"To Be Able to Rise from the Earth"
[February 1, 2015]
The latest applicant for
Maldivian citizenship arrived
in President Latheef's office
with a silver briefcase in hand.
"My name is Forouhar Azam," he said
in fluent Arabic spiced with Iranian notes.
"Thank you for agreeing to see me."
"The intake office mentioned that
you work in space exploration,"
said President Latheef. "I would
like to hear more about that."
Forouhar chuckled. "You could
say that. I came to ask if you'd
like a space program," he said.
"I used to work in Iran, but theirs
made other countries nervous
and it just got cancelled."
"You brought plans?"
the President asked,
waving at the briefcase.
"I brought the space program,"
Forouhar said. "I'm offering
to trade it for citizenship. It's
nanotechnology. It fits
inside this briefcase."
"Really?" said the President.
"I don't disbelieve you, but I
find it hard to imagine."
"The briefcase contains
the command module
and some raw materials for
the nanites," said Forouhar.
"Would you like a demonstration?"
"Yes, please," said the President.
He went to the lagoon table, which
looked like a little atoll made from
blue and white glass, and picked up
the model dhonis that his daughters
had been playing with. "Will this do?"
"That's perfect," said Forouhar.
His fingers tapped a complex pattern
on the touchscreen embedded in
one edge of the briefcase.
It opened to show what looked
like a pile of silvery sand.
After a moment, the sand
began to move, pulling itself
upward and inward until it
formed buildings and a rocket.
"That's a handsome model,"
said President Latheef.
"At this size, it's just that,
a scale model," said Forouhar.
"Take it outside, and it could
scale up to model rocket that we
could actually launch. To make
a full-sized space center, we'd need
an island, the bigger the better."
"Hmm," said President Latheef.
"The biggest ones are inhabited
already. I've been giving away
some uninhabited ones to soups
who immigrate, but they're smaller."
"Well, I suppose the nanites could
expand the size of the island base,
but that would take time -- they're
small, so they don't move fast on
a large scale," said Forouhar.
The President's interest spiked.
"Your nanites can expand islands?"
"In theory," said Forouhar. "Some are
programmed to procure resources, and
others to assemble them into the pattern.
I would have to reprogram the nanites for
this kind of expansion, but it should work."
"Could you program them to shore up
inhabited islands?" the President asked,
leaning forward. "The original purpose
for inviting soups here was to keep
the country from sinking."
Forouhar shook his head.
"I wouldn't want to try it," he said.
"That's untested, and it could be
dangerous. Even if it's safe, well,
nanites tend to scare people and
I don't want anyone after my head."
"First, if you settle here, then
we'll have ample opportunity
to test what the nanites can do,"
said the President. "Second,
Maldivian citizens tend to like
anything that could help keep
our noses above the water."
"You're sure?" Forouhar said.
"I really don't want any trouble."
President Latheef remembered
that many immigrants came out of
unsafe places, and it wouldn't do
to pressure the poor fellow.
"Why don't you talk with
the Ministry of Public Safety?"
said the President. "They can
help you to figure out how to test
your island expansion program safely."
"All right," said Forouhar. "That
sounds like a reasonable plan."
"Excellent," said the President.
"Now, you mentioned a launch?"
"If you can find an open space
and wait about twenty minutes,
we can launch a model rocket,"
Forouhar said as he closed up
his briefcase. "It's a lot of fun."
"Follow me," said the President.
He stepped outside his office with
Forouhar behind him. Turning to
the security guards at his door,
he said, "Mr. Kalo, call ahead and
have someone clear some space
on the beach by the cetacean dock."
"Cetacean dock?" Forouhar said
as they walked down the hall.
"Our Navy consists of two whales,"
said the President. "Believe it or not,
they are huge fans of space exploration.
They'll want to see your rocket launch."
Which would probably leave both men
with a headache, because Steel didn't
always remember to curb his enthusiasm,
but it would be worth it for Steel's reaction.
By the time they reached the beach,
both whales were chuffing and blowing
as close to the shore as they could get.
Aquariana and Seth were on the beach,
helping the lifeguards with crowd control.
