The Impossible Map
I’ll never forget the day I showed Dr. Lisa Robinson, one of my astronomer friends at NASA, what has since become known as “The Impossible Map.”
We were having lunch together in the cafeteria near KSC HQ (the hub of Kennedy Space Center’s inland industrial area) when I showed her The Reader for the first time.
As I’ve said before, this project drove me batty from the first week, and I think Lisa was worried about her old friend. I was flipping through documents and talking excitedly about what I’d found thus far when I realized that Lisa wasn’t looking at The Reader–she was looking at me.
It’s an unpleasant experience, discovering that your close friends think you’re crazy. Even worse is the difficulty one has in convincing them otherwise, especially when you are desperate to do so. The absolute worst, though, is when their sincere doubts begin to weaken your own resolve.
I was seeing myself through Lisa’s eyes, and that’s when I first starting having major doubts. Her next reaction didn’t help matters. I had finally scrolled to the document I went there to show her. I slid The Reader across the table, urging her to take a look.
Lisa laughed immediately. She covered her mouth and looked up at me, eyes bulging wide. Her eyebrows were arced high, apologizing for not being able to control herself. When she explained why the was “Impossible,” I was humiliated. Keep in mind, I’m a glorified chemical engineer with a physics degree–not an astronomer. However, a grade-schooler could have pointed out the obvious problem with the map I was showing her.
If it was labeled “The Milky Way,” where in the universe was the picture taken from?
Lisa also pointed out that the spiral galaxy in the photo looked uncannily similar to M101. I asked her if these galaxies couldn’t resemble one another, or if there was any way the photo could have been taken…and she said “No.” Then she asked if it would be okay if she called my wife. “To have a chat.”
Before I left, Lisa scanned a copy of the map right off the face of the reader (a technique I never thought of before, and have since used to snag schematics and some other diagrams). She said it would be fun to e-mail it around to her colleagues and stifled another laugh.
I figured the incident was over and promised myself that I would shower and shave before I visited with any more friends about this Molly Fyde nonsense.
The next week, I got a phone call from her. Again, she was telling me that the map was impossible, but this time…she wasn’t laughing. She sounded anxious and harried. I had been asleep (passed out at my computer), but I agreed to rush right over (breaking my earlier promise to myself regarding hygiene and visitations).
“It was Wade that pointed it out,” she told me behind the SSPF building. “He called me and congratulated me on the effort.” Lisa was glancing up at the sky, as if someone were watching. “So I asked him what effort he was talking about, and he said the distances, positions, and luminosity.”
Now I was the one worried for my friend. She looked horrible, and I couldn’t follow a single word of what she was saying. I begged her to slow down and pretend my Day Pass was a Visitor’s Pass.
“The distances are spot-on,” she said. “The luminosities, the angles of deflection. For Menkar, Canopus, and Sol, anyway.”
“What about the others?” I asked.
“Never heard of them,” she said.
A handful of people at NASA already knew about the image and were poring over it. They were calling it “The Impossible Map.” But now the label had become ironic and spooky instead of literal. Everyone wanted to know who had created the hoax. (If you guys are reading this, now you know where Lisa even got the image. Perhaps you want to start taking the hyperspace document more seriously?)
Here’s the map, and I can corroborate the relative distances between these stars by suggesting that they conform to elements within Molly’s narrative. Here is a link to the star data Lisa sent me later that day.