Written in the Stars
Summary: Based on a Roger Penrose theory, scientist Hypatia Parsons finds messages in the stars that predate the universe itself.
Dr. Hypatia Parsons was dismissive of astrology, until she unwittingly reinvented it. Her aunt took her horoscope too seriously, and blew her savings on lottery tickets. She believed her fate was written by her own hands, rather than the cosmic whims of distant planets and stars. While her aunt never recovered, it was the event that sparked her interest in cosmology.
Of the scientists she read, Roger Penrose was perhaps the most intriguing to her. His conformal cyclic cosmology was bizarre, but it was sufficiently fascinating to read. The concept that the entropic end of the universe, when all that remained were mega-black holes and redshifted photons, would herald the rise of a new dimension was suitably hopeful and terrifying.
Dr. Parsons found her life distracted by other pursuits, from grants in other areas to caring for her aging relatives. Yet occasionally, when she had the chance, she would read the latest works by her favorite labs and researchers. In that hobby, she found her truest muse.
Dr. Parsons found papers by Penrose's lab, published 2018 and 2020, detailing evidence for his cyclic cosmology. His theories and models predicted mega-black holes in the early era of the universe, which had been located in among the cosmic microwave background radiation. A cursory glance suggested they may have been remnants from a prior universe, a cosmic artifact predating the Big Bang itself.
Dr. Parsons set to work on her own, adapting different parameters. At first, it was a mere distraction, a hobby beyond her more immediate research. It took over a year since she began, but new data arrived from space telescopes and observational arrays. When she compared it to her model, she thought nothing of it. When she checked her simulation the following week, the obsession truly began.
Hypatia saw her model predicted the locations of two more black holes, found only due to the new data's higher resolution. Her jaw dropped as she saw the similarity between her model and the data. While the model required optimization, she had adjustments to make. She vanished into the lab, meeting only occasionally with her postdocs and students.
Hypatia compared the emissions from those enigmatic black holes, and she found strange correlations. Despite their distances in space, and sometimes time, their emissions were atypical for other objects. A theory crept up from her mind, a fringe concept she'd consigned to curiosity: information panspermia. Regular panspermia was the concept of life evolving on one world, and spreading by meteor to others. Information panspermia offered far stranger potential.
Hypatia considered the effects of a dying universe, how the black holes would be the only energy sources left. What if a super-tech civilization survived, and foreseeing the rise of a new universe, designed a system to modify its physical coefficients and development? Based on a 2013 Sonner paper she liked, black holes could be magnetically entangled to behave in predictable ways across distance. Similarly, time crystals and reversible computing offered low-energy data storage and processing options across the eons.
In simpler terms, Hypatia thought it possible that some precursor civilization to her own universe had designed a massive system to shape their successor cosmos. This system would transcend space and time as most knew them, but was more akin to Yog-Sothoth of Lovecraftian lore. It was a remote, unlikely possibility, but she had an idea on a way to test for it.
Hypatia observed radio emissions, looking for patterns. If the objects only emitted random noise, then she'd lack evidence. It would take years, perhaps decades, of consistent observation to gather enough. Nevertheless, she kept watching the skies, curious if the hypothesized architects of reality existed. Even if they did not, she believed, it was worth investigating. Better she did than anyone else.
As the years dragged on, Hypatia slowly found results. There were strong statistical relationships between the measured signals, but she was unsure if they were what she sought, or merely some new form of cosmic object. As she applied a simple cipher to her data, she found a string of characters. They seemed too complex for mere natural phenomena. She fit letters to them arbitrarily, doubtful she'd ever find meaning. Nevertheless, it was close enough for her.
Hypatia could not help but wonder if she'd re-invented astrology, only combining it with cosmic imaging from space telescopes and radio antennae instead of primitive superstition. Like the ancients, they both sought different meanings in the stars. As she left one long day, a postdoc approached Hypatia. He handed her a printout of the latest model and character correlations. A chill ran down her spine, and then excitement erupted in her eyes. She read the message aloud and repeatedly: "IF YOU CAN READ THIS, WE HAVE SUCCEEDED."