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The Web site of aleph · Index
The lethal text
Writing under erasure
Mesopotamian myth
The Gilgamesh legend
The nam-shub of Enki
The Tower of Babel story
The song of the Sirens
Plato's metaphor of the cave
"man's insanity is heaven's sense"
The Ultimate Melody
The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind
Snow Crash

Once upon a time The Web site of aleph by Michael Chorost existed, but has since ceased. These texts represent a small measure of its content. Image from the short story ARI-L by Caza.

deoxy > philosophos

by Piers Anthony

New York: Avon Books, 1969.

Macroscope is about the engagement of four characters—Ivo, Beatryx, Groton, and Afra—with a lethal text from an alien civilization. A new instrument, the macroscope, has revealed the existence of thousands of civilizations in the galaxy, all of them broadcasting their knowledge for the benefit of anyone who wants to learn. However, every time the humans try to tune in on any of the bands, a "jamming" signal cuts in. This jamming signal is itself a message. The humans have discovered, to their horror, that anyone who watches it and understands it loses their mind, becoming an imbecile. The "destroyer" signal, as it is named, blocks access to galactic knowledge. The four characters take the macroscope and go in search of the source of the destroyer signal, hoping to find the reason for its existence and to stop it.

They are able partially to decode the destroyer signal, and they learn that it is written in the symbology of a universal galactic language. Ivo realizes that this symbology is qualitatively superior to human language, since it is one of transcendental signification. It has absolute meaning and universal referentiality. But this is precisely what makes it so devastating. Any human being understanding this language cannot remain human.

Perhaps the destroyer signal's victims, while apparently imbeciles, have in fact transcended the human, like the fortunate few who leave Plato's cave. Brad Carpenter, one of the scientists affected by the destroyer signal, can utter only one word afterward: "Schön", the German word for "beauty."

Macroscope works Mesopotamian mythology into its plot, just as Snow Crash does.