On Progress and Stagnation

Written by: Zuo Yuning (21-A1)

Designed by: Alexia Teo (22-U1)

It’s the year 2350.

Three people stand in a line. In front of them is a floating object. It has the shape of a water drop, and with a surface that fully reflects the surroundings without any distortion, it seems as though its sole purpose for existence is to praise the beauty of the immense universe.

“It’s almost a piece of art,” exclaims the young female officer.

These three represent the Space Armed Forces of the Solar System. Besides the young female, there is another man in military uniform, and in between the two is an old man. His hair and beard form a stark contrast against the overwhelming blackness of outer space.

Three weeks ago, humans detected an object moving at 20% of lightspeed towards the Solar System. Humans quickly responded by getting its military forces into combat readiness. But the alien object did not launch any attack, so humans have sent the three people group to investigate further.

“It isn’t good when an enemy’s weapon looks like art,” the scientist says while shaking his head, “if we cannot tell their weapons by the look, we probably can’t tell how they work, either.”

“It may not be a weapon,” the male officer replies, “maybe, it isn’t meant to be a weapon. Perhaps we are imagining aliens to be evil just because of our brutal history.”

Both of them know exactly what he’s referring to. Since the series of climate calamities in the 2050s, massive immigration has driven many societies to the brink of structural collapse. Pro-immigrant sentiment became heretical, as better-off countries deployed bloody measures to push back against the tens of billions of people fleeing from the global South. After that, the oil and gas depletion in 2100 was met by the continued inability of alternative sources to provide sufficient energy, and war broke out as governments used forceful means to either divert domestic dissent to foreign enemies or to grab whatever coal, thermal and hydroelectric power left on the planet. Ceasefire was signed after a series of nuclear attacks and annihilations between India and Pakistan shocked the world back to rationality, but that was already 50 years after the start. Thereafter, humans finally enjoyed a few decades of relative stability and astonishing scientific and technological progress, where humans developed everything from nuclear fusion that finally made energy virtually free and allowed the development of spaceships that possess the maximum speed of 15% lightspeed, to quantum computing that made traditional computers look like the campfires of primitives. But those good old days seem like illusions now, as ecological terrorism, skepticism of science and murder of scientists have begun their ascent.

The professor knows more. Recently, unnatural events have been occurring during scientific experiments. Physicists use particle accelerators and collide them to carry out theoretical research, but in the past few years the results of particular collisions have exhibited complete haphazardness and illogicality. To draw an analogy, while kicking a ball with a fixed amount of force in a fixed direction should yield the same results in theory, assuming every other factor is constant, now physicists are horrified to find that the ball can sometimes fly up in the sky, sometimes roll to the left, sometimes crashing into the kicker’s face, and sometimes sinking tens of metres deep into the ground! This has led to a complete pause on theoretical physics research, as nowhere in the world could a sensible result be produced.

“In any case, look at this thing! It is so shiny!”

She said in wonder as she reached out her gloved hand to touch, but her arm jerked back.

“Eek! So cold!”

The two men immediately focused. They cautiously touched the surface.

“This feels like absolute zero.” (Absolute zero is the lowest possible temperature, as it describes a state where no particles are vibrating or moving, and temperature correlates directly with the amount of vibration and movement of particles.)

“But how can anything be absolute zero?” the officer asks in shock.

The scientist takes a long pause, and fear starts to magnify as the two wait. Silence persists for half a minute, but to them it feels like a lifetime.

“Do you have a magnifying glass? The high degree kind?”

“Yes, I’ve brought the electronic magnifying device with me.”

“Can you use it on this surface?”


The female took out an object that looks like a temperature gun, as there is a display screen at the back. She presses the opposite end on the surface, and the screen returns a smooth surface.

“How many times has the image been magnified?”

“50 times.”

“Make it 100?”

She proceeds with that. The image doesn’t seem to change.



“Ten thousand?”


“Your thing must be broken!” the male officer says.

“It can’t be! I used it just a few minutes ago, and it worked!”

As if to prove that, she points the device at the man’s clothes, and immediately the image of a ragged surface returned. This is expected, as the seemingly smooth surface of his military uniform is an illusion that can be easily shattered when the microscopic unevenness of the material is revealed.

When she points the device back, nothing can be seen. The surface is calmer than the surface of a waveless sea.

“Magnify a hundred thousand times!”


“Magnify a million times!”


“Magnify ten million times!”

She shakes her head. “A million was the limit, professor,” she said.

The scientist paused again, but this time he wasn’t silent. Rather, he was pacing back and forth while constantly mumbling a few words.

“Absolute zero… Utter orderliness of arrangement…”

At last, he said something out loud.

“There is only one explanation,” he said, not looking at the clueless duo, “there is only one explanation.”

“What is it, professor?”

“Think about it, young folks. This object is made of particles that cannot move or vibrate, and to achieve that they must all be packed so tightly that there is not even a nanometer of distance between each one of them.”

“But… what does it mean?”

The professor sighs, apparently at the stupidity of the ‘young folks’. “Any object our science has come to know of consists of particles that are always in motion, since there is always space between particles for them to move around. Gas has the most space, while solids have the least space, so if something has no space between particles, it may be even tougher than solids.”

The two officers look at each other, not sure where the professor is going.

“Anything, anything you have ever seen is not as tough as this alien object! It can hit our tiny aircraft, destroy our buildings, penetrate the core of Earth, and still emerge unhurt. It is not something belonging to this world, and we are just targets waiting to be hit by it. Even the warships we have come to be so proud of, are just a piece of paper.”

Officers realised at last. The entire Space Armed Forces are at risk of utter destruction.

But before they could issue their warning, the alien object began accelerating, and the heat of its engine vaporised the three.

In less than 20 minutes, the entire more than three thousand warships strong armed forces were completely destroyed. Only a few were able to escape the Solar System.

In one hour’s time, a televised broadcast appeared on every digital screen of the human world.

It consists only of English words:


You do not stand a chance against our civilisation!

We have stopped your scientific progress by manipulating the behaviour of the particles in your accelerators, and our spearhead surveillance device has destroyed that pathetic fleet of yours!

While you have engulfed yourself in endless conflicts for the past two centuries, you have failed to progress as a civilisation.

While you emphasised so much on morality over the past centuries, you have failed to realise that material and technology determine survival.

Our army will arrive in four centuries, so do the wise thing and stop resisting, so as to minimise the meaningless suffering on your part!

Author: The Origin*

With great power comes great responsibility.

One thought on “On Progress and Stagnation”

  1. Узнайте, что такое дератизация и какие основные способы борьбы с грызунами. Порядок проведения, основные требования, периодичность процедуры. Профилактика распространения вредителей. … Мероприятия по уничтожению грызунов направлены на снижение их популяции. Работы можно условно разделить на два вида: Истребительные меры. Применяются непосредственно для борьбы с мышами, крысами, сусликами и другими вредителями.


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