It has been quite a week for sport, much of it involving women. First, there was the marvellous final of the Woman’s Euros soccer. Exciting, good goals and little of the histrionics and playacting of the men’s game. The England team were not encumbered by the nearly 60 years of angst about winning or the continuing historical rivalry with Germany. They just got on with the job and won.
Then there was the T20 women’s cricket at the Commonwealth Games. No men. Unfortunately, the match we watched, England vs New Zealand was not one of the best as NZ didn’t turn up. They scrambled to 71 for 9 in their 20 overs, a very poor score which England knocked off in under 12 overs for the loss of just three wickets (at least one of which was a very poor shot). So, apart form the brilliant effort by the England bowlers, there was no real excitement or opportunity for the batters to shine. Nevertheless, it was a lovely evening, Edgbaston was all but full and there was less raucous beer-fueled noise from the crowd than at men’s matches, although the commentary and deafening music between balls was just as annoying.
There have been plenty of wonderful stories at the Games in Birmingham concerning men and women. One really good point which struck me was the value of mixing up the para sports with the able-bodied. It was possible to compare performances and realise how good the para sportspeople really are. For example the final of the 100m for men with an upper body disability (they all had one partly or wholly amputated arm) was won in just under 11 seconds. The able bodied race was won in just over 10 secs. The difference seemed very small. Then there was the discus for men with a prosthetic leg. It was amazing to see them spinning on their prosthetic and achieving distances of 55m plus.
It has been a feelgood week despite the nonsense spouted by Sunak and Truss and the Bank of England forecasting inflation at 13%. So much for our lifesavings!
Just to return to the sport. There was one group, of course, who weren’t making an appearance. That of course is transathletes. In normal life transmen and transwomen who have fully transitioned don’t announce the fact but live as men and women. I presume that many visit gyms and swimming pools and take part in local clubs without their exercise partners and teammates knowing (perhaps?). I don’t suppose that is possible in elite sport where medical checks are frequent and medical histories shared with authorities. There does not seem to be a problem with transmen competing as men but many sports bodies are now making it all but impossible for transwomen to compete, particularly at national and international level. I really do not know what the answer is. I accept that people who have gone through male puberty have differences and maybe advantages in musculature and bone structure compared to cis-women. However everyone taking part in international sport is at the extreme of the Gaussian distribution in terms of their physical development, to say nothing of the skills they have acquired. I am really not sure how much advantage over a cis-woman a transwoman has having gone through years of hormone treatment, major surgery and their testosterone level reduced to female norms.
Some news this week. Painted Ladies, the 1st Jasmine Frame novel is back on Kindle. A couple of months ago I discovered that it had disappeared. Apparently, Amazon notified Matador (the publisher) that being nine years old its formatting was out of date and substandard. So Matador withdrew it without informing me. Now it has been re-formatted with a new preface and ISBN and is now published under my imprint, ellifont. It’s given me the opportunity to incorporate it with the other four books in the series and so it now comes up on Kindle as book 1 in the Jasmine Frame Detective series. All the novels cost £2.99 on Kindle. Of course, they are all available as paperbacks from me for £9.99 inc p&p (Painted Ladies is £8.99) by order to email@example.com
This week’s theme for writing group was champagne bubbles. Of course I had to make it a SF story. The group liked what I wrote. I was thinking of entering it into a competition but have decided that it probably isn’t suitable, so you have the chance of reading it. Here is Fizz.
“My dear, would you like a drink?”
Tiffany rested her book on her stomach and gazed up into the sky from her lounger. The Sun had sunk below the horizon leaving an orange glow in half of the sky.
“That would be wonderful, darling,” she called out, “How about some bubbles?”
Jeremy replied with a cheerful call, “I’ll take a look.”
Tiffany continued to examine the heavens. There was a strange glow. Was there an overcast? No, there were already stars appearing and they looked clear and bright. It was the darkness between them that simply did not seem as dark as usual. She shrugged. Probably some weather phenomenon she was unfamiliar with. After all she didn’t study the sky for a living. Not like Jeremy.
He emerged onto the balcony, bearing a bottle and a pair of champagne flutes. “I found one bottle of champagne in the cooler. I think it will do.”
