Perihelion Science Fiction

Sam Bellotto Jr.

Eric M. Jones
Associate Editor


From Gaia to Proxima Centauri
by Milo James Fowler

Suck the Oil Out With a Straw
by Robin White

L’enfer, C’est la Solitude
by Joe Vasicek

Tea With Silicate Gods
by Auston Habershaw

by Andrew Muff

Gina Starlight’s Got the Blues
by Sandra M. Odell

Passing History
by Bill Adler Jr.

A Planet Like Earth
by E.K. Wagner

Shorter Stories

Cold Deaths
by Michael Haynes

Leviathan Buffet
by Sarina Dorie

by Hall Jameson


How Far is Heaven?
by Gary Cuba

A.I. Invasion or A.I. in Education?
by Jason M. Harley



Comic Strips




How Far is Heaven?

By Gary Cuba

LIKE MANY OTHER PEOPLE, I want to go to Heaven. How far must I travel to get there?

Whether I deserve to go or not isn't relevant here, because this is purely a thought experiment. So we’ll leave the dross of my negating sins (whatever they may be) behind for the nonce.

Classically, Heaven was envisioned to lie above the highest celestial sphere. Science tells us1 that the farthest observable objects in the universe are 370,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 km away. Were one to fly at the speed of light (300,000 km/second) it would take 39 billion years to reach the entryway to Heaven.

But that entry will surely be much further away by then, because the universe—or more accurately, the space between all universal objects—is very rapidly expanding. It’s likely that the ultimate rate of universal expansion will grow to exceed the speed of light itself2, frustrating any chance of ever reaching those rosy gardens.

But quantum physics experiments done with “entangled particle pairs” show that instantaneous transfer of states can occur between twin particles at any arbitrary distance. This phenomenon was described by Einstein as “spooky action at a distance,” a notion so dreadful to him that it made him shy away from quantum mechanical theory altogether—a theory that he himself helped create in the first place!

Let’s follow this line of thought further. If I, at some primordial time, had been “quantum entangled” with the essence of a “ghost” clone which remained behind in Heaven, then I could in principle immediately subsume the essence of that divine copy upon my need to do so (that is, upon my demise). Is there any hope in that direction?

Short answer: Nope. Quantum-entangled agglomerations tend to “decohere” quickly, the larger they are. It’s not hard these days for scientists to entangle photons, but they play hell trying to keep even single atoms in this quantum state, and even more so with individual molecules. Macroscopic physical bodies? Fuggedaboudit. There will be no “beaming up” in the foreseeable future, not while the Quantum Gods deem otherwise.

It’s of some interest, although not altogether surprising, that the stature of man stands midway between his contemplation of the very largest and the very smallest of things. The edge of the observable universe is estimated at 1028 cm away (that is, one followed by twenty-eight zeroes), and the smallest speculated physical size, the Planck length, is 10-33 cm long. A Planck length describes the region where quantum events arise. That length is about ten-octillionth the size of an atom. There is no smaller dimension that is meaningful.

Suppose Heaven lies in this sub-microscopic realm, nestled somewhere beneath the petal of a single Planck-sized dot. If I started off at my current size, then shrank to half my size every second, I would reach the Planck length boundary in only about two minutes.3

Trouble is, I don’t know which Planck spot to interrogate! Given the volume of the observable universe, it holds about 10180 of them.4 There is no way I could check them all out.

To many folks, Heaven is an inner world, a state of mind. No one knows what the “mind” really is, but most people would consider that it resides somewhere within the confines of the human brain. A mental state should properly be considered an epiphenomenon of the brain, an organized pattern arising from the chaotic complexity of myriad, individual brain cell transactions. It’s one of the ever-changing shapes of the communication network formed by the “brain Internet.”

To experience just an instant of Heaven should be sufficient, because its fabric must surely be woven from timeless thread.5 An “instant” is scientifically defined as a Planck-time interval. That is the time it takes for a photon of light to travel the distance of a single Planck length. It’s the shortest duration that has any physical or theoretical meaning—10-43 second.

If the rudiments of a thing can be imagined, then there must be a unique mental state of the brain that can produce its exact, full-blown perceptual content. Let’s assume that a mental state is defined by the unique combination of all the neuron cells in the brain. To keep things simple, let’s say a neuron can either be active or inactive—switched on or off, as in a digital circuit.6

There are about 1010 neurons in the brain—ten billion of them. The total number of combinations of possible mental states in this simple digital model would be 210,000,000,000. A number this large has absolutely no meaning in an enumerative sense. It is beyond our ken.

