Monday, December 29, 2014

Everybody Jump

Could you cause an earthquake if enough people jumped up and down at the same time? And if you could, would it save a lot of lives to
create earthquakes on demand?

Author Henry Lien explores that question in his excellent fantasy novelette, "The Great Leap of Shin," appearing in the January/February
2015 issue of Analog Science Fiction and Fact. The powerful Eunuch Mu-Hai Chen is determined to create the Earthquake of Five Thousand Years by lining up 200 million men along a major fault line in his kingdom and synchronizing their jumps to set up a resonant frequency, prophylactically saving millions of lives, though at the expense of a percentage of the population.

But the young nobleman Tian-Tai is equally determined to halt the plan, which will destroy his island of Pearl and flood the Purple River. He brings a team of acrobatic dancers to the capital to assassinate Mu-Hai Chen under the guise of paying homage. He pleads to save Pearl, which has developed a self-healing new building material of spider silk made liquid.

Neither the eunuch nor the boy will back down, so the great leap occurs as scheduled. The kingdom of Shin lies in ruins, and older buildings of the city of Pearl are flattened. Then we learn how history treats each one for his sacrifice.

Lien's calculations of how the Great Leap would work are highly entertaining, though a peek at Hugo winner Randall Munroe's book, "what if?" shows us that it would be impossible to make the earth move even a little, even if everyone on earth jumped, even if they were in a concentrated area the size of Rhode Island, even if...

Great fun, nonetheless.

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