Some Different Tales...

Death Ray Gun. Blaise Kolodychuk and Elaine Boyling got together in 2000, they built a gigantic metal machine to ride around in and spread the word of the kittenpeople to the humans of Earth, they called this machine Dr. Hoojib. Dr. Hoojib finally stopped rolling for a while and Blaise and Elaine got out, they found themselves in the belly of a giant squid, it was here that they settled to make a record, they called it fukachuk pandora machine. They soon got back into the giant metal Dr. Hoojib and left behind fukachuk pandora forever. Dr. Hoojib kept rolling along, for years in fact, and many moons were spent feeding on the flesh of the dead. They received a radio transmission from the King of Mars, he told them that the people there were revolting and that is was because there were no more blaise and elaine songs left on the planet for them to chant along to.. it was a horrible mess up there on Mars I tell you. So it was to be fate. Blaise and Elaine stopped Dr. Hoojib again... but all was different now, the moon above them was glowing green and the chickens in the farms were all singing a different song. Blaise and Elaine decided to build the Immense 'Death Ray Gun' so as they could use it to beam the sounds they make back home, to Mars... they got to work right away, and in the year of our lord 2003, it was completed. There were 28 separate pieces to the puzzle and all were transmitted one by one to the Martian people, they all explained the mission, and what has gone terribly wrong with the planet earth, the same planet they themselves were sent to so many years ago as missionary of a truth that can not even be spoke of any more...

Pretend Science - Death Ray Gun

Sometimes the failed or unnoticed ideas and intentions of the present can be as important and pervasive in the future as the actions or ideas which won out to become reality in their own time. If things are recorded or remembered, and sustained somehow, they can have a gradual effect in instigating actions, or on individual and societal imagination, or they can be found later having been hidden and have huge sudden explosive and implosive impacts. The importance of failing, of finding wrong answers, is often underestimated, but it is essential to any new process of exploration or curiosity. For instance, in the development happening at the moment in Wet Robotics - the synthesis of muscles and basic cell-like machines, there is as much to learn about life by being right as by being wrong.

For societies preoccupied with measuring IQ, the Flynn Effect - the continuous rise of average IQ test scores over time - seems to suggest that children today are more intelligent or at least better educated than their parents and grandparents. The interesting thing is that IQ tests only measure certain kinds of intelligence. It means that we have become better at teaching children to pass certain kinds of tests by giving certain kinds of answers. Professor Jim Flynn, the man that noticed the rising IQ scores, remains convinced that it isn't a sign people are getting brainier so much as a sign that the way we think is changing. He describes how when answering a question from the Wechsler intelligence tests for children,  What do dogs and rabbits have in common? , a child from the 1900s would most likely give a utilitarian answer,  you use dogs to hunt rabbits,  and a child today would give a classification answer,  they're both mammals.  As Professor Flynn put it  the scientific spectacles now sit on our noses fairly comfortably. We think of the world as something to classify rather than something to manipulate.  (Professor Jim Flynn Newsnight BBC2 2007)

For general daily life, questioning the nature of reality is something which can get in the way and make people uncomfortable. People have come to believe more and more in the certainty of facts provided by science, and that curiosity and finding things out for yourself, or simply wondering about them, are the job of elite scientists. People either aren't interested, or they feel like they don't have enough understanding to start with to bother thinking about it. At the same time, everything must be explained as a matter of scientific fact, to put people's minds at rest. David Malone says, "science has become, in the minds of many, the new guarantor that there is certainty and that we can attain it." This misses the point that, as any big thinker points out, the more you know, the more you realise how little you know, how much more there is to learn.

Why do people think that uncertainty and incompleteness are failings? All scientific theories could be said to be partial approximations of the truth, if there is truth. It cuts into a very old human impulse for finding beauty and perfection in something complete and certain. This is the same mode of thought where modern art or music gets considered shocking or ugly and worthless. It is the same reason brilliant thinkers like Einstein were so vehemently opposed to the work of Niels Bohr and Heisenberg's uncertainty principle. If scientific understanding can't be certain and complete, how can it be beautiful or satisfying?

