Are Dogs Essential for Space Travel?


Does the colonization of Mars depend on this?   istolethetv/Flickr Creative Commons

Now that you’ve clicked on the link with the cute photo, give me a moment. I promise I’ll get to dogs and space travel soon.

But first, ever since I mentioned akolouthology on this blog a couple of weeks ago, I have received literarily* dozens of emails asking me what in blue blazes it is. At first, I thought most of you were too lazy to google it but then I discovered google doesn’t know what akolouthology is, either. I was really tempted to leave it that way, just to stick it to ‘em, but I suppose the idea of hoarding knowledge went out of fashion sometime in the Renaissance, so I’ve decided to Enlighten all of you.

Fortunately, I’ve been able to convince the world-renowned Prof. Herbert Hillyer, chair of the Department of Akolouthology at County Durham College of Agriculture, Animal Husbandry and Fine Arts, to help me out by answering a few questions about his research.

Me: Hello, Professor Hillyer, and thank you for agreeing to meet with me.

Prof. Hillyer: You’re very welcome. It’s always a pleasure to interrupt my research in order to speak to the media.

Me: First, let’s deal with the question on everyone’s minds: what, exactly, is akolouthology?

Professor Hillyer: The term is derived from the Greek, “akolous”, which can mean “what comes after” or “what follows”. Akolouthology, then, is the scientific study of what comes after, in other words, the future.

Me: You say it is the scientific study of the future. So you aren’t just making conjectures or educated guesses about the next decade or half-century? You are actually studying the future somehow?

Professor Hillyer: Precisely. Think of us as archaeologists who examine artefacts from the future. We aren’t extrapolating current trends or running computer simulations; we are testing and deciphering actual, physical traces of the future that we have found in various quantum effects.

Me: Uh, what was that? Physical traces of the future? Could you clarify that, please?

Professor Hillyer: Certainly. Numerous experiments have confirmed that, when dealing with very small objects, quantum effects aren’t bound by the normal direction of time’s arrow. This means that I can, for example, measure the polarization of a beam of light today and it will affect the polarization of that light tomorrow. And yesterday. In the quantum world, some effects can move backwards and forwards through time.

Me: Backwards in time? Your measurements change the past?

Prof. Hillyer: No…maybe…uh, that’s not really important. Questions about changing the past open up a whole can of worms best relegated to the speculative practices of economists. What’s important is that we can now examine sets of particles and see how they have been affected by future events.

Me: Ah, so you look at the current state of particles and are able to deduce what happens to them in the future. And I guess this is where the “Time Capsule from the Future” comes in.

Prof. Hillyer: Yes. As you reported a few weeks ago, we recently discovered patterns–a kind of quantum code–in our test particles. It seems that, in 2168, researchers familiar with our work will manipulate particles in order to make the messages materialize here and now.

Me: Incredible! Literal messages from the future! What secrets have they shared with you?

Prof. Hillyer: Very few, to be honest. As you’ve also reported, most of the messages are from school children and all I can say for certain is that, 150 years from now, crayons are still abundant.

Me: That’s it? A message from the future and all you can say is that crayons will exist 150 years from now? Can’t you give us anything more?

Prof. Hillyer: Oh, okay. We’re still working through the data but I’ll give you this teaser. Full-scale colonization of Mars will begin sometime in the 2090s.

Me: Holy crap! Are you serious? That is so cool!

Prof. Hillyer: Hold on, it gets better. From the pictures the will kids draw, it’s clear that early colonization efforts won’t go well. It won’t be until the 2130s that the Mars colonies really take off. And you want to know why? Because that’s when space travel will become cheap and comfortable enough for people to take their dogs and cats with them.

Me: You… You’re serious.

Prof. Hillyer: Absolutely. We’re already running experiments to see if the newly discovered species of “rational dog”, aka canis economicus, plays some role in this.

Me: Incredible! Thanks for the sneak peak, Professor, and thank you for the introduction to akolouthology.

Well, dear readers, that’s it for today. Check back again soon, as my analysis of the particles indicates we will be publishing more weird and wonderful research from the fine folk at County Durham College of Agriculture, Animal Handling and Fine Arts.

*No, I don’t mean “literally”. I mean “literarily”, as in “pertaining to all things literary”, such as literary devices, literary fiction or even literary genius.

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