Translator: Lonelytree Editor: Lucas
The sound of the music box was replaced by a heavy silence. The people recorded might've been from another species, but the fear inherent in a child’s keening for her parent was something that was instinctual. The child’s mewling understandably pulled a few heartstrings.
10 seconds later, Yao Yuan said firmly, "Alright, let’s all first collect our feelings. I know what we’ve heard is difficult to stomach, but we need to understand that this might have happened thousands of years ago… It shouldn’t weigh us down. If anything, we should be that much more wary if we don’t want the devastation that happened in the recording to happen to us."
Yao Yuan continued, in a measured voice, "Continue analyzing this music box. I want to know everything there is to know about this music box. There is no detail that is too small."
Before Yao Yuan could finish, a scientist stepped forth. "Captain, it is my belief that this music box is no less valuable than say a weapon blueprint or a computer chip. Of course, we need more analysis to be precise, but for starters, this music box has an incredibly powerful battery.
"As you’ve said, this music box might be from thousands of years ago, but as we’ve seen for ourselves, it’s still fully functional. The only plausible rationale is that it is supported by a powerful battery, and the battery itself must be small, because the whole music box is only so big. With that theory in mind, one can’t help but draw a parallel to the lights emanating from the spaceship carcasses. Why do you think the lights on the spaceship pieces are still functional?"
Yao Yuan turned back to the music box and concluded, "Yes, a small power system that could store an impressive amount of energy for an extended period of time. That would be a valuable technology for us to learn… What else?"
With fear of being overshadowed, another scientist came forth and uttered excitedly, "Captain, there is also a small software program that we could study. Even though we already have a certain degree of mastery over sound-operated technology, there are still ways to go until we reach perfection. For example, we can turn lights on and off using our voices, but that is limited by volume and accents. Furthermore, because this function is directed by a written software program, the intended device has to be connected to a computer."
Pointing at the music box, he continued, "Our analysis showed that the sound trigger for this music box is not influenced by conventional nuances like volume. It also responds to recorded clapping sounds. Such high sensitivity could only be explained by the presence of a highly effective sound recognition program. In other words, there exists a computer within this fist-sized object, one that is as powerful as our common home PC!"
Yao Yuan started to view the music box in a new light. He was surprised to realize that this unassuming object of a child’s fist-size could harbor so many valuable technological marvels. He couldn’t help but feel delighted at the discovery.
"The technology for this civilization is, as expected, far more advanced than ours, but…" Yao Yuan hesitated before adding, "These are imaginable technologies… They’re not science fiction-esque technologies like the ones on U…" he caught himself and coughed, "Like the ones we have on the Hope, like the space-warping and anti-gravitational technologies."
Yao Yuan almost blurted out the word ‘UFO,’ but thankfully he was quick to realize his mistake, because most of the people in the room had no inkling of its existence.
A girl among the scientists caught Yao Yuan’s verbal faux pas, and that girl was Bo Li. She narrowed her eyes at Yao Yuan as if admonishing him for almost accidentally spilling top secret information. Cornered into an uncomfortable position, Yao Yuan hacked out a few dry coughs.
In an attempt to divert attention, Bo Li said, "Further analysis could be done on this music box’s structural construction, raw materials, and even internal circuits. This reminds me. The metallic planks that Captain brought back were identified as a type of feather-weight alloy. Its light weight aside, it also has a tensile strength and melting point that is greater than all known metals. We’ve only managed to melt a tiny section of it by using plasma rays. We’ve learned of its empirical formula, but we still can’t manufacture this alloy because its atomic arrangement is one that we’re not familiar with."
Recovered from his previous faux pas, Yao Yuan continued after some serious consideration. "Then could anyone ballpark for me how far ahead is this civilization’s technology from ours? We don’t need to go into something as detailed as how many years because too many factors could play into that, so describe it instead in terms of revolution. This civilization would represent which of our industrial revolutions?"
"The end of the fourth revolution!"
"The middle of the fourth…"
"The early fifth…"
There were multiple answers, but they fell within the general duration from the late middle of the fourth industrial revolution to the cusp of the fifth.
Yao Yuan had studied plenty of scientific treatises ever since he got on the Hope, but he was ultimately not a trained scientist, so he asked, "Why are all of you so sure? Is there a huge difference between the end of the fourth revolution to the start of the fifth that there needs a distinction? Also, could such a huge fleet of warships really be created during the fourth revolution?"
The leading scientist, Silewei, stepped forth to answer. "Captain, to understand all that, you first have to fix a misconception, one about industrial revolution… First, did you know that the advancement from the 20th century to the early 21st century is several hundred times greater than the total scientific advancement for the whole history of humanity? And the scientific progress achieved in the 10 years after the start of the 3rd revolution was about 100 times greater than the progress accumulated by man throughout both the first and second industrial revolutions?
"Industrial or scientific revolutions are scientific progress calculated in exponential and not incremental increase. For example, if the first revolution is represented by the multiplier of 1, the second revolution would not be 2, instead it could 20 or even 200, and when it reaches the third revolution, the multiplier could be in the thousands or millions!"
Silewei continued firmly, "Traditionally speaking, we can only predict what will happen in the next revolution. It is impossible to predict the one after that. Take the first revolution for an example, people in the 18th and 19th century couldn’t possibly imagine what things would look like in the third revolution. Important events like the moon landing, personal computers, and genetic engineering were for them stuff of science fiction. In contrast, they managed to predict the promises our second revolution would usher in, most notably being the discovery of electricity. This proves once more that my theory that man could only correctly predict the discoveries in the approaching scientific revolution but not the ones after that."
Silewei stopped before pointing straight at the music box. "Captain, it is undeniable that this music box has opened a door for us. Instead of technologies like space-warping and anti-gravitational systems that we couldn’t wrap our heads around, this music box provides us with familiar but decidedly far more advanced technologies in fields of electrical systems, manufacturing, and computer science. This is definite proof that this alien civilization, with this music box as an example of its scientific product, is at the end of our fourth industrial revolution!"
Yao Yuan sighed in relief. "That’s definitely good to know… I’ll be frank, I’ve been afraid the technology from this civilization would be far too advanced for us to study. Just like how it was with the space-warping technology, we couldn’t make headway into understanding it even though it is technically in our possession. That would also seriously deter our exploratory plans because its defensive system would probably be powerful enough to annihilate us with just one hit.
So thank you for relieving me of my worries. This also confirms my suspicion that we will enter the fourth revolution after we acquire more of this civilization’s technologies. That will prove invaluable to our overall survival in space. Knowing this, I’m also less worried about sending our men into the junkyard."
Pausing for thought, Yao Yuan breathed in and out several times before stressing adamantly, "The mission to scour the outer perimeter of the junkyard will resume tomorrow. Please do not stop with your analyses and experiments, because after we’ve acquired several more pieces of the alien product to ascertain its technological level…
"We shall venture into one of the warship husks!"
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