But that is reductionist, and can be blinding; only finding value in things that are Real or True. Uncertainty isn't dead though, at the extremes of thought today, "for the modern counterparts of Godel and Turing - the likes of Roger Penrose and Gregory Chaitin - intellectual certainty is a dead end. Serious thinkers are not afraid of uncertainty. For them a theory's uncertainty or incompleteness is not a failing but a positive and creative condition in its own right. The profound discoveries of modern mathematics and science show that life and thinking flourish only in the liminal and fertile land that lies between too much certainty and too much doubt. The art of scientific inquiry is to tack back and forth between the two." (David Malone, Dangerous Knowledge BBC4 2007, from

The Death Ray was a theoretical weapon imagined by Nikola Tesla. Between the 1920s and 1930s several people came up with ideas for death rays, independently of each other, and Tesla wasn't the first or last. On the internet people put Tesla apart from the other ideas, although usually laughing at how wacked-out his idea was, for the genuine engineering competence behind his designs.

Tesla hated war, and was driven to invent something which could make war obsolete, or at least reduce it to a  mere spectacle of machines.  He suggested that the borders of a country could be ringed by towers containing death ray generators, which would send out  teleforce  particle beams to destroy any enemy approaching from the land, sea or air by harnessing electrical energy in a way that, he said, "no one has ever dreamed about."

The Death Ray Gun had a huge, more or less unshakeable influence on weapons in science fiction. Even though most scientists today consider Tesla's idea as flawed, it influenced the charged-particle beam weapon developed by both the United States and the Soviet Union during the cold war, and new weapons still being developed such as the non-lethal but still pretty scary Active Denial System microwave beam weapon already used in service in Iraq by the U.S. military, and intended for use on protestors and demonstrators. In a funny way it is its prominence in science fiction that makes the Death Ray Gun seem a plausible, even necessary, solution to problems in reality. That the weapon, and the problems, are all only one imagined version of reality apparently slips by unnoticed to most of the people involved in the action. To be fair, its hard to think when you're in the beam of an ADS and your body thinks its on fire.

Anyway, don't blame Tesla, he wanted his  peace-ray  to stop war, not create tyranny, and he was excited about exploring unexplored technology. This was a time on the verge of the atomic age, when electricity still had some romantic intrigue for the general public, when the imagined future was still an optimistic metropolis of skyscrapers and expressways and trails of flying cars, before people were disillusioned by the reality of congestion and rush-hour misery.

But are people too disillusioned? Why are so many ideas for the future, or even the present, reduced to predicting environmental doom or something like that? People seem to take an attitude that is either nihilism or or absolutism,  What happened to the place in between, where we explore? . Do schools, and all the other ways people learn how to think, encourage empiricism and curiosity, and the possible value of tolerating ambiguity enough? Just because a way of thinking of things makes sense, that does not make it reality. And in the same way being wrong does not make an idea insignificant or useless, or even necessarily inferior to the €˜right' answer.

This whole thing sounds pessimistic now which is unfair, because there are all kinds of things happening in the world, the small ways people find to effect the world and make it better, which really matter. For one thing the internet, and other new technology, seems to be giving people forums for the beginnings of wild innovations and explorations. Some people might be saying that modern culture is dumbing down, that the factual unreliability of wikipedia, or the amount of terrible, boring, self-obsessed nonsense there is on youtube or myspace or facebook, people might say that is all awful, but wow.. its really amazing... there could be room for anything at all, anything you imagine, and you can just do it on your own or with your friends, and put out somewhere to be recorded and remembered, and maybe have an impact on the present or the future, or at least make an imprint. And its a weird funny anarchic mess of mutual aid, in terms of making ideas exist. And these kinds of ideas of innovation, and making ideas real, maybe people can be inspired by the amount of impact they can have on the internet, and have that level of imaginative effect on their physical environments too, things like this: (just for example)

As two people making music mostly over the internet, Death Ray Gun can't give up the uncertainty principle, and can't turn off curiosity and amazement at the world, or exploration, hunger, fear, disbelief, total belief, and suspension of belief in the known and the unknown, and the fantastical and the unknowable, and everything in between. Especially the inbetween.

most of this is mangled from


Death Ray Gun is:

Elaine Boyling & Blaise Kolodychuk
with Terry Ramsay for live shows.