Monday, March 26, 2007

Stanislaw Lem

Why is Life on Earth Impossible?
A fragment of THE TWENTY-SECOND VOYAGE from The Star Diaries

Then the examiner asked:

"Can the candidate for graduation demonstrate why life on Earth is impossible?"

With a little bow the youth commenced to give an exhaustive and logically constructed argument, in which he proved irrefutably that the greater part of Earth is covered with cold, exceedingly deep waters, whose temperature is kept near zero by constantly floating mountains of ice; that not only the poles, but the surrounding areas as well are a place of perpetual, bitter frost and that for half a year there night reigns uninterrupted. That, as one can clearly see through astronomical instruments, the land masses, even in the more temperate zones, are covered for many months each year by frozen water vapor known as "snow," which lies in a thick layer upon both hills and valleys. That the great Moon of Earth causes high tides and low, which have a destructive, erosive effect. That with the aid of the most powerful spyglasses one can see how very often large patches of the planet are plunged in shadow, produced by an envelope of clouds. That in the atmosphere fierce cyclones, typhoons and storms abound. All of which, taken together, completely rules out the possibility of the existence of life in any form. And if concluded the young Andrygonian in a ringing voice-beings of some sort were ever to try landing on Earth, they would suffer certain death, being crushed by the tremendous pressure of its atmosphere, which at sea level equals one kilogram per square centimeter, or 760 millimeters in a column of mercury.

This thorough reply met with the general approval of the board. Overcome with astonishment, I sat for the longest while without stirring and it was only when the examiner had proceeded to the next question that I exclaimed:

"Forgive me, worthy Andrygonians, but : ... well, it is precisely from Earth that I come; surely you do not doubt that I am alive, and you heard how I was introduced to you ..."

An awkward silence followed. The instructors were deeply offended by my tactless remark and barely contained themselves; the young people, who are not as able to hide their feelings as adults, regarded me with unconcealed hostility. Finally the examiner said coldly:

"By your leave, sir stranger, but are you not placing too great demands upon our hospitality? Are you not content with your most royal reception, with the fanfares, the tokens of esteem? Have we not done enough by admitting you to the High Plystrum of Graduation, is this still insufficient and you wish us in addition to change, entirely for you, the school program?1"

"But ... but Earth is in fact inhabited ..." I muttered, embarrassed.

"If such were the case," the examiner said, looking at me as if I were transparent, "that would constitute an anomaly of nature."

The links below will direct you to the official page dedicated to Stanislav Lem and his work that is written in English by his son.
link 1 and link 2

linki po polsku
Ten wywiad jest niesamowity. Kto go nie czytal niech przeczyta! A tu mozna znalezc wspomnienia syna Lema o ojcu. A ten artykul zostal opublikowany tuz po smierci Lema.