Each one of those 210,000,000,000 mental states could theoretically be described in a codebook, composed of a listing of the state (0 or 1, inactive or active) of each neuron in the brain. Every one of these myriad codebooks would be 1010 characters long. Figuring 500 characters per page, that’s 20,000 pages—probably easier to consider it as a twenty-volume set, each volume being 1,000 pages long. There is not nearly enough room in the entire universe to house the library containing all the possible states of mind—even if the size of each codebook were only a Planck length long. And yet, there are those who have the audacity to claim that the mind of man is limited!

One could never find Heaven in a field that large. The processing power of the human brain is only about 1017 bits/sec, based on the number of brain neurons (1010), average number of synapses per neuron (about 104), and the average neural firing rate (about 103 Hz). If you had the ability to consciously plow through each and every potential mental state available—even if you could interrogate a googol (10100) of them per second—you wouldn’t even scratch the surface if you lived as long as the universe will physically endure. If somehow you were still surviving when the last existing proton in the universe finally disintegrated, you would not be appreciably closer to finding that unique mental state than at the moment of the Big Bang itself.

But of course, there’s one thing about statistics and probability: there’s always a chance that you could find Heaven in your very next thought. If you do, I hope you’ll tell me about it.


I’ve thus far exposed the largest astronomical spaces and the smallest quantum places to scrutiny, and came up with no reasonable route to my goal. Nor did I find one within the deepest crevasses of the brain’s biology.

But what if we could make our own Heaven on Earth? What if we simply wait until mankind evolves to a point where it can produce a society and an environment that have all the hallmarks of Heaven? It might include freedom from hunger and disease; communal respect and equality; no wars, fears, distrust or dishonesty; immortality; eternal joy; and so forth. Add to or delete from this list as you see fit.

Trouble is, at the beginning of this treatise I stated that I wanted to visit Heaven, not my far-future progeny. That implies that I must last the duration, via technology that will let me time-skip ahead to this utopian, teleological end state of human (or rather, post-human) civilization. At present, the only choice available to me is to enter into a “bio-stasis” mode, via cryogenic suspension.7 And then trust that future technology will be able to turn my frozen, jumbled mush back into some semblance of the living being I once was.

I have immense faith in future tech. There are no worries there.

However, I wouldn’t bet a nickel on the longevity of any enterprise (whether governmental or commercial) that promises to facilitate and preserve my bio-static condition for that long. As a minimum, we are likely talking about thousands and thousands of years of holding time—that is, “Deep Time"—until Homo sapiens gets its act together and starts sharing its toys. Literally speaking, there does not seem to be enough of a future to this particular “cryogenic solution.”8

One might ask, “Why wait? Why not create your own Heaven on Earth right here, right now?” Which is not a totally insane notion. It may be ill-conceived, naive, misbegotten, and hare-brained, yes—but not insane, per se.

While I do try to maintain my own life and local environment in accordance with sublime, lofty principles, I still have to call the plumber when the pipes leak.9 It is conceivable that I could invite a like-minded plumber to join my utopian commune, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. I’ll also need an electrician, a farmer, a lawyer, some construction guys to enlarge my premises, and a bunch of security guards with snarling Dobermans to keep the riffraff out. And who’ll supply their ammo? This is not sounding much like Heaven to me. I’m imagining tall chain-link fences topped with razor-wire surrounding my “heavenly compound”—and I’ve hardly broached the issues I’d face.10


I’ve thrown a lot of horses into this race, and it appears that none of them will make it to the finish line. In fact, some of those ponies are running as far back as nuts on a cat.11

There is, however, one last trail I’ve not explored yet: Transhumanism. This is the notion whereby we scan our wetware (i.e., our ultra-detailed cellular brain map) into computer firmware in digital form. In essence, we become “virtual selves,” prancing through an utterly realistic computer simulation of green grass and high times forever.12

Of course, we’d have to leave our physical selves behind—cut the cord permanently, so to speak. But that’s always been the price one pays to enter Heaven, right?13

Alas, such technology is out of reach at this writing. Some14 believe it’s just around the corner. Their enthusiasm is inspired in large part by “Moore’s Law”—actually an observation and mid-term projection—which says that the density of transistors on an integrated circuit chip has and will continue to rise exponentially (doubling about every two years). That has more or less held true for several decades now, despite great technical challenges that have had to be overcome. We now see IC chips bearing billions of transistors, with circuit line widths of 20 nanometers (2×10-6 cm), and enjoy concomitant improvements in cost, speed, power requirements, reliability, and performance. And it ain’t over yet!

