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Lines of Longitude (1997)
Stephen Baxter
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Contributed by Vijay Fafat

The story tries to delve into Hawking's idea of imaginary time - how it may occur that at the beginning of the universe, time and space were ambiguously defined, smeared out into each other as a flattened patch of space-time instead of a sharp cusp of the big bang. Some geometrical explanation of how any point on the surface of a sphere can be considered a pole with radiating longitudinal lines (lines of great circle) follows and tied into the geometrical explanation of the Hawking-Hartle scheme (related to the removal of the big bang singularity in a cosmological model incorporating imaginary time). But frankly, I was at a loss to understand the setting of the story. Why were there UFOs figuring in? How did some crazed mind of an elderly student end up at a self-created pole of space-time big bang? Why did he find some girl there (and was this girl his teacher, who also ends up at that pole?)? And in general, why was anything happening the way it was described? It sounds all very mystical, which is fine by me since it's a Baxter. But not particularly satisfying.

Originally in "Dark of the Night" ed. Stephen Jones, 1997.
Also available in "Phase Space".

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Works Similar to Lines of Longitude
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  2. Schwarzschild Radius by Connie Willis
  3. The Cube Root of Conquest by Rog Phillips
  4. The Light of Other Days by Arthur C. Clarke / Stephen Baxter
  5. Manifold: Time by Stephen Baxter
  6. Dante Dreams by Stephen Baxter
  7. The Logic Pool by Stephen Baxter
  8. Planck Zero by Stephen Baxter
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GenreScience Fiction,
TopicMathematical Physics, Real Mathematics,
MediumShort Stories,

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(Maintained by Alex Kasman, College of Charleston)