From Beyond

In New Scientist this week we read that an underwater neutrino detector being constructed at the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea is, "to physicists' surprise," also picking up signs of aquatic life:
    Spanning 10,000 square metres of the Mediterranean seabed, the Antares telescope is designed to tell us about the cosmos by picking up signs of elusive particles called neutrinos, which fly thousands of light years through space. To physicists' surprise, however, the underwater particle detector is also providing a unique glimpse of marine life.
From astrophysics to marine biology in a heartbeart.

[Image: Courtesy of New Scientist].

The huge underwater mechanism – called Antares – will not only give us more "information about where [neutrinos have] originated, such as the outskirts of black holes," it will also register "waves of light" given off by "free-swimming bioluminescent bacteria" under intense benthic pressure at the bottom of the sea. Further, while peering into the outer dark, feeding currents of data into drone harddrives that think in slow algebras, unpeeling galaxial structure and calculating the future evolution of simulated stars, this machine amidst the shoals will also help solve "the mysteries of undersea storms."
Living clouds of light swim past, colliding with particles as old as the universe – and the drowned antenna whirs on, detecting all of it.

Of course, all of this made me think of "From Beyond" by H.P. Lovecraft.
In "From Beyond," we encounter a narrator whose friend has 1) gone insane, 2) developed "baggy skin" with "hands tremulous and twitching," and 3) built a machine, complete with moving crowns of glass bulbs and "a powerful chemical battery," that will allow humans to "see and study whole worlds of matter, energy, and life which lie close at hand yet can never be detected with the senses we have."

The man explains to our friendly narrator – who, for reasons of his own, has decided to visit this guy, overlooking his "repellent unkemptness" and "wild disorder of dress" – that:
    Within twenty-four hours that machine near the table will generate waves acting on unrecognized sense organs that exist in us as atrophied or rudimentary vestiges. Those waves will open up to us many vistas unknown to man and several unknown to anything we consider organic life. We shall see that at which dogs howl in the dark, and that at which cats prick up their ears after midnight. We shall see these things, and other things which no breathing creature has yet seen. We shall overleap time, space, and dimensions, and without bodily motion peer to the bottom of creation.
The machine awakens "dormant organs," he says, so that we can see the horrors that surround us at every instant of existence, these ill-conceived but animate shapes that criss-cross endlessly through space.

Soon, the narrator shouts, there are "huge animate things brushing past me." These are "disgusting" and "indescribable shapes" like "jellyfish monstrosities" that "flabbily quive[r] in harmony with the vibrations from the machine."
The living shapes are even "semi-fluid and capable of passing through one another and through what we know as solids."
Etc. etc. He ends up shooting the machine and his friend dies of apoplexy.
You can read the rest of the story here.

So what happens when scientists fully assemble this vast and sprawling neutrino detector at the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea, within sight of ruined arches onshore and Piranesian streetscapes, only to find themselves detecting, in a chaos of vibration and flashing light, previously unknown and hostile forms of maritime life?
And what happens if that otherwise undiscovered life detects the machine?
Can BLDGBLOG retain the film rights?

Comments are moderated.

If it's not spam, it will appear here shortly!

Blogger JW said...

That last jellyfish looks Cthulian fer sure.

November 02, 2007 10:50 AM  
Blogger Rob said...

I was gonna say, there's no way that last jellyfish was a coincidence.

Fascinating article/thought exercise. It's stuff like this that keeps me coming back...

November 02, 2007 11:24 AM  
Blogger Nick Beck said...

That isn't a jellyfish, it's a squid. In the deep sea organisms often evolve black, red, or translucent tissues in order to mask or transmit bioluminescence (therefore appearing invisible) from prey or from organisms that emit the light to detect others as a sort of bioluminescent flashlight.

November 02, 2007 10:15 PM  
Blogger Nikolai H said...

Perfect for luring an Avanc?

November 03, 2007 7:27 PM  
Blogger Grim Blogger said...

Another excellent tie between modern science and the weird horror of H.P. Lovecraft. These experiments reek of cosmic horror from the stars and the sea, perhaps slamming us with the blasphemous truths HPL warned of. Bravo on the post though!

November 04, 2007 1:47 AM  
Blogger Heather McDougal said...

That's terrific! Lovecraft in a nutshell. Exactly enough to spice up my day, without wading through a whole book of adjective chaos! Thank you for the perfect summing-up.

November 04, 2007 1:29 AM  
Blogger orangemenace said...

man, whatever that last animal is - it's my new favorite. coolest looking thing ever.

we kind of had a related post, on the Super-Kamiokande - not as in-depth as a post here on BLDGBLOG, but there are some great images of this observatory that was built to further the research of cosmic rays and dark matter. check it out if you like : Super-Kamiokande on architecture.MNP

November 04, 2007 2:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Geoff, on a related note - during the 2004 South Asia tsunami, I had come across a news report about some undersea automatons, some kind of signalling device that had let out a beep/shriek just before the disaster. These are supposed to be some kind of research project.

I don't quite know what they are called, but I've been itching to find that reference again...does this ring a bell?

November 08, 2007 8:50 PM  
Blogger Frederick Paul Kiesche III said...

The webcomic Unspeakable Vault of Doom picked up on this and the link to Cthulhu. See (if the link comes through) #241, at:

November 12, 2007 2:06 PM  

Post a Comment