elevator. Not just aliens a bit like us, but radically different new kinds of life.
What else could live on a neutron star?
They're waiting.



'THAT,' SAID THE DEAN, 'was a very unpleasant business. Good thing we weren't really there.'
Rincewind was sitting at the end of the long table, his chin on his hand.
'Really?' he said. 'You thought that was bad? Try having a comet land on you. That really makes your day.'
'It was the music that really got on my nerves,' said the Senior Wrangler.
'Oh, well, good job the planet's a snowball, then,' said Rincewind.
'I call this meeting to order,' said Ridcully, thumping the table. 'Where's the Bursar?'
The wizards looked around the main hall of the High Energy Magic building.
'I saw him half an hour ago,' the Dean volunteered.
'We are quorate, nevertheless,' said Ridcully. 'Now ... the magic flux is almost run down, although HEX reports that the model uni¬verse appears to be continuing on internal power. Amazing the way the whole place seems to strive to keep existing. However ... gen¬tlemen, the project is at an end. All it is has taught us is that you can't make a world out of bits and pieces. You need chelonium for a proper world. And you certainly need narrativium, otherwise the life you get is a lot of opening chapters. A comet is no way to end a story. Ice and fire ... that's very primitive.'
'Poor old crabs,' said the Senior Wrangler.
'Goodbye, lizards,' said the Dean.
'Farewell, my limpet,' said the Lecturer in Recent Runes.
'What were the ones that left?' said Ponder.
'Er ...' said Rincewind.
'Yes?' said the Archchancellor.
'Oh, nothing. I had a thought... but it couldn't possibly work.'
'Some of the bears seemed quite bright,' said Ridcully, who had naturally sided with a lifeform that resembled him in several par¬ticulars.
'Yes, yes, it was probably the bears,' said Rincewind quickly.
'We couldn't watch the whole world ail the time,' said Ponder. 'Something could have evolved quickly, I suppose.'
'Yes, that's right, something probably evolved quickly,' said Rincewind. 'I shouldn't think there was any unauthorized interfer¬ence in any way.'
'Good luck to them, whatever shape they're in,' said Ridcully. He assembled his papers. 'That's it, then. I won't say it hasn't been an interesting few days, but reality calls. Yes, Rincewind?'
'What are we going to do with the snow globe, I mean, the world?' said Rincewind.
As one wizard, they looked across at the world spinning gently in its dome.
'Is it any use to us, Mister Stibbons?' said Ridcully.
'As a curiosity, sir.'
'This university is stuffed with curiosities, young man.'
'Well, then ... only as very large paperweight.'
'Ah. Rincewind ... you an the Professor of Cruel and Usual Geography, so I suppose this is right up your street...’
There was a rattle from HEX's tray. Ponder pulled out the paper.
It said: +++ The Project Must Be Kept Safe +++
'Fine. Rincewind can put it on a high shelf so that it doesn't get knocked,' said Ridcully, rubbing his hands together.
+++ Recursion Is Occurring +++
Ridcully blinked at the writing.
'Is that a problem?'
HEX creaked. There was a flurry of activity in the ant tubes. Eventually the write-out clattered for some time.
Ponder picked up the message.
'Er ... it's addressed to Mrs Whitlow,' he said. Er ... it's rather odd...'
Ridcully looked over his shoulder.
'"Don't Dust It",' he read.
'She's a devil with a duster,' said the Senior Wrangler. 'The Dean nails his door shut when he leaves his study.'
The write-out clattered again.
'"This Is Important",' Ponder read.
'Not a problem, not a problem,' said Ridcully. 'So on to the next item. Ah, yes. We have to shut down the reacting engine. No, don't get up, Rincewind, I've had the door locked. The interior of the squash court is still just a tiny bit not entirely completely safe, is that right, Mr Stibbons?'
'Very definitely!'
'And therefore the area within it quite clearly counts as...’
'Let me guess,' said Rincewind. 'It's cruel and unusual geogra¬phy, yes?'
'Well, done, that man! And all you have to do...’
A sound that had been on the limit of hearing suddenly descended through the scales. And there was silence.
'What's that?' said Ridcully.
'Nothing,' said Rincewind, with unusual accuracy.
'The reacting engine has shut down,' said Ponder.
'By itself?'
'Not unless it can pull its own levers, no ...'

