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The Weird Physics of H.P. Lovecraft’s "Corpse-City," R’lyeh

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According to H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos, somewhere sunken in the South Pacific there is a “nightmare corpse-city” called R’lyeh, “built in measureless eons behind history by the vast, loathsome shapes that seeped down from the dark stars.” In his house in this city, the great old god Cthulhu waits, dead and dreaming, for his return to power. In The Call of Cthulhu,” Lovecraft’s most famous story, a crew of sailors accidentally discover a risen part of the city, an island with a “coast-line of mingled mud, ooze, and weedy Cyclopean masonry,” accidentally wake Cthulhu from his sleep, and are either killed or driven mad.

Even if you ignore the monstrous god waiting in its vaults, the architecture and landscape of R’lyeh are enough to test one’s sanity. Exploring the island, the sailors soon discover that “all the rules of matter and perspective seemed upset,” and they struggle to comprehend and describe their surroundings. “One could not be sure that the sea and the ground were horizontal, hence the relative position of everything else seemed phantasmally variable,” one of the sailors, Gustaf Johansen, wrote in his log. Even when they discover a simple door, the sailors couldn’t tell if it “lay flat like a trap-door or slantwise like an outside cellar-door” because the “geometry of the place was all wrong.”

Of course, none of it—the sailors, the city, the island, the dead-dreaming god—are real. If it was, though, would science be able to explain the weird geometry of the city? Benjamin Tippett, a theoretical physicist and mathematician at the University of New Brunswick, gave it a shot. His playful paper, “Possible Bubbles of Spacetime Curvature in the South Pacific,” is a lot of fun and reads like a mashup of a standard science paper and one of Lovecraft’s own stories. Tippett isn’t shy about pulling out the Lovecraftian adjectives and cites the various letters and documents that drive “The Call of Cthulhu” like another scientist might reference previous research. In the process, he sort of becomes a Lovecraftian narrator himself, a scholarly man digging a bit too far into forbidden knowledge on his way to developing what he calls a “unified theory of Cthulhu.”

After poring over the clues and descriptions left by Lovecraft’s characters and employing his “mad general relativity skills,” Tippett thinks that the geometry of R’lyeh was all wrong—not because the architecture curves and angles in strange ways, but because of the space the city occupies. R’lyeh, he says, lies in a “region of anomalously curved spacetime,” and the bizarre geometry of the buildings and changing alignment of the horizon are the consequences of the “gravitational lensing of images therein.” 

In a region of curved spacetime, Tippett explains, light doesn’t travel in reliably straight trajectories, so objects beyond the curved region appear warped and skewed, and the relative positions of two objects, or the flatness of a large object, in the region are difficult to discern. A visitor to R’lyeh, he says, would “see the outside world (and other distant objects upon the island) as if through a large fishbowl. Thus, the horizon would no longer be reliably straight, and the sun and moon would swing wildly through the sky depending on one’s position.”

Tippett thinks his “spacetime bubble hypothesis” can also explain the oddities of how time is perceived in R’lyeh, and maybe even address the “central myth of the Cthulhu cult.” Time, he says, passes slower inside an area of curved spacetime than it does outside of it. This time dilation is probably what allowed the sailor Johansen to “survive adrift at sea for nearly two weeks … in a state of helpless dementia.” It could also mean that Cthulhu, whose cultists describe him as dead and dreaming, neither alive nor truly dead, is simply “in a position where it does not feel the passage of time.” At the center of the spacetime bubble, the god could wait, unchanging, for aeons.

As to what caused or created the curved spacetime bubble surrounding R’lyeh, Tippett can only guess. “An exotic type of matter with which human science is entirely unfamiliar is required for such a geometry to exist,” he says. “Indeed, this is the very species of energy which is theoretically required to build a warp drive or a cloaking device. Only a people capable of crossing vast cosmic distances could have constructed Johansen’s bubble.” 

Or, as he says on his blog, “In proving Johansen wasn’t crazy I accidentally figure out that Cthulhu is probably real, responsible for the island … and I also figure out what he’s doing down there. Of course, as a brave man of science, I can’t go and admit that Cthulhu exists … but you can tell…”

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A Simple Way to Charge Your iPhone in 5 Minutes
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Spotting the “low battery” notification on your phone is usually followed by a frantic search for an outlet and further stress over the fact that you may not have time for a full charge. On iPhones, plugging your device into the wall for five minutes might result in only a modest increase of about three percent or so. But this tip from Business Insider Tech may allow you to squeeze out a little more juice.

The trick? Before charging, put your phone in Airplane Mode so that you reduce the number of energy-sucking tasks (signal searching, fielding incoming communications) your device will try and perform.

Next, take the cover off if you have one (the phone might be generating extra heat as a result). Finally, try to use an iPad adapter, which has demonstrated a faster rate of charging than the adapter that comes with your iPhone.

Do that and you’ll likely double your battery boost, from about three to six percent. It may not sound like much, but that little bit of extra juice might keep you connected until you’re able to plug it in for a full charge.

[h/t Business Insider Tech]

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Trying to Save Money? Avoid Shopping on a Smartphone
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Today, Americans do most of their shopping online—but as anyone who’s indulged in late-night retail therapy likely knows, this convenience often can come with an added cost. Trying to curb expenses, but don't want to swear off the convenience of ordering groceries in your PJs? New research shows that shopping on a desktop computer instead of a mobile phone may help you avoid making foolish purchases, according to Co. Design. Ying Zhu, a marketing professor at the University of British Columbia-Okanagan, recently led a study to measure how touchscreen technology affects consumer behavior. Published in the Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services, her research found that people are more likely to make more frivolous, impulsive purchases if they’re shopping on their phones than if they’re facing a computer monitor. Zhu, along with study co-author Jeffrey Meyer of Bowling Green State University, ran a series of lab experiments on student participants to observe how different electronic devices affected shoppers’ thinking styles and intentions. Their aim was to see if subjects' purchasing goals changed when it came to buying frivolous things, like chocolate or massages, or more practical things, like food or office supplies. In one experiment, participants were randomly assigned to use a desktop or a touchscreen. Then, they were presented with an offer to purchase either a frivolous item (a $50 restaurant certificate for $30) or a useful one (a $50 grocery certificate for $30). These subjects used a three-point scale to gauge how likely they were to purchase the offer, and they also evaluated how practical or frivolous each item was. (Participants rated the restaurant certificate to be more indulgent than the grocery certificate.) Sure enough, the researchers found that participants had "significantly higher" purchase intentions for hedonic (i.e. pleasurable) products when buying on touchscreens than on desktops, according to the study. On the flip side, participants had significantly higher purchase intentions for utilitarian (i.e. practical) products while using desktops instead of touchscreens. "The playful and fun nature of the touchscreen enhances consumers' favor of hedonic products; while the logical and functional nature of a desktop endorses the consumers' preference for utilitarian products," Zhu explains in a press release. The study also found that participants using touchscreen technology scored significantly higher on "experiential thinking" than subjects using desktop computers, whereas those with desktop computers demonstrated higher scores for rational thinking. “When you’re in an experiential thinking mode, [you crave] excitement, a different experience,” Zhu explained to Co. Design. “When you’re on the desktop, with all the work emails, that interface puts you into a rational thinking style. While you’re in a rational thinking style, when you assess a product, you’ll look for something with functionality and specific uses.” Zhu’s advice for consumers looking to conserve cash? Stow away the smartphone when you’re itching to splurge on a guilty pleasure. [h/t Fast Company]

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