Portable beach fencing marked out
a large expanse of sand near
the cetacean dock, and people
lined the metal barrier to watch.
President Latheef kicked off
his shoes to enjoy the beach,
remembering the day when he
first came out here with Aquariana.
Forouhar opened his briefcase again,
and this time the silvery stuff inside it
spilled out onto the white sand.
As the nanites did their work,
Forouhar talked about what
they could do and the value
of exploring outer space.
Soon someone passed
him a microphone so that
the whole crowd could hear.
The whales were listening as well,
but trying not to press too hard.
Within half an hour, the launch pad
and its nearest support buildings
were complete enough to send
a rocket swooshing into the sky.
People cheered and took pictures,
the whales spouted and Moderato
breached in a graceful splash,
and Forouhar took a bow.
"A most impressive demonstration,"
President Latheef said, shaking his hand.
"I trust that we can work out details
regarding which island you want
and what kind of testing to do."
"Yes, of course," said Forouhar.
"You should also think about what
you want to do with a space program.
I just build and program the nanites."
"We'll need astronauts, if we want
to explore space," the President realized.
"You could always do unmanned missions,
but I agree that astronauts would be helpful,"
said Forouhar. "Try not to poach outright,
though, it makes other countries anxious."
"Unless they're soups, because that's
a standing offer," said President Latheef."
"Well, it looks like we have a space program
and you have a new homeland. Congratulations."
"Thank you," said Forouhar. "This is everything
I've ever wanted. To be able to rise from
the Earth enlarges the human horizon."
President Latheef looked up at
the cerulean dome of the sky.
It didn't look so far at all, now.
* * *
Forouhar Azam -- He has toasted skin, black eyes, and short black hair that is receding. He wears glasses. His heritage is primarily Iranian. He speaks Arabic, English, Esperanto, French, German, Greek, Latin, and Russian. Forouhar is a talented nanotechnologist who has designed a space program that fits into a suitcase. As a hobby, he collects microminiatures, but things built by hand, by machine, by superpowers, and by nanotech are all separate categories. He customarily wears a necklace with his name written on a grain of rice. His geeky personality and unusual sleep habits have made it difficult for him to find a girlfriend.
Origin: As an undergraduate, Forouhar was trying to design a nanotech coffee machine when an accident exposed him to the materials. He developed superpowers as a result. A decade later, he is still trying to teach nanites to brew the perfect cup of coffee, and hasn't quite succeeded yet.
Uniform: Men's clothes, typically business casual.
Qualities: Master (+6) Sense of Wonder, Expert (+4) Nanotechnologist, Expert (+4) Space Exploration, Good (+2) Collector of Microminiatures, Good (+2) Geek, Good (+2) Languages,
Poor (-2) Unlucky in Love
Powers: Good (+2) Super-Intellect, Average (0) Needs Little Sleep
Motivation: Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies.
Rice writing is an example of microminiature work. See some examples.
* * *
To be able to rise from the earth;
to be able, from a station in outer space,
to see the relationship of the planet earth to other planets;
to be able to contemplate the billions of factors in precise and beautiful combination that make human existence possible;
to be able to dwell on an encounter of the human brain and spirit with the universe&mdash
all this enlarges the human horizon …
— Norman Cousins, 1973
See a beach in Malé.
Space exploration has many benefits. Various governments and private companies have a space program. Because having one puts a country on the world stage, a lot of people are competing in this field. This is why we need a space program.
Despite this, Iran shut down its space program.
Nanotechnology appears in fact and fiction. People think there are a lot more limits than there really are. It's like flying a kite to catch lightning for the first time ... and trying to imagine a personal computer. So just look around you. If you see something happening, nanites can do it. They're just tiny bits of matter that you can program, and the world is running without human-controlled programming already. If you really want to rock it, coast on the programming that runs the universe, like fractals. I don't mind that scientists here are thinking inside boxes. I'd rather not have the toddler get the blowtorch out of the box. Wait until humanity is a bit more mature.
Crowd control is a set of techniques for directing large groups of people safely. Portable fencing such as this beach fence is one option. You can make your own out of canvas.