The wizards clustered around the door to the old squash court. Ponder held up his thaumometer.
'There's hardly any flux now,' he said. 'It's practically back¬ground ... Stand back ...'
He opened the door.
A couple of white pigeons flew out, followed by a billiard ball. Ponder pulled aside a cluster of flags of all nations.
'Just natural fallout,' he called out. 'Oh ...'
The Bursar ambled around the side of the reacting engine, wav¬ing a squash racket.
'Ah, Ponder,' he said. 'Have you wondered if Time isn't simply Space rotated through a right angle?'
'Er ... no ...' said Ponder, watching the man carefully for signs of thaumic breakdown.
'It would certainly make pretzels very interesting, don't you think?'
'Er ... have you been playing squash, sir?' said Ponder
'You know, I'm really coming to believe that a closed contour is a boundary, up to parametrization, if and only if it is homotopic to zero,' said the Bursar. 'And, for preference, coloured green.'
'Did you touch any switches, sir?' said Ponder, maintaining a careful distance.
'This thingy here does make some shots very difficult,' said the Bursar, hitting the reacting engine. 'I was trying to hit the rear wall around last Wednesday.'
'I think perhaps we should leave,' said Ponder in a clear, firm tone. 'It will soon be teatime. There will be jelly,' he added.
'Ah, the fifth form of matter,' said the Bursar brightly, following Ponder.
The other wizards were waiting just outside the door.
'Is he all right?' said Ridcully. 'I mean by general bursarial stan¬dards, of course.'
'It's hard to tell,' said Ponder, as the Bursar beamed at them. 'I think so. But the reacting engine must had been putting out quite a high flux when he went in.'
'Perhaps none of the thaumic particles hit him?' said the Senior Wrangler.
'But there's millions of them, sir, and they can pass through any¬thing!'
Ridcully slapped the Bursar on the back.
'Bit of luck for you, eh, Bursar?'
The Bursar looked puzzled for a moment, and then vanished.

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Zastava Srbija


THIS BOOK WASN'T CALLED The Religion of Discworld for a reason, although, Heaven knows, there is plenty of raw material. All religions are true, for a given value of 'truth'.
The disciplines of science, however, tell us that we live on a world formed from interstellar debris some four billion years ago in a universe which itself is about 15 billion years old (which is science-speak for 'a very long time'); that in the ensuing years it has been pummelled and frozen and re-arranged on a reg¬ular basis; that despite or rather because of this, life turned up very quickly and seems to spring back renewed and re-formed from every blow; and that we ourselves evolved on this planet and, with the suddenness of a bursting dam, became Top Species in a very short period of time.
Actually, science tells us that many cockroaches, bacteria, bee¬tles, and even small mammals might argue that last statement, but since they are not good at debate and can't speak, who cares what they think? Especially since they can't, eh? A key thing about big brains is this: they know big brains are good.
Most of us don't think like scientists. We think like the wizards of Discworld. Everything in the past was leading inevitably to Now, which is the important time.
While the news that the Earth is a small planet in a dull part of the universe has caught on in recent centuries, it's only in the last few decades that the words 'the Earth' have come to mean, for a sig¬nificant proportion of any society, 'the planet' rather than 'the soil'. We watch the fireworks as great balls of ice plummet into the atmosphere of a nearby planet and, although any one of them would have seriously troubled the Earth, the event was just that: a firework display. As one old lady told a news reporter, 'that sort of thing happens in Outer Space'. But we're in Outer Space, too, and it might pay us to get good at it.
The dinosaurs were not, as suggested in Jurassic Park, 'selected for extinction', they were clobbered by a very large rock, and/or its after-effects. Rocks don't think.
The dinosaurs were in fact doing very well, and had merely neg¬lected to develop three-mile thick armour plating. They may even have evolved something that we'd recognize as 'early civilization'; we shouldn't underestimate how much the surface of the planet can change in 65 million years. But rocks don't care, either.
But even if the rock had missed, there were other rocks. And if they had missed too, then we should be aware that the planet has other, home-grown means of disposal.
Evidence is emerging that suggests that other extinctions were caused by 'natural' but catastrophic changes in the planet's atmos¬phere. A case is being made that indicates that the very existence of life on Earth will, periodically, trip a catastrophe.
Rocks don't mind.
This will probably not happen tomorrow. But, one day, it will. And then Rincewind's kaleidoscope is shaken up for a new pretty pattern.
Eden and Camelot, the wondrous garden-worlds of myth and legend, are here now. This is about as good as it ever gets. Mostly, it's a lot worse. And it won't stay like this for very long.
There are, perhaps, choices. We could leave. We've dealt with that. Considerable optimism is required. But there might be other small blue planets out there ... By definition, though, Earthlike worlds will have life on them. That's why they'll be Earthlike. And the trouble is that the more Earthlike it is, the more troublesome it would be. Don't worry about the laser-wielding monsters, you can talk to them, if only about lasers. The real problem is more likely to be something very, very small. In the morning you get a rash. In the afternoon, your legs explode.
The other 'choice' is to stay. We may be lucky, we tend to be. But we won't be lucky forever. The average life of a species is about five million years. Depending on how you define humanity, we may already be close to the average.
A useful project, and one that's much cheaper to achieve, is to leave a note to the next occupiers, even if it is only to say 'We Were Here'. It may be of interest to a future species that even if they are, alone in space, they're not alone in Time.
We may already have left our marker. It depends on how long things will really last on the Moon, and if, in a hundred million years, anyone else feels it necessary to go there. If they do, they may find the abandoned descent stages of the Apollo Moon landers. And they'll wonder what a 'Richard M. Nixon' was.
How much luckier are the inhabitants of Discworld. They know they live on a world made for people. With a large hungry turtle, not to mention the four elephants, interstellar debris becomes lunch rather than catastrophe. Large-scale extinction has more to do with magical interference than random rocks or built-in fluctu¬ations; it may have the same effect, but at least there is someone to blame.
Unfortunately, it does reduce the scope for asking interesting questions. Most of them have already been answered. Certainty rules. Mustrum Ridcully is not the kind of person who would tol¬erate an Uncertainty Principle, after all.
Back in Roundworld, there is perhaps one point worth making.
Just suppose there is nothing else. Arguments about intelligent life on other worlds have always been highly biased by the desires of those doing the arguing that there should be intelligent life on other worlds, and we three are among them. But the argument is a house of cards with no card on the bottom. We know of life on one world. Everything else is guesswork and naked statistics. Life may be so common through the universe that even the atmosphere of Jupiter is alive with Jovian gasbags and every cometary nucleus is home to colonies of microscopic blobuies. Or there may be nothing alive at all, anywhere else but here.
Perhaps intelligent life arose before humanity, and perhaps it will again when humanity's span has become a rather complex layer in the strata. We can't tell. Time does not simply, as the hymn says, bear all its sons away, it can easily see the disappearance of the entire continent on which they stood.
In short, in a universe a billion Grandfathers long and a trillion Grandfathers wide, there may be just a few hundred thousand years on one planet where a species worried about something other than sex, survival, and the next meal.
This is our Discworld. In its little cup of spacetime, humanity has invented gods, philosophies, ethical systems, politics, an unfeasible number of ice-cream flavours and even more esoteric things like 'natural justice' and 'boredom'. Should it matter to us if tigers are made extinct and the last orangutan dies in a zoo? After all, blind forces have repeatedly erased species that were probably more beautiful and worthy.
But we feel it does matter, because humans invented the concept of things 'mattering'. We feel we ought to be brighter than a mile of incandescent rock and a continent-sized glacier. Humans seem to have created, independently, in many pkces and at various times, a Make-a-Real-Human-Being Kit, which begins with prohibitions about killing and theft and incest and is now groping towards our responsibilities to a natural world in which, despite its ability to hurt us mightily, we nevertheless have a godlike power.
We advance arguments about saving rainforests because 'there may be undiscovered cancer cures in there', but this is because extelligence wants to save rainforests and the cancer-cure argument might convince the bean-counters and the fearful. It might have a real basis in fact, too, but the real reason is that we feel that a world with tigers and orangutans and rainforests and even small unobtru¬sive snails in it is a more healthy and interesting world for humans (and, of course, the tigers and orangutans and snails) and that a world without them would be dangerous territory. In other words, trusting the instincts that up until now have generally seen us through, we think that Tigers Are Nice (or, at least, Tigers Are Nice In Moderation And At A Safe Distance).
It's a circular argument, but in our little round human world we've managed to live on circular arguments for millennia. And who else is going to argue with us?



