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Science and Religion in Fiction book club: Greg Egan "Clockwork Rocket"


"Set in another universe where light does not travel at a constant speed but instead has a velocity that depends on its wavelength, Clockwork Rocket recounts the personal life journey of an inhabitant in this fictional universe."

"Alongside a taut and well imagined story set in a very alien world - complete with a sympathetic range of characters and a well imagined society - Greg Egan develops an entire alternative physics. This isn't just done in a hand waving way, it is properly worked out. The story of Yalda, the scientist who is the main protagonist, is also the story of the discovery of "rotational physics" in her universe, of the implications of that, good and bad, for her planet, and finally - in the construction of the rocket of the title - the story of the action she takes to safeguard that world."

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  • Elze H

    Discussion of Greg Egan's "Clockwork Rocket" segued into a discussion special relativity, especially its alternative flavor on which the premise of this science fiction novel is based. Luckily one of our members has taken college courses in special relativity, and was able to explain the physics of the book to us. As he said, it's all "a sign change". In the equations that describe our conventional spacetime, time has a minus sign; in the "Clockwork Rocket" universe it has a plus sign, making the time dimension indistinguishable from the spatial dimensions. A wonderfully complex world is built on this one "tiny" speculative element; most of our familiar laws of physics work differently here, and all follow directly from the premise. We had an inspired discussion of these mind-bending concepts. Beside fascinating physics, this book has even more going for it, such as unusual, shapeshifting alien race.

    March 29, 2013

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