I was standing by the ocean. Through dense fog I could see the vague contours of something big just offshore, moving rapidly across the water from right to left. I looked harder: it was a destroyer, flat grey, its gun turrets pointed obliquely toward the land. Following the destroyer came another boat, moving at the same speed and on the same trajectory, carrying on its flat deck a helicopter. Third and last in this procession came another helicopter, this one flying about twenty feet above the surface of the water. The helicopter was towing a vast network of fibers, linked together at nodes that looked like white marbles. I estimated that there were at least ten thousand nodes in this loose structure, which extended for perhaps a hundred yards behind the helicopter. The fibers holding it together must have been more rigid than they looked, because the array retained a complex three-dimensional shape as it was being pulled through the air instead of collapsing on itself into a long clumpy strand. I understood that this thing was a piece of scientific apparatus, to be launched into space as part of a zero-G experiment on neural networks.
17 July 2011