We couple that progress with Computer Aided Design (CAD) concepts, whereby computers are used to design other, better computers. We do not necessarily know—nor do we need to—the exact steps they take to perform this role, especially if they call upon “heuristic logic” (learning by mistake) or genetic algorithms (self-evaluating “mutation” routines) to solve the problems we dump on them.

Put these notions in a tumbler, add a bit of a “knee” to the exponential technological progress curve, shake thoroughly, and pour into a chilled martini glass. Voila! The Final Synchronicity is at hand—and it tastes delicious. And we didn’t even have to wait so blasted long to get served.

Of course, the brain-mapping part needs some more work, but that’s progressing also. The only thing left is to work out who runs the mega-computer holding our transhuman selves—or, more critically, who keeps it running. After all, someone has to stick around to turn the lights off at night.

Rats, now we’re back to square one.

Even assuming the fastest implementation scenario, I fear (considering my advanced age) that I’m not going to arrive at the Synchronicity Express train station in time. This strikes me as the ultimate tragedy: that I’m a member of the last human generation to have to die.


But it’s not like I expected anything different when I undertook this mental exercise. I do wish you well, and hope you make the train to Heaven.


1. Science, being what it is, provides different numbers from different scientists. The numbers rapidly evolve as new data arrive in their arcane coffers. A particular collection of numbers appears herein, arbitrarily chosen by the author among many legitimate options. So quibblers please note: What’s a few orders of magnitude one way or another between friends? It will make no practical difference in the exposition at hand.

2. Not to ignore the theorized “inflation event” that happened very, very early after the Big Bang. It vastly exceeded the speed of light. This helps explain the apparent discrepancy between the estimated age of the Universe (13.8 billion years) and the radial distance to its far edge (39 billion light-years).

3. See “The Incredible Shrinking Man.”

4. Calculated as cubic-shaped volumes, that is. Obviously, a Planck Length cannot be expressed this way, except perhaps as a circle (in 2D) or a sphere (in 3D). But spheres do not close-pack beyond a density of about 0.74. So there is lots of unaccounted-for volume left over, which is an enigma and makes no physical sense. So too, the Bekenstein Boundary, which calculates the entropy of a Black Hole as equal to the number of “Planck-length” dots (we must assume circles, here) that can fit on the area of the Hole’s event horizon.

5. OK, OK. Not really. The perceptual threshold of a human is on the order of 20 to 30 milliseconds. But this fact only serves to accentuate the conclusion by many orders of magnitude.

6. Which is oversimplifying things immensely. But again, it does not meaningfully change the conclusion.

7. Or vitrification, plastination, etc.

8. Not to say that some commercial firms haven’t given perpetual existence a bloody bit of a go. Kongo Gumi Co., Ltd., a construction firm that operated in Japan, was said to have been established in 578 A.D. It was in continuous operation under a single family line (handed down from father to son) until 2006, when it was liquidated and subsumed by a larger construction company. Sad, that. But illuminating nonetheless.

9. He likes me. I’ve already put his kids through college, as part and parcel of our many previous business transactions.

10. The fact is, utopian communes are as ephemeral as they are unsustainable. I can only point to the Oneida Community as having some legs behind it, but its glory days (at least, their groovy “free love” era) are long gone. They do make fine silverware, however.

11. As the great horse racing humorist and commentator named “Indian Charlie” would say.

12. Or whatever “utopia” we may prefer. Hmmm. Custom utopias? Sure, why not?

13. I won’t dwell on the complications that a “non-destructive” transfer process would create. For example, who is “you,” and how do you know which consciousness gets “first rights” to be you?

14. Most notably, Ray Kurzweil. END

Gary Cuba lives in a rural area of South Carolina. He began writing fiction in 2006. His stories have appeared in “Mad Scientist Journal,” “Stupefying Stories,” “Daily Science Fiction,” “Specklit,” and many other publications. His website is TheFoggiestNotion.






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John McCormick