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2016年2月25日 星期四

Icarus at the Edge of Time (伊卡洛斯在時間的邊緣)

I remember that as a child many many years ago, I read a little story in a children's monthly magazine with beautifully drawn illustrations called "Children's Paradise (兒童樂園). The moment that magazine was out in the middle of the month, I would bite my lips and use up a sizeable portion of my weekly allowance to buy a copy of it from the old lady at her tiny  news vendor stall in front of a Chinese style European restaurant at the end of the street where I used to live. I  would walk home as quickly as I could but before reaching the door of our flat, I could never resist the expectant joy of flipping over its pages rapidly to find out what kind of juicy stories there would be in that month's edition of the magazine. Once home, I would pore over its contents and devour its contents within an hour or so and then spent hours and hours admiring its fascinating drawings and had enormous fun copying some of the most beautiful pictures I found in that issue on to a paper pad (拍紙簿) with crayons or color pencils.


The name of the that story is Icarus, the son of a master craftsman in ancient Greece called Daedalus, the creator of the Labyrinth for the King of Minos to imprison the Minotaur, a half-man and half bull. But Daedalus and his family were also held captive because he gave to Mino's daughter, Ariadne a ball of string, so that she could use it to help Mino's enemy Theseus, with whom she had fallen in love, to escape from the Labyrinth. After King Minos held Daedalus captive on the island of Crete, Daedalus was always trying to figure out a way to escape from that island in the Mediterranean Sea.  After numerous failures, Daedalus finally created the first viable man-carrying parachute or kite, a bit like a pair of bird's wings with their feathers stuck together with wax and let Icarus try it out. Daedalus warned Icarus not to fly that primitive contraption too high or too low and never too close to the sun. But the day Icarus tried it out from the top of  a cliff, he was so happy with the feeling of actually in the air that he forgot all about his father's warnings. He flew and flew and flew. He flew too close to the sun. The wax melted. He fell into the sea, not too far away from that cliff. He was never seen again. I felt so sorry for him I cried.

It seems that I was not the only kid who was deeply affected by that sad story. I just found out that another was Brian Greene, a Columbia University astro-physicist and string-theorist who wrote a number of books: The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory (1999), The Fabric of the Cosmos: Space, Time, and the Texture of Reality (2005) and The Hidden Reality: Parallel Universes and the Deep Laws of the Cosmos (2011) all about the fascinating quests of our cutting edge theoretical physicists have made about the nature of our universe and, according to the theories popularly called "superstring theories", also about multiverses of 11 dimensions 6 of which are curled up as extremely dense but unimaginably tiny tiny spaces called "Yau-Calabri" spaces in the form of what's been called "superstrings". But Brian Greene wrote not only theoretical physics. He also wrote a science fiction called Icarus at the Edge of Time (2008) which has now been turned into a film with music written by another of my favourite minimalist composers, Philip Glass.






I have not yet seen the film nor read his novel but I simply love Philip Glass's music.