Sunday, August 9, 2009

From Solaris, by Stanisław Lem

Begin reading on page 165 at "It was Gravinsky's Compendium…" and continue reading through page 169 "…an ocean of printed paper." Page 168 is missing, and you can read that text below the embedded Google reader feature:

"death-throes—impressive enough, nonetheless—which had been going on for centuries. Thus, for instance, the extensors and mimoids were seen as tumors, and all the surface processes of the huge fluid body as expressions of chaos and anarchy. This approach to the problem became an obsession. For seven or eight years, the academic literature produced a spate of assertions which although framed in polite, cautious terms, amounted to little more than insults, the revenge of a rabble of leaderless suitors when they realized that the object of their most pressing attentions was indifferent to the point of obstinately ignoring all their advances.

A group of European psychologists once carried out a public opinion poll spread over a period of several years. Their report had no direct bearing on Solarist studies, and was not included in the library collection, but I had read it, and retained a clear memory of its findings. The investigators had strikingly demonstrated that the changes in lay opinion were closely correlated to the fluctuations of opinion recorded in scientific circles.

That change was expressed even in the coordinating committee of the Institute of Planetology, which controls the financial appropriations for research, by means of a progressive reduction in the budgets of institutes and appointments devoted to Solarist studies, as well as by restrictions on the size of the exploration teams.

Some scientists adopted a position at the other extreme, and agitated for more vigorous steps to be taken. The administrative director of the Universal Cosmological Institute ventured to assert that the living ocean did not despise men in the least, but had not noticed them, as an elephant neither feels nor sees the ants crawling on its back. To attract and hold the ocean's attention, it would be necessary to devise more powerful stimuli, and gigantic machines tailored to the dimensions of the entire planet. Malicious commentators were not slow to point out that the director could well afford to be generous, since it was the Institute of Planetology which would have had to foot the bill.

Still, the hypotheses rained down—old, 'resurrected'…"

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