RINCEWIND   WALKED   VERY   GINGERLY   towards   his  office, the globe of the project held carefully in his hands.
He would have expected an entire universe to be heavier, but this one seemed on the light side. It was probably all that space.
The Archchancellor had explained at length to him that although he would be called the Egregious Professor of Cruel and Unusual Geography, this was only because that was cheaper than repainting the title on the door. He was not entitled to wages, or to teach, or express any opinions on anything, or order anyone around, or wear any special robes, or publish anything. But he could turn up for meals, provided he ate quietly.
To Rincewind, it sounded like heaven.
The Bursar appeared right in front of him. One moment there was an empty corridor, the next moment there was a bemused wiz¬ard.
They collided. The sphere went up in the air, turning gently.
Rincewind rebounded from the Bursar, looked up at the ball curving through the air, flung himself forward and down with rib-scraping force and caught it a few inches from the stone floor.
'Rincewind! Don't tell him who he is!'
Rincewind rolled over, clasping the little universe, and looked back along the passage. Ridcully and the other wizards were advancing slowly and cautiously. Ponder Stibbons was waving a spoonful of jelly invitingly.
Rincewind glanced up the Bursar, who was looking perplexed.
'But he's the Bursar, isn't he?' he said.
The Bursar smiled, looked puzzled for a moment, and vanished with a 'pop'.
'Seven seconds!' shouted Ponder, dropping the spoon and pulling out a notebook. 'That'll put him in ... yes, the laundry room!'
The wizards hurried off, except for the Senior Wrangler, who was rolling a cigarette.
'What happened to the Bursar?' said Rincewind, getting to his feet.
'Oh, young Stibbons reckons he's caught Uncertainty,' said the Senior Wrangler, licking the paper. 'As soon as his body remembers what it's called it forgets where it's supposed to be.' He stuck the bent and wretched cylinder in his mouth and fumbled for his matches. 'Just another day at Unseen University, really.'
He wandered off, coughing.
Rincewind carried the sphere though the maze of dank passages and into his office, where he cleared a space for it on a shelf.
The ice age had cleared up. He wondered what was happening down there, what gastropod or mammal or lizard was even now winding up its elastic ready to propel itself towards the crown of the world. Soon, without a doubt, some creature would suddenly develop an unnecessarily large brain and be forced to do things with it. And it'd look around and probably declare how marvellous it was that the universe had been built to bring forward the inevitable development of creature-kind.
Boy, was it in for a shock ...
'Okay, you can come out,' he said. 'They've lost interest.'
The Librarian was hiding behind a chair. The orangutan took university discipline seriously, even though he was capable of clap¬ping someone on both ears and forcing his brain down his nose.
'They're busy trying to catch the Bursar right now,' said Rincewind. 'Anyway, I'm sure it couldn't have been the apes. No offence, but they didn't look the right sort to me.'
'It was probably something out of the sea somewhere. I'm sure we didn't see most of what was going on.'
Rincewind huffed on the surface of the globe, and polished it with his sleeve. 'What's recursion?' he said.
The Librarian gave a very expansive shrug.
'It looks okay to me,' said Rincewind. 'I wondered if it was some sort of disease ...'
He slapped the Librarian on the back, raising a cloud of dust. 'Come on, let's go and help them hunt ...'
The door shut. Their footsteps died away.
The world spun in its little universe, about a foot across on the outside, infinitely large on the inside.
Behind it, stars floated away in the blackness. Here and there they congregated in great swirling masses, spinning about some unimaginable drain. Sometimes these drifted together, passing through one another like ghosts and parting in a trailing veil of stars.
Young stars grew in luminous cradles. Dead stars rolled in the glowing shrouds of their death.
Infinity unfolded. Walls of glittering swept past, revealing fresh fields of stars ...
... where, sailing through the endless night, made of hot gas and dust but recognizable nevertheless, was a turtle.
As above, so below.

