I board a flight to the continent once called “Antartica’, which I’ve been told was once mainly inhabited mainly by penguins. My ticket says flight time will be three hours, which for the year 2099 is a rather slow flight to get anywhere in the world; “increased flight safety” due to an unfortunate mid air collision on Air Highway 66 has caused more care than normal to be imposed on the all powerful flight industry.
I take a minute to situate myself in my seat which has my custom leg, back & arse cheeks molded into the seat for my flying pleasure. Of course this is just an insert I’ve requested from the airline to make the standard seat more comfortable. If I were a frequent flyer, the airline would 3D print the seat of my choice, but you have to travel around the world at least once a week to be considered for even basic ‘frequent flyer’ status these days. The average executive ‘frequent flyer’ usually have their own cabin including up to thirty custom printed 3D or 2D printed objects of their choice.
To say the least, 3D printing has been the most significant innovation of the 23rd century; well perhaps as significant as clean hydrogen energy. Sadly, very few people care about the history of the motor engine anymore, you would think an invention that saved our planet from disaster would be more appreciated – I can only hope that people a century ago would have cared more for our beloved planet?!
Recently, my personal reading passion has been the history of the motor engine. In fact, I must quickly decide which of the two paperbacks I am going to read if I am going to take advantage of this extremely long three hour flight in front of me. The two biographies I had quickly purchased from the travel bookshelf, include:
“Henry Ford: from assembly lines to distributed additive manufacturing – a one hundred year 3D printing revolution.”
And the second biography, titled:
“Sir Tim Berners Lee: the inventor of the hydrogen engine.”
I decide to read the book on Sir Tim, I sit down, do a little wiggle to adjust my buttocks and recline my seat to the recommended 60 degree reading angle and wait for take-off. I hardly hear the sonic boom as I am transported away into the story.
…Despite the air traffic congestion above all fifteen of the mega airports on the continent of Antartica, I’m feeling rather smug that I was able to finish an entire book in one sitting (a rarity these days). Sir Tim’s biography was riveting to say the least. The initial discoveries that occurred in the first decade of the twenty second century at the CERN scientific laboratory just outside of Geneva were more significant to world history than I knew. The red letter date (1991) when Sir Tim discovered the simple system that would allow a hydrogen atom to work in a syncrotron engine – now commonly known as the “hydro-sync” motor. I even laughed out-loud when I read about how large the original syncrotron engine was back in those days; to think, you can now fit one in your pocket – let alone the two dozen hydro-sync engines that powered this plane.
What I particularly liked about Berner’s-Lee biography was the additional social-historical narrative that was weaved around Sir Tim’s life. How the simple hydro-sync motor almost single-handidly ended wars overnight (of which the author made a rather compelling argument that most wars were started for taking resources from other countries, such as oil). However the part I enjoyed the most was the way in which the biographer described the hydro-sync motor as the ‘right hand’ of modern society, and that the technology of “3D printing” as the left hand. In combination, (these two technologies) brought about the economic revolution that we live in today. A world defined by travel and experiencing as much of the real world as possible.
I took a moment to contemplate how our world would be different if 3D printing or Hydrogen motor technology had not been invented. The biographer claimed (and I’m looking forward to checking out this theory when I land in Alexartica), that both technologies (3D printing & Hydro-sync motors) enabled the airline industry to basically take over all other industries, including what the author called “the banking industry”. Of course, you hear of stories about New York and the stock exchange, but all that remains are pictures in books since Manhattan is now under water. The biographer ended his book with a rather amusing story about how Sir Tim gave up another invention of his called ‘the internet’. A technology that would end the need for paper, naturally I smiled given the place I was about to visit and my own personal research topic.
