The Bottleneck Years by H.E.Taylor - Chapter 71

The Bottleneck Years

by H.E. Taylor
Chapter 70 Table of Contents Chapter 72

Chapter 71

Decision Point, February 23, 2059

At UNGETF things were getting worse. Our Earthside measures were not working. Methane and carbon dioxide levels were still rising. There were a lot of grim faces around.

I put those concerns aside and turned my attention to Matt's sunbugs. Matt's multimedia files required an advanced and expensive Fraunhoeffer chemical synthesizer which the university did not have. A quick web check showed why. They cost over 5 million credits. I began to appreciate how Matt's money had evaporated.

An acquaintance in the Engineering Department, Hassan Duncan, set me up in a nano-chem lab. I was alone in this strange room full of exotic equipment. I downloaded the holo file to the animator and tried to run it. It wanted an accompanying audio file, which I had to transfer also. Then I played Matt's animation, switching between 3D video and schematic diagrams.

The technique used a vat agitated by ultrasound to provide energy. That little detail had been unmentioned in the demonstration Jon and I had seen years earlier. First the photovoltaic wafer, computer control module and microwave array were generated by what Matt called "Henry's method of self assembly". The information for the pattern was encoded in seed crystals which had to be previously constructed by the DNA-lattice technique. Then around the central module a carbon-silicon bubble grew. The bubble was a semipermeable membrane that first catalysed splitting water molecules to provide hydrogen for buoyancy and then incorporated more silicon to rigidify the shell.

It was eerie listening to Matt talk in his clipped fastforward manner. I didn't understand everything he said, but the holographic animations helped. The holos could be played in step mode so that everything going on simultaneously could be examined.

After four or five hours, I was convinced I could make it work. I understood most of what was going on. I started thinking about where I could find one of those Fraunhoeffer synthesizers.

I took a break to get a drink of water and found myself remembering Matt's words: "the sunbugs are too important to lose to corporate greed." What did he mean by that? Did the sunbugs have something to do with his death? Who would stand to lose from a relatively cheap and safe energy supply that also provided Solar Radiation Management? It was a long list. I didn't know what to think, but I wasn't at all sure I wanted to cross swords with the corporate bully boys.

I began to think about all the ways I was vulnerable, what a corporation could do to coerce or control me. I wasn't a warrior. I was ... what? A truth seeker, a scientist, a peaceful man. Why was this decision being foisted onto me?

Why was I afraid? Because it was entirely possible that my brother had been killed just because he had challenged the profitability of some damned corporation.

I looked around the lab for surveillance devices. There were none that I could see, but the place might have been crawling with microbugs for all I knew -- as could I, myself, and my clothes.

I turned all the equipment off and restarted it. There did not seem to be any way to retrieve old simulations. Just then a group of graduate students, who had the lab booked for the next three hours, came in. I took my time packing up and was glad to see them loading their own programs and animations which would overwrite anything remaining in nonvolatile memory.

I went back to my office and sat wondering what to do. It looked like the sun shields were going to handle the SRM side of things, so there was no crying need for the sunbugs. I decided to set them aside and play it safe --- focus on my work, Edie and Anna.

Excerpted from _The Bottleneck Years_ by H.E. Taylor

For further information, see
A Gentle Introduction.

If you want a copy, see
The Deal.

Last modified December 17, 2013

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