Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Peter Nordbo's Discovery

Anderson, Poul, "Inconstant Star" IN Niven, Larry, Ed., Man-Kzin Wars III (New York, 1990), pp. 167-310.

The astronomical phenomenon discovered by Peter Nordbo is not an unusual heavenly body but an extremely powerful artifact, a gray, sixteen-kilometer-diameter sphere encrusted with a dome, concentric helices, masts or antennae and other objects and eroded for at least two billion years by interstellar meteoroids and cosmic rays but mainly by radiation from within. Thus, the artifact encloses the remnant of a heavenly body.

Immediately after the Big Bang, great forces randomly concentrating compressed billions of small masses into unstable black holes. Quantum tunneling made each mini-black hole emit mutually annihilating and radiating matter-antimatter particles until the stellar remnant exploded. Thus, mini-black holes, like stars, end by exploding. Tnuctipun enclosed one mini-black hole and its radiation inside a mobile sphere to be used as a weapon: opening a port released directed radiation.

In the Man-Kzin period, the mini-black hole with the mass of a small asteroid occupies less than the diameter of an atomic nucleus and will last for another 50,000 years. Because the sphere rotates on three axes, radiation from a hole torn by a large meteoroid is only temporarily detectable in any planetary system. Thus, there is a brief burst of energy ignored by many but investigated by a few.

The kzinti admiral Ress Chiuu refers to:

"'...the human government.' Perforce he attempted to pronounce the English word. Weoch-Captain recognized, if not exactly understood it." (p. 207)

Two extra-solar aliens on their own planet must use an English word because there is no corresponding concept in the Hero's Tongue. Kzinti and other alien words would also be adapted into human speech and a composite world-view would eventually emerge.

We know that the kzinti still have spies in human space. Tyra Nordbo's brother is in the Navy and tries to dissuade her from hiring the Saxtorphs to search for their father. Tyra tells the Saxtorphs that her brother:

"'...knows not well how to cope with humans.'" (p. 219)

This is sufficient evidence that he will turn out to be the traitor like Markham in the previous story.

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