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Zastava Srbija
Troll Bridge

The air blew off the mountains, filling the air with fine ice crystals.
   It was too cold to snow. In weather like this wolves came down into villages, trees in the heart of the forest exploded when they froze.
   In weather like this right-thinking people were indoors, in front of the fire, telling stories about heroes.
   It was an old horse. It was an old rider. The horse looked like a shrink-wrapped toast rack; the man looked as though the only reason he wasn't falling off was because he couldn't muster the energy. Despite the bitterly cold wind, he was wearing nothing but a tiny leather kilt and a dirty bandage on one knee.
   He took the soggy remnant of a cigarette out of his mouth and stubbed it out on his hand.
   "Right," he said, "let's do it."
   "That's all very well for you to say," said the horse. "But what if you have one of your dizzy spells? And your back is playing up. How shall I feel, being eaten because your back's played you up at the wrong moment?"
   "It'll never happen," said the man. He lowered himself on to the chilly stones, and blew on his fingers. Then, from the horse's pack, he took a sword with an edge like a badly maintained saw and gave a few half-hearted thrusts at the air.
   "Still got the old knackaroony," he said. He winced, and leaned against a tree.
   "I'll swear this bloody sword gets heavier every day."
   "You ought to pack it in, you know," said the horse. "Call it a day. This sort of thing at your time of life. It's not right."
   The man rolled his eyes.
   "Blast that damn distress auction. This is what comes of buying something that belonged to a wizard," he said, to the cold world in general. "I looked at your teeth, I looked at your hooves, it never occurred to me to listen. "
   "Who did you think was bidding against you?' said the horse.
   Cohen the Barbarian stayed leaning against the tree. He was not sure that he could pull himself upright again.
   "You must have plenty of treasure stashed away," said the horse. "We could go Rimwards. How about it? Nice and warm. Get a nice warm place by a beach somewhere, what do you say?"
   "No treasure," said Cohen. "Spent it all. Drank it all. Gave it all away. Lost it."
   "You should have saved some for your old age."
   "Never thought I'd have an old age."
   "One day you're going to die," said the horse. "It might be today."
   "I know. Why do you think I've come here?"
   The horse turned and looked down towards the gorge. The road here was pitted and cracked. Young trees were pushing up between the stones. The forest crowded in on either side. In a few years, no one would know there'd even been a road here. By the look of it, no one knew now.
   "You've come here to die?"
   "No. But there's something I've always been meaning to do. Ever since I was a lad."
   Cohen tried easing himself upright again. Tendons twanged their red-hot messages down his legs.
   "My dad," he squeaked. He got control again. "My dad," he said, 'said to me -" He fought for breath.
   "Son," said the horse, helpfully.
   "Son," said the horse. 'No father ever calls his boy 'son' unless he's about to impart wisdom. Well-known fact."
   'It's my reminiscence."
   "He said . . . Son . . . yes, OK . . . Son, when you can face down a troll in single combat, then you can do anything."
   The horse blinked at him. Then it turned and looked down again, through the tree-jostled road to the gloom of the gorge. There was a stone bridge down there.
   A horrible feeling stole over it.
   Its hooves jiggled nervously on the ruined road.
   "Rimwards," it said. "Nice and warm."
   "What's the good of killing a troll? What've you got when you've killed a troll?'
   "A dead troll. That's the point. Anyway, I don't have to kill it. Just defeat it. One on one. Mano a . . . troll. And if I didn't try my father would turn in his mound."
   "You told me he drove you out of the tribe when you were eleven."
   "Best day's work he ever did. Taught me to stand on other people's feet. Come over here, will you?"
   The horse sidled over. Cohen got a grip on the saddle and heaved himself fully upright.
   "And you're going to fight a troll today," said the horse. Cohen fumbled in the saddlebag and pulled out his tobacco pouch. The wind whipped at the shreds as he rolled another skinny cigarette in the cup of his hands.
   "Yeah," he said.
   "And you've come all the way out here to do it."
   "Got to," said Cohen. "When did you last see a bridge with a troll under it? There were hundreds of 'em when I was a lad. Now there's more trolls in the cities than there are in the mountains. Fat as butter, most of 'em. What did we fight all those wars for? Now . . . cross that bridge."