“Of course it will, darling,” Tiffany replied.
Jeremy placed the glasses on the table between the loungers. He aimed the bottle towards the edge of the balcony and applied his thumbs to the stopper.
Despite thinking she was prepared, Tiffany flinched at the loud pop. The cork disappeared but Jeremy expertly caught the first emergence of froth in a glass and carefully filled both flutes with the lazily fizzing liquid.
Tiffany took the proffered glass and examined it closely. “Where do they come from?” she asked.
Jeremy paused in taking a sip. “Where do what come from?”
“The bubbles,” Tiffany replied. “There are none in the bottle before it is opened.”
“Of course not. It’s under pressure, that’s why. Carbon dioxide is formed by fermentation that takes place after the wine has been bottled, but it is forced to stay dissolved. When the pressure is released the gas comes out of solution and forms bubbles.”
Tiffany looked over the rim of her glass. “You’re so clever darling. It’s not just the Big Bang you know about but little pops too.”
Jeremy sighed and sat beside her. He was used to her joshing. “Actually, there are similarities. Our universe is a bit like a bubble. A bubble of spacetime.”
Tiffany giggled. “Oh, do you think we’re living in a glass of champagne.”
“Who knows. Perhaps our universe came into existence when someone let the stopper out of the bottle. But we don’t live in a bubble, we live on the bubble.”
“There are a lot of bubbles.”
“There are probably a lot of universes, but we can’t get in touch with them.”
“The champagne’s in the way,”
Jeremy nodded, “You could say that.”
Tiffany held the glass close to her eyes. She watched the bubbles rising.
“The bubbles get bigger as they float to the top.”
Jeremy examined his glass. “You’re right. That’s because the pressure on the bubble decreases as it rises.”
“Ooh, I’m clever too, am I?”
“Of course, you are, my dear,” Jeremy paused then spoke again. “Actually, that’s another way in which champagne bubbles are a good model for our universe.”
Tiffany frowned. “Now you’ve lost me, darling.”
Jeremy sat up and held out his glass. “The bubbles seem to burst into existence like our universe did at the Big Bang, but then they go on expanding – that’s inflation. It’s happening now in our universe. Everything is getting further apart. Of course, the time scale is different. What takes a couple of seconds in your glass has taken nearly fourteen billion years for us.”
Tiffany stared at her glass. “What will happen when we reach the top?”
“The top of what?”
“Of the champagne, silly. The bubbles burst.”
Jeremy chuckled. “Ah, the Big Rip. We think that if inflation continues a time will come when gravity and the other forces can’t hold everything together anymore so the universe, spacetime, will tear apart. But don’t worry that won’t happen for billions of years yet.”
Tiffany frowned. “Unless someone drinks the champagne, so the bubbles have a shorter distance to climb.”
“Well, that’s the thing with models,” Jeremy shrugged, “they all break down if you take them too far.”
“But what are you doing over at Einstein Lab. You say you’re trying to bend spacetime.”
“Sort of. We’re learning how to manipulate the strong nuclear force just like we do electromagnetism. Don’t worry, we’re not going to pop our bubble.” He raised his glass. “Just drink up your champers, Mars’ finest. Let’s celebrate your success. To the brightest and most successful architect on Mars.”
Tiffany clinked her glass against Jeremy’s, took a mouthful of the fizzy wine and rested back on her lounger. She gazed out across the towers of Perseverance, many of them built to her design.
Looking up through the clear dome, the sky was looking brighter even though the colours of the sunset had faded. The stars seemed to shine less brightly than usual against the background of space. Even the evening star, Earth, was barely distinguishable close to the rim of the crater. She saw flashes of lightning, not uncommon on Mars, but these remained frozen across the sky forming a pattern like cracks in an eggshell. The streaks were bright, brighter than the Sun looked from here. They were broadening and growing even more intense. Tiffany reached out a hand to grab Jeremy’s arm but he seemed to be receding along with his lounger. The towers too and the edge of the balcony were becoming more distant and fading.
Her stretched-out arm was lengthening like bubble gum but was disappearing from view as all around her turned to light. The light was in her eyes, in her head. She was all alone and then she wasn’t.