Here are some questions people have asked about the story.

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The Astrophysics

Q: How realistic is the scenario? Would the solar system objects really behave as described in the story?

A: There are a lot of questions to consider here, but let's look at three: 1) How likely is the passage of a black hole through the solar system? 2) Wouldn't it be easily detectable? and 3) How accurate is the depiction in the story?

For the first question, as explained in the story, it's pretty damn unlikely to happen randomly. The odds of two solar-sized objects interacting significantly in this part of the galaxy are something on the order of one in 1019 per year, which is around the same odds as rolling snake eyes 13 times in a row. Of course, those are the random odds.

For the second question, no, it turns out that unless the black hole had associated infalling matter, it would not be easily detectable if it were coming straight toward an observer. We don't have a good sense of how many of these "bare" black holes there are, because regardless of their trajectory, they are extremely difficult to observe.

On the question of the accuracy of the planetary motions in the scenario: once the mass, velocity, and position of the object are known, it is possible to model the motion of all the objects very accurately, and the videos and depictions in the story are true to the scenario as described. There is more about this in the description of the videos.


The Neuroscience

Q: How realistic is it to imagine systems that could perform fine-grained control over neurons, the way it is depicted in the story?

A: Something along the lines of MNI-3 (the cognitive enhancer) and HTM (the mood controller) will almost certainly be developed sooner or later. The only thing we know for sure is that the actual devices will no doubt be substantially different from what I've written in the story. But in principle, devices which function more or less like those in the story are feasible, and are likely to be developed within the next decade or two. Whether this turns out well for humanity or poorly will depend on a lot of factors, some within our control, some not. But whatever else, it's going to be an interesting time.

Q: How close are we to having a cognitive enhancer like MNI-3?

A: As far as I know, we are still pretty far from being able to do this. There are at least two major hurdles: first, we probably don't have enough basic neuroscience understanding to adequately model the behavior of neural tissue, and second, we don't have the ability to create the complex nanocapsules that would be required to make something like MNI-3 work. Both of these problems are the being actively researched. And progress is happening almost daily. Blogs like Brian Wang's NextBigFuture are great for keeping up with these developments.



Q: What Universe does this take place in?

A: In the space of all possible Universes, the one where this story happens is relatively close to ours. It has the same laws of physics, and the same history, for the most part, and in particular, the orbits of the planets are almost identical with ours (though the orbits are about to diverge sharply!) I've left a few clues that would allow someone who really wants to know what year corresponds to BP 9, but it's not important to the story to know that. What's relevant is that it is depicting a time very near our own.

Q: What's this BP 9, BP 8 year numbering?

A: BP means Before Perigee, where year zero is the year during which Kali makes its closest approach to the Earth. If you can't remember Perigee, you can substitute Perihelion (closest approach to the Sun), or Passage. Since the story takes place in a time that corresponds to our near future, this convention frees the reader from the distraction of trying to directly compare our dates to dates in the story.

Q: Are the places in the Philippines real?

A: Most of them correspond to real places in our world. The village where Jun-Jun lives is fictitious, but there are a lot of places very much like his in rural Bohol.