Alexarctica is the largest airport in the world (and the largest airport out of the 15 mega airports on Antarctica). Alexarctica is also the main entrance to the largest single building in the world, the Library of Alexandria – dwarfing even the Great Wall of China as a piece of string. Of course, everyone knows this is the second building in our history to carry the name ‘The Library of Alexandria’, the first being the building in Egypt circa 300 b.c. Though, from what we are told both of these libraries have a similar remit to their patrons, the inscription on every entrance to Alexarctica:
“Life is an unfoldment, and the further we travel the more truth we can comprehend. To understand the things that are at our door is the best preparation for understanding those that lie beyond.” (Hypatia of Alexandria)
I smile with approval in recognition for the first female mathematician of my own profession. This inscription is above the great door as I walk into the Library of Alexandria at Alexarctica (though of course this building is not just a library, but museum, gallery, archive, travel agent, and crossoads for anyone and everyone in society, regardless of creed, race, religion or affiliation). Naturally, the great ‘i’ is the next thing I see as I approach the ‘information desk’. The librarian that greets me not only has a perfect voice but is impossibly multi-cultural in her beauty having been hand picked for her international genes, green Irish eyes, lush Philippians lips, thick Japanese hair, smooth Brazilian skin, strong Australia legs… I’m interrupted before I can finish my observations.
“How can I help you today, Sir” she says in a perfect English accent.
I quickly pull out a letter that has all the right signatures and hand it over to her, almost too dumb-founded to speak.
“Ah, Mr. Dewey welcome to Alexarctica. I trust you’ve visited us before?”
I attempt to soften my American accent “yes, yes of course”.
“And I can see by this letter that you are here to see our Archival team?” she asks.
“Yes please” – I hear my voice echo in the massive space covered floor to ceiling with marble.
“Of course Mr. Dewey, I’ll telephone the archive exhibition team immediately and have them take you to your appointment. However, if you would like to take a minute to see our newest gallery exhibition it will take a little while for the archive team to send someone from their offices in sector five.”
I nod my head and walk towards the direction she is pointing me.
To try and summarize the Library of Alexander on Antarctica is futile. Besides, there are more books, radio, movies and television shows which feature the Library of Alexandria than can be cataloged. The start of every great best-seller this century begins in some part of this building (usually a long lost and forgotten exhibition); I’ve yet to read a mystery novel that doesn’t have entire plots lines based on the mysteries within this ‘library or libraries’. My favorite mystery novel being The DaVinci Code, part two.
I’m about to walk into the exhibition which I’ve been instructed to see when I notice an introductory movie about ‘the Library of Alexandria’ about to play. This short film is one that every child the world over has seen, and it has fond memories for me, I decide to indulge by reminiscing, so I sit down to watch it again.
“Welcome to the Library of Alexandria” the narrators voice begins while the video shows the main entrance I just walked through. The narrator slows down her words: “You are about to start the greatest adventure of your life, not only is this adventure provide the most exciting moments in your life, it is also an adventure that that will last you your entire life” the camera zooms out showing the size of the port at the entrance of Alexarctica (including the adjacent airport), then zooming to show the entire building which takes up about two thirds of the landmass that is Antartica, and finally the camera zooms up into space to show the satellite images of the building nicknamed ‘the thumbprint of god’.
“Today you begin a journey that has more paths than you can imagine, today you will begin to make the most important decisions of your life”. It is here in this library that we are able to bring together all the great cultural objects of the world under one gigantic roof” a montage of statues, paintings, books, buildings and every other kind of cultural object goes by in the blink of an eye “It is here where you will decide where in the world you should go next so you can make the most of your leisure travel pursuits!” The video fades into a multitude of songs and sounds to represent even more cultures and different parts of the world.
The narrators voice ceases the musical montage “But how did the Library of Alexandria begin? – I hear you ask” as videos of Antarctica are shown before the building began. ‘We’ll let’s begin with *how* this building got started” A video does another quick montage of photos showing that we are going back in time. “The Library of Alexandria was built in five years, which makes it the fastest building of this size ever built. Of course, this was only possible because of the 3D printer robots that we all know and love, our little robot pets which can print any object we so desire on demand.” A video of a golden-retriever-3D-printer-robo-pet is shown, with a little face on one end for children to respond to along with a little tail that can extrude various materials out of its tail to build up the layers of an object (like the layers of a cake). The child in the video touches the mouth of the robo-pet three and the ‘dog’ quickly extrudes a vegetable food substance out of its tail which quickly is built up layer by layer to look like a rattle, the child grabs the veggie rattle and bites into it.