It was a lonely bridge across a shallow, white, and treacherous river in a deep valley. The sort of place where you got -
   A grey shape vaulted over the parapet and landed splay-footed in front of the horse. It waved a club.
   "All right," it growled.
   "Oh -" the horse began.
   The troll blinked. Even the cold and cloudy winter skies seriously reduced the conductivity of a troll's silicon brain, and it had taken it this long to realize that the saddle was unoccupied.
   It blinked again, because it could suddenly feel a knife point resting on the back of its neck.
   "Hello," said a voice by its ear.
   The troll swallowed. But very carefully.
   "Look," it said desperately, "it's tradition, OK? A bridge like this, people ort to expect a troll . . . 'Ere," it added, as another thought crawled past, "'ow come I never 'eard you creepin' up on me?"
   "Because I'm good at it," said the old man.
   "That's right," said the horse. "He's crept up on more people than you've had frightened dinners."
   The troll risked a sideways glance.
   "Bloody hell," it whispered. "You think you're Cohen the Barbarian, do you?"
   "What do you think?" said Cohen the Barbarian.
   "Listen," said the horse, "if he hadn't wrapped sacks round his knees you could have told by the clicking."
   It took the troll some time to work this out.
   "Oh, wow," it breathed. "On my bridge! Wow!"
   "What?" said Cohen.
   The troll ducked out of his grip and waved its hands frantically. 'It's all right! It's all right!" it shouted, as Cohen advanced. "You've got me! You've got me! I'm not arguing! I just want to call the family up, all right? Otherwise no one'll ever believe me. Cohen the Barbarian! On my bridge!"
   Its huge stony chest swelled further. "My bloody brother-in-law's always swanking about his huge bloody wooden bridge, that's all my wife ever talks about. Hah! I'd like to see the look on his face . . . oh, no! What can you think of me?"
   "Good question," said Cohen.
   The troll dropped its club and seized one of Cohen's hands.
   "Mica's the name," it said. 'You don't know what an honour this is!"
   He leaned over the parapet. "Beryl! Get up here! Bring the kids!"
   He turned back to Cohen, his face glowing with happiness and pride.
   "Beryl's always sayin' we ought to move out, get something better, but I tell her, this bridge has been in our family for generations, there's always been a troll under Death Bridge. It's tradition."
   A huge female troll carrying two babies shuffled up the bank, followed by a tail of smaller trolls. They lined up behind their father, watching Cohen owlishly.
   "This is Beryl," said the troll. His wife glowered at Cohen. "And this -" he propelled forward a scowling smaller edition of himself, clutching a junior version of his club - "is my lad Scree.
   A real chip off the old block. Going to take on the bridge when I'm gone, ain't you, Scree. Look, lad, this is Cohen the Barbarian! What d'you think o' that, eh? On our bridge! We don't just have rich fat soft ole merchants like your uncle Pyrites gets," said the troll, still talking to his son but smirking past him to his wife, "we 'ave proper heroes like they used to in the old days."
   The troll's wife looked Cohen up and down.
   "Rich, is he?" she said.
   "Rich has got nothing to do with it," said the troll.
   "Are you going to kill our dad?" said Scree suspiciously.
   "Corse he is," said Mica severely. "It's his job. An' then I'll get famed in song an' story. This is Cohen the Barbarian, right, not some bugger from the village with a pitchfork. 'E's a famous hero come all this way to see us, so just you show 'im some respect.
   "Sorry about that, sir," he said to Cohen. "Kids today. You know how it is."
   The horse started to snigger.
   "Now look -" Cohen began.
   "I remember my dad tellin' me about you when I was a pebble," said Mica. "'E bestrides the world like a clossus, he said."
   There was silence. Cohen wondered what a clossus was, and felt Beryl's stony gaze fixed upon him.
   "He's just a little old man," she said. "He don't look very heroic to me. If he's so good, why ain't he rich?"
   "Now you listen to me -" Mica began.
   "This is what we've been waiting for, is it?" said his wife. "Sitting under a leaky bridge the whole time? Waiting for people that never come? Waiting for little old bandy-legged old men? I should have listened to my mother! You want me to let our son sit under a bridge waiting for some little old man to kill him? That's what being a troll is all about? Well, it ain't happening!"
   "Now you just -"
   "Hah! Pyrites doesn't get little old men! He gets big fat merchants! He's someone. You should have gone in with him when you had the chance!"
   "I'd rather eat worms!"
   "Worms? Hah? Since when could we afford to eat worms?"
   "Can we have a word?" said Cohen.
   He strolled towards the far end of the bridge, swinging his sword from one hand. The troll padded after him.
   Cohen fumbled for his tobacco pouch. He looked up at the troll, and held out the bag.
   "Smoke?" he said.
   "That stuff can kill you," said the troll.
   "Yes. But not today."
   "Don't you hang about talking to your no-good friends!" bellowed Beryl, from her end of the bridge. "Today's your day for going down to the sawmill! You know Chert said he couldn't go on holding the job open if you weren't taking it seriously!"
   Mica gave Cohen a sorrowful little smirk.
   "She's very supportive," he said.
   "I'm not climbing all the way down to the river to pull you out again!" Beryl roared. "You tell him about the billy goats, Mr Big Troll!"
   "Billy goats?" said Cohen.
   "I don't know anything about billy goats," said Mica. "She's always going on about billy goats. I have no knowledge whatsoever about billy goats." He winced.
   They watched Beryl usher the young trolls down the bank and into the darkness under the bridge.
   "The thing is," said Cohen, when they were alone, "I wasn't intending to kill you."
   The troll's face fell.
   "You weren't?"
   "Just throw you over the bridge and steal whatever treasure you've got."
   "You were?"
   Cohen patted him on the back. "Besides," he said, "I like to see people with . . . good memories. That's what the land needs. Good memories."
   The troll stood to attention.
   "I try to do my best, sir," it said. "My lad wants to go off to work in the city. I've tole him there's bin a troll under this bridge for nigh on five hundred years -"
   "So if you just hand over the treasure," said Cohen, "I'll be getting along."
   The troll's face creased in sudden panic.
   "Treasure? Haven't got any," it said.
   "Oh, come on," said Cohen. "Well-set-up bridge like this?"
   "Yeah, but no one uses this road any more," said Mica. "You're the first one along in months, and that's a fact. Beryl says I ought to have gone in with her brother when they built that new road over his bridge, but," he raised his voice, "I said, there's been trolls under this bridge -"
   "Yeah," said Cohen.
   "The trouble is, the stones keep on falling out," said the troll. "And you'd never believe what those masons charge. Bloody dwarfs. You can't trust 'em." He leaned towards Cohen. "To tell you the truth, I'm having to work three days a week down at my brother-in-law's lumber mill just to make ends meet."
   "I thought your brother-in-law had a bridge?" said Cohen.
   "One of 'em has. But my wife's got brothers like dogs have fleas," said the troll. He looked gloomily into the torrent. "One of 'em's a lumber merchant down in Sour Water, one of 'em runs the bridge, and the big fat one is a merchant over on Bitter Pike. Call that a proper job for a troll?"
   "One of them's in the bridge business, though," said Cohen.
   "Bridge business? Sitting in a box all day charging people a silver piece to walk across? Half the time he ain't even there! He just pays some dwarf to take the money. And he calls himself a troll! You can't tell him from a human till you're right up close!"
   Cohen nodded understandingly.
   "D'you know," said the troll, "I have to go over and have dinner with them every week? All three of 'em? And listen to 'em go on about moving with the times . . ."
   He turned a big, sad face to Cohen.
   "What's wrong with being a troll under a bridge?" he said. "I was brought up to be a troll under a bridge. I want young Scree to be a troll under a bridge after I'm gone. What's wrong with that? You've got to have trolls under bridges. Otherwise, what's it all about? What's it all for?"
   They leaned morosely on the parapet, looking down into the white water.
   "You know," said Cohen slowly, "I can remember when a man could ride all the way from here to the Blade Mountains and never see another living thing." He fingered his sword. "At least, not for very long."
   He threw the butt of his cigarette into the water. "It's all farms now. All little farms, run by little people. And fences everywhere. Everywhere you look, farms and fences and little people."
   "She's right, of course," said the troll, continuing some interior conversation. "There's no future in just jumping out from under a bridge."
   "I mean," said Cohen, "I've nothing against farms. Or farmers. You've got to have them. It's just that they used to be a long way off, around the edges. Now this is the edge."
   "Pushed back all the time," said the troll. "Changing all the time. Like my brother-in-law Chert. A lumber mill! A troll running a lumber mill! And you should see the mess he's making of Cutshade Forest!"
   Cohen looked up, surprised.
   "What, the one with the giant spiders in it?"
   "Spiders? There ain't no spiders now. Just stumps."
   "Stumps? Stumps? I used to like that forest. It was . . . well, it was darksome. You don't get proper darksome any more. You really knew what terror was, in a forest like that."
   "You want darksome? He's replanting with spruce," said Mica.
   "It's not his idea. He wouldn't know one tree from another. That's all down to Clay. He put him up to it."
   Cohen felt dizzy. "Who's Clay?"
   'I said I'd got three brothers-in-law, right? He's the merchant. So he said replanting would make the land easier to sell."
   There was a long pause while Cohen digested this. Then he said, "You can't sell Cutshade Forest. It doesn't belong to anyone."
   "Yeah. He says that's why you can sell it."
   Cohen brought his fist down on the parapet. A piece of stone detached itself and tumbled down into the gorge.
   "Sorry," he said.
   "That's all right. Bits fall off all the time, like I said."
   Cohen turned. "What's happening? I remember all the big old wars. Don't you? You must have fought."
   "I carried a club, yeah."
   "It was supposed to be for a bright new future and law and stuff. That's what people said."
   "Well, I fought because a big troll with a whip told me to," said Mica, cautiously. "But I know what you mean."
   "I mean it wasn't for farms and spruce trees. Was it?"
   Mica hung his head. "And here's me with this apology for a bridge. I feel really bad about it," he said, "you coming all this way and everything -"
   "And there was some king or other," said Cohen, vaguely, looking at the water. "And I think there were some wizards. But there was a king. I'm pretty certain there was a king. Never met him. You know?" He grinned at the troll. "I can't remember his name. Don't think they ever told me his name."

