the bizaarre, yet possible physics of r’lyeh

November 7, 2012

r'yleh

According to the Cthulhu Mythos, somewhere between New Zealand and Chile in the waters of the South Pacific, an underwater city known as R’yleh houses a malevolent monster that came to our planet eons ago and is now dead-dreaming until the stars align and he can once more send his spawns across the land, sowing death, destruction, and chaos, feeding on souls of both his followers and his victims. Of course this is just a setting for a string of horror stories and there’s no record of such things as Cthulhu, R’yleh, or the Necronomicon, but that doesn’t mean that a curious physicist can’t have a little fun with a sci-fi horror story and see what it would take for the mythical city of bizarre geometry and warped dimensions to exist. His conclusion? R’yleh’s odd distinguishing features described in The Call of Cthulhu are either powered by a warp drive or the effects of a cloaking device which works much like a warp drive would. And that would make the mythos’ main character’s description as an alien invader seem a lot more convincing…

How would the sailors who landed on the island housing R’yleh see a warped landscape and an enormous eldritch metropolis that made no sense to them. The layout and architecture would’ve obviously been made for alien creatures, so it’s unlikely it would’ve resembled building patterns we use in our own cities. Winged extraterrestrials who either float or move on tentacles wouldn’t need stairs and strictly defined doors, floors, and windows are unlikely to be mandatory. But that doesn’t explain the strange colors and the seemingly impossible geometry. That’s the effect of a gravitational lens on a very small scale, one created by the warp drive enveloping R’yleh. Light would be bent in very unusual ways, giving familiar things bizarre colors and shapes, and giving the sailors constant optical illusions, making the whole city look like a giant M.C. Escher sketch with a liberal touch of late Eocene Clawed and Tentacled Horror and Mild Acid Trip. And just to add to the weirdness, time inside R’yleh would move much slower than it would on the outside of it due to the time dilation effects created by the active warp drive or gravitational cloak.

You certainly wouldn’t want to get stuck in this city if you were lost at sea. Not only would space and time appear and flow differently for you, the primeval ruins populated with only FSM knows, or more likely doesn’t know, what that may be eager to devour you or tear you limb from limb to satisfy their curiosity about the strange bipedal squishy thing making lots of noise in their home, could turn even the shortest stay into decades if you ever make it back to the real world. Good thing this is all just one spine-tingling story from a pulp sci-fi magazine of a long-gone era and in the many decades since it accurately described what sounds like an alien generation ship there hasn’t been so much as a hint of anything weird in the South Pacific pole of inaccessibility where R’yleh was said to be sitting at the bottom of the sea. Well, if you don’t count The Bloop — which no one has been able to explain to full scientific satisfaction. But as I’ve already said, it’s all just creepy fiction. We’re all probably just fine. Probably…

See: Tippett, B. (2012). Possible Bubbles of Spacetime Curvature in the South Pacific arXiv: 1210.8144v1

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