Saturday, 2 March 2013

Tau Zero, Chapter 6

In Chapter 6 of Poul Anderson's Tau Zero (London, 1973), we learn that:

the chef on the interstellar spaceship Leonora Christine is called Carducci;
the crew also includes Iwamoto Tetsuo, Hussein Sadek, Yeshu ben-Zvi, Mohandas Chidambaran, Phra Takh, Kato M'Botu, Olga Sobieski, Foxe-Jameson and Maria Toomajian.

Thus, we now know twenty three names although this is still less than half of the total.

It would be easy to misremember Tau Zero as presenting the first extra-solar expedition. However, it informs us that there have already been at least four to:

Alpha Centauri;
Epsioln Eridani;
Tau Ceti;
Delta Pavonis.

I am beginning to see Bob Shaw's point about the cosmic passages not being integrated into the novel. Anderson simply directly informs or lectures the reader on relativistic flight and, simplified though they are, I do not always follow his explanations. Anderson usually dramatizes such information by having one of his characters explain it to another character and thus also to the reader, although sometimes such conversations are too obviously contrived for this purpose.

Every member of the Leonora Christine will already be familiar with the fascinating value of tau: the square root of {one minus (the speed of the ship (v) squared divided by the speed of light (c) squared)}. Thus, as v approaches c, tau approaches zero. This novel is based on and named after that equation: as James Blish commented, "the ultimate hard sf novel."

The crew celebrates Christmas/Chanukah/solstice/New Year. The ship flies normally through Chapter 6 but, at the very end of that chapter, the omniscient narrator informs the reader that "grief" will come in the next chapter (p. 63).

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