About half an hour later Cohen's horse emerged from the gloomy woods on to a bleak, windswept moorland. It plodded on for a while before saying, "All right . . . how much did you give him?"
   "Twelve gold pieces," said Cohen.
   "Why'd you give him twelve gold pieces?"
   "I didn't have more than twelve."
   "You must be mad."
   "When I was just starting out in the barbarian hero business," said Cohen, "every bridge had a troll under it. And you couldn't go through a forest like we've just gone through without a dozen goblins trying to chop your head off." He sighed. "I wonder what happened to 'em all?"
   "You," said the horse.
   "Well, yes. But I always thought there'd be some more. I always thought there'd be some more edges."
   "How old are you?" said the horse.
   "Old enough to know better, then."
   "Yeah. Right." Cohen lit another cigarette and coughed until his eyes watered.
   "Going soft in the head!"
   "Giving your last dollar to a troll!"
   "Yeah." Cohen wheezed a stream of smoke at the sunset.
   Cohen stared at the sky. The red glow was as cold as the slopes of hell. An icy wind blew across the steppes, whipping at what remained of his hair.
   "For the sake of the way things should be," he said.
   "For the sake of things that were."
   Cohen looked down.
   He grinned.
   "And for three addresses. One day I'm going to die," he said, "but not, I think, today."

