Among his many talents (such as champion of Northern Greece in the javelin throw in the early 1940’s and many medals in javelin and in discus in the Master’s Games in Canada in the early 1990’s), my father, Kostas Tsotsos (1920 – 2004) was a poet; he also had written his WWII memoirs. Some of the older poems had been previously published in journals and newspapers in Greece and in the USA. The writings will be found at http://www.ktsotsos.com/Kostas_Tsotsos/Welcome.html .

All net proceeds from sales via the web site go to support the Kostas Tsotsos Graduate Award in Modern Greek History in the Dept. of History, York University.

My father taught me what idealism means through his actions, his words, his journey through life.

I am co-founder of Palomino Systems Innovations, Ltd. of Toronto, a terrific web content management and web/database solutions company. Check out www.palominosys.com

A fascinating, short, science fiction story written by Andrew Smith (Dept. of Psychology, McMaster University at the time of writing in 2002) …… Take a read!

*The Fastest Computer*

Andrew Smith

Mankind was on the brink of its greatest achievement. Professor Tsotsos had been working all night. He looked down at his creation – the first ever neo-quantum computer. Computers had been getting faster and faster ever since their invention nearly two centuries ago. The very first machines had been able to perform just a few hundred basic instructions every second. Throughout that century the figure had doubled every eighteen months without fail, until by the end of the millennium, computers were running at an unimaginable one billion instructions every second. But progress had not stopped there. One billion instructions a second became ten billion instructions a second, then a trillion, then a thousand trillion. Every time they warned that the ceiling was being reached, either because of theoretical limits in the engineering process, or even because of the laws of nature itself, someone somewhere seemed to find a way to circumnavigate the problem. Originally, in the early days of the integrated circuit board, the width of the etching laser was proposed as the limiting factor. Then, back in the era of the optic computer the speed of light was apparently the constraint. Then came the Gamma computer in which the world was warned the frequency of Gamma radiation would inevitably supply the upper limit on performance. Then came the first X-Gamma machine which multiplied the top processing speeds by a factor of ten practically over night. Then the quantum computing age had taken off, but again, limitations on quantum tunnelling speeds appeared sure to put a constraint on how high man could fly. By the end of the second century of the second millennium, computers were able to process more than one trillion trillion instructions every second, and this speed was only limited by the two-century old fundamental physical quantity – Plank’s constant. A truly tiny number that dictated a degree of uncertainty in all parts of the universe. This uncertainty was apparently unnegotiable, no matter how ingenious man’s efforts might become.

But Professor Tsotsos and his team had, over the last few years, managed to prove yet again that man’s capacity to solve problems was greater than his ability to invent them. Neo-quantum theory had shown that the universe in which man lived was not in fact the only universe, but one of an apparently infinite number of universes, with every possibility of existence etched out somewhere in the continuum. It was officially the craziest theory science had ever come up with, but experimental results had borne the theory out, and here at last, sitting in front of the Professor, was the first ever application of that theory. The computer worked not by performing sequential calculations in its universe, but by performing concurrent calculations in parallel universes. According to the theory, because the number of universes was unbounded then a calculation of any length or any size could be computed in a constant time that was proportional to Plank’s constant. No matter how many calculations were required to complete the operation, the answer would always come back after precisely 6.626176 ten to the thirty-fourths of a second – which is a very, very short time indeed. In effect this meant that the first ever machine had been invented which was capable of computing infinitely quickly. The larger the problem, simply the more alternative universes were sucked into the calculation.

The downside to the whole process was that the calculations performed by the computer were what was termed `invasive’. For every calculation performed, a tiny particle somewhere at some time in some universe would be altered from its original state. Only according to the mathematicians, this did not lead to the other universe changing its natural course, but rather, in some strange way, to the other universe always having been this way. It was all highly confusing and nobody had a good understanding of how this could be. But the mathematicians were trusted, because it was only in the math that the frontiers of modern science made any sense whatsoever.

Now you might want to know what the very first calculation performed on such a fantastic machine was. Half an hour ago the professor had entered a program to calculate the first digit of the number, Pi. The computer had responded almost immediately with the answer: 3. The professor had smiled. This was indeed the first digit of Pi, although according to the Professor’s estimate, it had only taken the machine about one thousand operations to work this out. His next request had been more demanding – to calculate the millionth digit. Again, to the human eye, the response had seemed immediate. The answer, again correctly, was 5. Just ten minutes ago the Professor had decided to enter one of the hardest equations to calculate that science knew about. It had long been postulated that the answer to this particular formula was about one, but no-one had ever been able to work it out exactly. The answer to this question was vitally important too, because if the number turned out to be larger than one, then it meant that the universe would go on expanding for ever, while if it was smaller than one, then the universe would one day collapse again into the oblivion from which it had come all those years ago at the time of the big bang. But even if the problem had been run on yesterday’s fastest computer, the answer would have still taken over three hundred consecutive human lifetimes to work out, and although everyone was desperate to know the answer, there seemed no point in starting the calculation off if no-one living today or any of their immediate descendants would get to see the answer. After entering the query, the Professor’s thin, bony finger had hovered nervously over the button for a few seconds…then he had pressed it. The letters on the button in question had read “COMPUTE”. The answer was again immediate. It was … 1! The Professor had raised his left eyebrow by a single millimeter. How interesting! This meant that the parameters of his universe were such that it would neither go on expanding forever, nor collapse back into a ‘Big crunch’, but would instead be stable for all eternity.

As he had looked at the screen again, a sense of mischief had crept into that peculiarly cunning mind of his. He slowly and carefully entered the next question: “What is the last digit of Pi?” The Professor had known perfectly well that Pi was represented by an infinitely long sequence of numbers. He knew that in effect it had no last digit – that the sequence of numbers just went on for ever. The Professor now sat wondering what would happen when the irresistible force met the immovable object. What would the computer say the last number of an endless sequence was? Again his finger hovered momentarily over the COMPUTE key…

Unfortunately the mathematicians had made two mistakes in the theory of neo-quantum computing. The first was that there were an infinite number of universes. In fact there were not. The second mistake was that each universe existed quite separately from all the others. Again, this was untrue. If they had looked more carefully into their equations they would have seen that all universes were actually part of the same continuum – a fabric connected and woven together through countless quantum tunnels. If only the Professor had realized that in calculating the first digit of Pi he had happened to disturb one thousand unimportant atoms in a Galaxy on the other side of the continuum. If only he had realized that in calculating the millionth digit of Pi, he had completely changed the orbit of a medium sized planet in a dimension not so very far from his own. If only after his third experiment he had happened to look through any Quantum telescope, he would have seen that the universe visible to man had changed beyond recognition. Thousands of entire solar systems less than one hundred million light years from earth simply no longer existed.

…The Professor’s finger quivered over the keyboard in a state of nervous excitement. Then he pressed the button and the first ever infinite calculation began. 6.626176 ten to the thirty-fourths of a second later, mankind had never even existed.

`The Fastest Computer’ is copyright of the author (2002)