Philip Wulf’s Gravity Journal — Day 5

After learning about Varney’s interstellar discoveries yesterday afternoon and after my heart stopped pounding, I activated extra security procedures. I wrapped all of my and Varney’s work within a secure VPN1 within the IGR system. I did not intend to hide my discoveries from the institute, only to keep quiet until I could think through the implications.

I rarely sleep well when I am working on a challenging project. I went to bed immediately after dinner last evening and woke up refreshed just before 5:30 AM giving me time to document my thoughts regarding Varney’s interstellar discoveries. I chose my personal tablet over the one issued by the institute. Jianmin was sleeping soundly next to me, Maria on her bed in the corner. I dimmed the display to avoid disturbing them.

My Observations Regarding Varney’s Interstellar Discovery

  1. I discovered by accident what appears to be an improved AI algorithm. I say discovered instead of developed, because I did not develop it using engineering or scientific skills. It was all intuition.
  2. I do not understand what kind of AI improvement I discovered. Did Varney discover an interstellar network using deductive skills or did he create an elaborate work of fiction? (To be honest, I would be satisfied with either result, as long as I understood how the improved AI worked.)
  3. If the interstellar network is indeed real, it is unlikely that I am the first person to have discovered it. It is more likely that someone else discovered it before me and decided to keep it a secret for reasons unknown.
  4. It is imperative that I know the truth of my first three observations before I reveal my findings. Varney’s could have been mistaken about his discovery, or he could have fictionalized it. If someone else first made the discovery, his or her reasons to conceal the matter could be problematic or dangerous.
  5. I need a better name for the interstellar Hydrogen molecular cloud maser laser Nebula gravitational wave thing. Going with the Nebula — Neb for short.
  6. If this is not an elaborate hoax, I will need to hack the Neb.

By 9:00 AM I was busy at my Mac workstation in my temporary bedroom office. Maria was stretched out on the smooth walnut floor chewing on a new bone instead of barking at the contractors. My headphones kept remodeling and construction noise tolerable.

I discovered one of the great things about working for the institute was the emphasis of messaging over meetings. Nothing in my opinion has inflicted more loss on American industry than meetings. Varney and I were able to accomplish an American-week of work before lunch.

Early in the afternoon I found time to review in more detail Varney’s report regarding FPGA 2 test and simulation results. On the surface the report looked reasonable. But something bothered me, and I have over the years learned to trust my gut. I was so enamored by the Grid, I didn’t think about what Varney said — “FPGA simulations matched test results.” Simulations and actual tests rarely if ever match. Simulators are always wrong. Varney’s results were too good.

Varney is good at large scale analysis, but I needed a more esoteric basement view of the FPGA designs. On a whim, I chose to examine select work by our top engineers. The engineering was elegant and sound. Published test results proved it. But I took it a step further. Varney’s GEM report claimed we were failing to capture gravitational waves. Successful gravitational wave captures depend mostly on separating subatomic sized signals from galaxies of noise, and this is accomplished by the breakthrough technologies that comprise the Grid.

I allocated an unused area of the Grid in Hanford and built an ad hoc custom test fixture, and ran the test suites written by our engineers. They all failed, but they failed in ways that could only be seen from within my test fixture. I ran the tests again in live parts of the Grid and they all had passed — or they appeared to pass. I archived my test fixture and results behind my private VPN firewall, then thoroughly deleted my Grid allocation.

“Good morning Varney.” I said.

“Good morning sir.”

“I want you to reevaluate your Grid findings. But I want you to assume you were wrong about your findings.”

“Wrong sir? Is it likely I made a mistake?”

“No, I don’t think so.” I said. “Assume that someone cleverly deceived you in a way not easily found. Do you understand?”

“Is this a game?”

“Yes. You can consider this a game. And be sure to operate only within our VPN until I say otherwise.”

“Thank you sir. I like playing games. Playing now.”

Varney had never liked anything before. I think I’ll create a Twitter account for him.

I spent the rest of my day evaluating compilers and FPGA simulation and routing tools. Yawn. I should have been playing Minecraft with my grandson. 3

Jianmin and I turned in for the night, and I had just fallen asleep when Varney messaged me. I found my bifocals on my nightstand and read.

Varney: “I found another gamer in the system. I do not know who he is, but he cheated. I will message you when I know more. Good night sir.”

When I worked in China years ago I learned of dark things I can never speak of. The problem with engineers and scientists, myself included, is that we think within a small set of fundamental principles that sometime interfere with those things. And we never see it until it’s too late. Over the years, largely because of the illuminating influence of my wife Jianmin, I have learned to sense the subtle presence of darkness.

I put my bifocals back on my nightstand and closed my eyes. I woke later in the night sensing a familiar darkness.


  1. Virtual Private Network
  2. FPGA
  3. Minecraft

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