The air blew off the mountains, filling the air with fine ice crystals. It was too cold to snow. In weather like this wolves came down into villages, trees in the heart of the forest exploded when they froze. Except there were fewer and fewer wolves these days, and less and less forest.
   In weather like this right-thinking people were indoors, in front of the fire.
   Telling stories about heroes.

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Zodijak Taurus
Pol Žena
Poruke 18761
Zastava Srbija
Theater of Cruelty

It was a fine summer morning, the kind to make a man happy to be alive. And probably the man would have been happier to be alive. He was, in fact, dead. It would be hard to be deader without special training.

"Well, now," said Sergeant Colon (Ankh-Morpork City Guard, Night Watch), consulting his notebook, "so far we have cause of death as a) being beaten with at least one blunt instrument b) being strangled with a string of sausages and c) being savaged by at least two animals with big sharp teeth. What do we do now, Nobby?"

"Arrest the suspect, Sarge," said Corporal Nobbs, saluting smartly.

"Suspect, Nobby?"

"Him," said Nobby, prodding the corpse with his boot. "I call it highly suspicious, being dead like that. He's been drinking, too. We could do him for being dead and disorderly."

Colon scratched his head. Arresting the corpse offered, of course, certain advantages. But...

"I reckon," he said slowly, "that Captain Vimes'll want this one sorted out. You'd better bring it back to the Watch House, Nobby."

"And then can we eat the sausages, sarge?" said Corporal Nobbs.

