beware, there be spoilers: Cat’s Cradle

So, I’m behind in my reading, but that doesn’t make this day different from any other day. The Pile of Things to Read is an actual pile by the side of the bed, having collapsed from a carefully constructed tower on the bedside table, and I’ll keep working my way through it, adding books at a rate bit faster than I’m currently reading.

I’d read Cat’s Cradle many years ago, and I remember two things in particular from that first reading. I remember boko-maru, foot communion, and I remember ice-nine. But I didn’t remember the joys of Bokononism with its notions of karass and granfalloon. And I didn’t remember the truly weird collection of characters that make their way through the book.

But this time through, it was the ice-nine that caught my imagination. An arrangement of the atoms of water to form a variant of ice with a melting point of about 114 degrees Fahrenheit. And if we let ice-one be our normal keep-out-iced-tea-cold ice, I’m not sure what happened to the intervening variants two through eight.

So when ice-nine got loose at the end of the book and the world ended, with its oceans frozen and desolation on a scale unimaginable, I found myself pondering, could we actually do this.

The novel is a parable of the Cold War with ice-nine playing the role of atomic and nuclear weapons, and this isn’t an observation original to me. But as we get better at understanding the world and at manipulating that world on the smallest of scales, I find myself wondering whether such an arrangement of water molecules might actually exist.

I suppose, if I were being paranoid and wildly incautious in my imagining, that there might be a government laboratory of sorts, most likely buried deep underground or hiding in plain sight in some vast industrial park, where government scientists keep the results of building things that they read about in the novels of their childhood. This is the close cousin of the warehouse at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark.

It would be cool and highly dangerous to know that ice-nine (and ice-eight through ice-two) actually existed, and we as human beings do have a tendency to follow our imagination a bit too far at times.

I imagine that the caretaker of such a laboratory would be like the Ernest Borgnine archivist character in the movie RED, well aware of the details of everything under their supervision and keeping a close eye on all comings and goings. And if such a laboratory existed, I think being that caretaker might be a fascinating and terribly tempting job to have.

~ by Jim Anderson on 9 July 2018.

One Response to “beware, there be spoilers: Cat’s Cradle”

  1. I think I remember reading somewhere within the last year or so that someone has made or discovered some other stable configurations of ice. Not ice nine though…

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