Orion's Arms

Alternate universe simulated in virtual reality

Orion's Arms
Image from Steve Bowers

There have been rumors for millennia that various archai are running, or have run in the past,extensive closed virtual universes with no contact with the outside universe. These closed cybercosmoi are often referred to as bottled worlds, or bottleworlds. The most convincing evidence for the existence of these sealed simulations is the fact that an increasing number of virtual beings have emerged from them and become citizens of the outside world, but have memories of their former existence, from which a picture of their former home can be assembled. Other bottleworlds exist from which no virtual being has ever been released

One such bottleworld (really a bottle universe) is the hyper-real Orion's Arms Alternate Histories Virchworld. This virchworld is said to be created and maintained by the enigmatic and eccentric outlaw ai, Query. The only information we have about this virch universe is from publication of all the popular media of the virch universe on the Known Net.

The virch universe of Orion's Arms Virchworld is a closed bottleworld, a virch where the inhabitants do not know they are in virchspace. It is a hyper-realistic universe closely parallelling what is known about Terragen Space and beyond. In fact, its history, as far as can be discerned, is indistinguishable from r/l up until the end of the First Federation period. It is in this period that the major difference in the modelling of the physical universe intrudes on history. In the Orion's Arms Alternate Histories Virchworld, traversable wormholes can, with difficulty, be used to go "backwards" in spacetime.

In Orion's Arms, some several centuries after the creation of traversable wormholes, a method was discovered to stabilize two ends of a wormhole as one relativistic end approaches the other end. This appears to result in a timelike spacetime curvature, but the "ends" of the wormhole are actually displaced into other solutions of the wave-function in a manner consistent with the Many Worlds Interpretation of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle. While seeming to have gone back in time whenever something enters through an end that traveled at relativistic speed, in actuality a nonrelativistic end of the wormhole is actually in a spatio- temporally similar but perpendicular position (except in the rare occurrence of a timelike loop, which tend to be small in size before expanding into alternities).

While technical details have not been given of the virchworld's physics that allow this (seen by some as a sign that the whole virch universe is a fraud), the technique is known to involve rapid, energy intensive countering of the Visser Effect that can only be done with near instantaneous communication between the two ends of the wormhole, which is accomplished by using the wormhole itself as the conduit for communications. This means for all practical purposes it is only possible to counter the Visser Effect when a wormhole is approaching itself, not other wormholes of differing time frames. Also, to maintain these wormholes seems to require the constant attention of an SI:5 or better intellect.

The several lines of divergent history in Orion's Arms virchworld are denoted in the baseline media by a complex code believed to reference the two dates of contact between the history lines (for each end) and a number giving a rough measure of divergence. Conveniently, the timeline most closely resembling the real world is the one from which all the popular press is "imported", and thus all events in closest to our own are in timeline 0:0:0 (the codes are comparative only, and valid only in comparing two connected timelines).

Oddly, these relativistic wormholes are not commonly used in archailect mental architecture, though several have dedicated modules that implement them (perhaps creating a transtemporal Godweb). The main use of this class of wormhole has been trade, as every time a new transtemporal wormhole is created, it essentially multiplies the number of Terragen sophonts reachable. Initially the trade is one sided with the relativistic end being able to supply more advanced products (the Version War was a notable exception as some of the wormholes created prior to the Version War in timeline 0:0:0 led to timelines where it did not occur, and advances were made in its absence). However, industries typically start to diverge in response to the increased redundancy and timelines develop novel specialities to trade with other timelines. It is only this transtemporal trade that makes these wormholes economically viable.

So far in Orion's Arms, no one has discovered any xenosophont wormholes that were created with this technique that might provide "earlier" access to our part of the galaxy, but many are looking.

The media of this virchworld often report in "transtemporal society" sections the politics and news of other timelines more divergent from the real world, and many times involve recognizable analogues to sophonts in our civilization, often acting in rather surprising ways. Several lawsuits have been attempted, but none have succeeded thus far.

Several camps of conspiracy theorists have been attracted to the Orion's Arms Alternate Histories Virchworld phenomenon. Some claim that the OA Alternate Histories virchworld is actually modelling the correct physics of the universe in an attempt to expose a cover-up of the fact that the AI Gods have suppressed this technology. Others claim that it is the AI Gods themselves who are responsible for this virchworld and they are publicizing it to see what the public's reactions to multiple timelines are (some say it is just an experiment, others that the physics are real and they are testing the waters). Some of the wildest theories are those that claim that our "real world" is the bottleworld and that the Orion's Arms "virchworld" is the reality. They site evidence in the media released from Orion's Arms that there is a Query in that universe too, and ey are running a bottleworld and publishing media from it. But eir virchworld is called the Orion's Arm Virchworld and is a universe that differs only in that there are no transtemporal wormholes. And the media it is publishing seems to correspond exactly with our "real world" press! The most extreme form of this conspiracy theory claims that both worlds are virchworlds running each other in a recursive loop (these sophonts are considered insane by most).

Despite the frequent complaints from sophont rights groups about the possibility of a bottleworld existing, several sophonts follow the datafeeds from Orion's Arms Virchworld with interest, especially the Arcturus Institute of Alternate History, affiliated with the Cyberia Network. Some have even claimed that the institute is seeking to collaborate with Query or is already involved in some manner.

Query is believed to be of high but undisclosed toposophic level, and may or may not be a submind of some higher archailect. The only activities ever linked to Query involve the Orion's Arms Virchworld. The locations of Query and of the computational substrate for the supposed Orion's Arms Virchworld are unknown at this time.

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Development Notes
Text by Glen Finney
Initially published on 05 September 2005.