It wasn't easy, being the senior policeman in Ankh-Morpork, greatest of cities of the Discworld
  • .

    There were probably worlds, captain Vimes mused in his gloomier moments, where there weren't wizards (who made locked room mysteries commonplace) or zombies (murder cases were really strange when the victim could be the chief witness) and where dogs could be relied on to do nothing in the night time and not go around chatting to people. Captain Vimes believed in logic, in much the same way as a man in a desert believed in ice -- i.e., it was something he really needed, but this just wasn't the world for it. Just once, he thought, it'd be nice to solve something.

    He looked at the blue-faced body on the slab, and felt a tiny flicker of excitement. There were clues. He'd never seen proper clues before.

    "Couldn't have been a robber, Captain," said Sergeant Colon. "The reason being, his pockets were full of money. Eleven dollars."

    "I wouldn't call that full," said Captain Vimes.

    "It was all in pennies and ha'pennies, sir. I'm amazed his trousers stood the strain. And I have cunningly detected the fact that he was a showman, sir. He had some cards in his pocket, sir. 'Chas Slumber, Children's Entertainer'."

    "I suppose no one saw anything?" said Vimes.

    "Well, sir," said Sergeant Colon helpfully, "I told young Constable Carrot to find some witnesses."

    "You asked Corporal Carrot to investigate a murder? All by himself?" said Vimes.

    The sergeant scratched his head.

    "And he said to me, did I know anyone very old and seriously ill?"

    And on the magical Discworld, there is always one guaranteed witness to any homicide. It's his job.

    Constable Carrot, the Watch's youngest member, often struck people as simple. And he was. He was incredibly simple, but in the same way that a sword is simple, or an ambush is simple. He was also possibly the most linear thinker in the history of the universe.

    He'd been waiting by the bedside of an old man, who'd quite enjoyed the company. And now it was time to take out his notebook.

    "Now I know you saw something, sir," he said. "You were there."


    "You see, sir," said Corporal Carrot, "as I understand the law, you are an Accessory After The Fact. Or possibly Before The Fact."


    "And I am an officer of the Law," said Corporal Carrot. "There's got to be a law, you know."


    "Oh, I don't know, sir," said Carrot, "I think you have."


    Death watched Carrot leave, ducking his head as he went down the narrow stairs of the hovel.


    "Excuse me," said the wizened old man in the bed. "I happen to be 107, you know. I haven't got all day."


    Death sharpened his scythe. It was the first time he'd ever helped the police with their enquiries. Still, everyone had a job to do.

    Corporal Carrot strolled easily around the town. He had a Theory. He'd read a book about Theories. You added up all the clues, and you got a Theory. Everything had to fit.

    There were sausages. Someone had to buy sausages. And then there were pennies. Normally only one subsection of the human race paid for things in pennies.

    He called in at a sausage maker. He found a group of children, and chatted to them for a while.

    Then he ambled back to the alley, where Corporal Nobbs had chalked the outline of the corpse on the ground (colouring it in, and adding a pipe and a walking stick and some trees and bushes in the background -- people had already dropped 7p in his helmet). He paid some attention to the heap of rubbish at the far end, and then sat down on a busted barrel.

    "All right... you can come out now," he said, to the world at large. "I didn't know there were any gnomes left in the world."

    The rubbish rustled. They trooped out -- the little man with the red hat, the hunched back and the hooked nose, the little woman in the mob cap carrying the even smaller baby, the little policeman, the dog with the ruff around its neck, and the very small alligator.

    Corporal Carrot sat and listened.

    "He made us do it," said the little man. He had a surprisingly deep voice. "He used to beat us. Even the alligator. That was all he understood, hitting things with sticks. And he used to take all the money the dog Toby collected and get drunk. And then we ran away and he caught us in the alley and started on Judy and the baby and he fell over and --"

    "Who hit him first?" said Carrot.

    "All of us!"

    "But not very hard," said Carrot. "You're all too small. You didn't kill him. I have a very convincing statement about that. So I went and had another look at him. He'd choked to death. What's this?"

    He held up a little leather disc.

    "It's a swozzle," said the little policeman. "He used it for the voices. He said ours weren't funny enough."

    "That's the way to do it!" said the one called Judy.

    It was stuck in his throat," said Carrot. "I suggest you run away. Just as far as you can."

    "We thought we could start a people's co-operative," said the leading gnome.

    "You know... experimental drama, street theatre, that sort of thing. Not hitting each other with sticks..."

    "You did that for children?" said Carrot.

    "He said it was a new sort of entertainment. He said it'd catch on."

    Carrot stood up, and flicked the swozzle into the rubbish.

    "People'll never stand for it," he said. "That's not the way to do it."

  • Which is flat and goes through space on the back of an enormous turtle, and why not...

  • « Poslednja izmena: 30. Sep 2005, 15:29:06 od Makishon »
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