“The builders of ‘The Library at Alexander at Antarctica’ was built by early versions of our beloved robo-pets; working like bees or ants these robots were able to swarm around and melt down the abundant ice in Antarctica and then extrude the water again as ice blocks so as to build up the great walls and structure of the ‘Library’. The robots continue to build and rebuild walls to this day using the same method (following the fractal pattern of the building). The perfect shape of the building as seen from space is called a ‘mandelbrot fractal’ and is only possible because it was 100% machine built. The entire building was made without a single person setting foot on Antarctica, the entire effort coordinated via ham radio and satellite connections. Of course you and I know the building by its nickname ‘the fingerprint of god’. During the narrators descriptions the video shows thousands of robots as they swarm around building up walls of ice by extruding ice blocks. Some truly impressive historical footage.
The video continus with the narrator segueing “Once the great building was complete, and of course suitably insulated, the doors were opened for business. Every country in the world started sending boat loads full of their most precious cultural objects, though of course none of these objects were the real object, rather they were all copies. Sculptures such as the statue of David from Italy, paintings such as ‘War’ by Picasso, scaled-down buildings such as the Kremlin from Russia, historical artefacts such as the freedom bell from America, even geographical replicas such as the great barrier reef exhibition from Australia. And all of them a 3D printed copy, some perfectly accurate, other scaled down and done in different materials and colors to entice the tourist. But all copies.
“Why might you ask, were all these objects copied, 3D printed and brought to a single place?” – The answer may seem obvious to us today, however at the time it was a very novel idea – and alike all good ideas a simple one.” The narrators voice is enhanced with reverb for the next sentence, “No one person can see all of the world, it is too diverse, too rich and too beautiful – naturally, the most important thing for any individual to do in every country is to decide how they are going to craft their own personal journey through the great cultures of the world.”
At this stage the camera show a view of where I am sitting and starts to zoom through the various exhibitions and halls, far faster than any thing could move. “Here at Alexarctica a person can go through several dozen exhibitions in a day to help them decide where they should go to next. It is this planning of one’s travel life that makes us who we are and enriches the short lives we get to live on this planet.” The video slows down, moving to a final set of doors, which opens revealing a vast circular space miles in circumference and thousands of feet high; with books from floor to ceiling, reaching up to the heavens where the largest sky light ever seen allows light to cascade down across the books around the room and onto the desks on the ground. The voice-over proudly states: “And of course, the final destination of every tourist is the great reading room.
I’m tapped on the shoulder distracting me from the engrossing video, and I look up to see a bearded man in a corduroy coat with leather arm patches.
“Interesting story isn’t it” he smiles at me.
I return the smile and respond, “yes, and incredibly timeless given how old it is” .
“Well we’ve updated bits and pieces of it, every time the tape wears out we tend to splice in a little bit more” he replies.
I stand up and hold out my hand, “I’m Mr. Dewey”, he shakes my hand ‘thank you for coming Mr. Dewey, I’m Professor Flanders.
================================”Once upon a time, when people were restricted by how far they could travel or even what countries they were allowed into, they didn’t bother to plan out their travel journeys.” a shocked cartoon face appears. “think about how carefully you plan your work or even your day, yet most people before the Library of Alexarctica would not take the time to plan their own lives. Afterall, you’ll only get 50 days off of work per year to travel where YOU wnat (only ten years of your life!). Think of how little a child learns in the first ten years of their life – so plan your travels well! A montage of a family picking where they want to go and getting on a plane begins when I am tapped on the shoulder.
“Mr Dewey” an older man smiles at me “its fun to revisit childhood memories isn’t it.”
I smile, as I recognise the mans picture from the letter he has sent me: “Hello Mr. Brindley” I say.
Mr. Brindley cordially replies: “Welcome to the library at Alexarctica, we are very glad you are able to come”
“Of course” I smile, very eager for the information over the next half hour “I’m very interested to hear why you would need the help of theoretical graphing mathematician for a confidential practical problem at the great library!”
Mr. Brindley, starts to usher me away “naturally, but first we must take you to our department” – I’m given a seque scooter and lean forward to follow Mr. Bridnley as he zips down a straight hallway with no end in site.