Okay, I think I type here. I hope this works. Forgive me, this is my first time using this blog site, so I don’t really understand much of it. My graduate student left his account logged in, I guess. Sorry, Sam. Perhaps posting as you will throw them off my trail.
I’m not sure quite what to write here. I guess I could just write it, right? But that wouldn’t make any sense, and they’d probably just delete it. I could maybe use some sort of code, but they’re clever, oh, they’re devilishly clever. Let me think…
Forgive me if I ramble a bit. I’ve been awake for… about thirty hours, now. I think that the caffeine is starting to wear off. I’d better drink another one of these Red Bulls. My graduate student swears by them, but they’re just making my head spin. And I’m still feeling tired, which is bad. Tiredness is the enemy. I need to stay awake. I just need to share this story. Maybe some of you will even remember it…
Topic sentence. As I’ve told my students, many times, a paper needs a strong topic sentence, usually a question that they’re seeking to answer. How can I summarize my findings?
What if there were words that you couldn’t remember, something that is physically impossible to remember?
That really sounds like it’s coming out of left field. I’m sorry. i’m rambling. If I were grading this paper, I would not assign it an A. I should probably tell this story chronologically, start at the beginning.
My name is – no, I’d better not share it. They might find me if I do. Just call me Ron, that’s probably enough. Dr. Ron, if you want to use my formal title. I’m a professor of sleep research at, er, a prominent institution. My work focuses on how sleep converts recent events into memories, and optimizing this process.
I know, you’re probably yawning right now. So am I, and that’s a very bad thing. I need to stay awake. Need to keep writing this. Can’t let myself doze off.
My experiments are relatively straightforward in design. Every few weeks, we recruit a large number of undergraduate students, sometimes offering a small cash reward for their participation. We give them various facts to memorize, usually a randomly selected quotation from some relatively unknown work, and then ask them to return after sleeping and recite what they can remember. The students aren’t allowed to leave the room until they can recite the paragraph back to us, with no errors. The basal memory rate is usually around sixty percent – that is, students in the control group, with no experimental intervention, remember about 60% of a paragraph they were assigned to memorize.
Now, some approaches will raise or lower that memory rate. Attaching the memory to various triggers, such as the taste of a food item or some song, will increase retention – those students remember more of the assigned paragraph. Other actions, such as altering the environment or playing deafening music, will lower the retention. Through a combination of sleep deprivation and hunger, we managed to lower the memory rate to twenty percent.
All of this is straightforward and, I’m afraid, rather boring. My experiments progressed normally, up until just under a week ago. Five days before today.
Did you know that they sell caffeine tablets in convenience stores? They’re very strong. I didn’t want to use one until I had no other options, as my fingers are already shaking almost too much to write. But I need to get this all out.
Anyway. Where was I? It’s hard to remember – ah, yes. Four days ago, Tuesday, both the experimental and the control groups scored zero percent, across the board, for memory retention.
If you don’t understand the significance of this, well, take it from me. This was very strange. Neither of these groups could remember a single word of the paragraph we’d assigned to them! Furthermore, my graduate student, who locates and prints off these texts from various sources on the internet, didn’t remember the paragraph either – or even where he found it!
All of this was quite disheartening, as we’d just lost a day of valuable data. Fortunately, and this is my one stroke of luck, my graduate student emailed the paragraph to me, the day before, and I still had it in my inbox.
(Side note: I don’t think they understand the internet very well. Papers vanish, it seems. I don’t remember using so many pages of my notepad, and there’s another cardboard back in the trash. I must have written myself notes, and they remove them. But they struggle with electronics. That’s why I’m hoping that this internet post will survive.)
I opened the paragraph, read it to the students. None of the undergraduates recognized a single word! Very strange. My graduate student didn’t recognize the words, either, but he insisted that he performed all the steps according to protocol. I suspected that someone might be playing a prank on me, but I had the students re-memorize this paragraph, made a note in my online lab journal, and figured that I’d only lost a day’s worth of data.
The next day, Wednesday, I woke up with a slight headache. I remember that, at least. Odd, I thought, since I hadn’t had anything to drink the night before, and usually only develop a headache after a couple glasses of wine. My tolerance has sadly gone downhill since my college years, I fear.
I went into lab, where I discovered that the students didn’t remember anything we’d assigned them to memorize for the last two days! Quite unusual. Very strange. I asked my graduate student what happened, and he didn’t remember either! He was insistent that he’d printed off a paragraph on either Monday or Tuesday, he wasn’t entirely sure, and had them memorize it. He looked like he wanted to say more, but he got a nosebleed and needed to head to the bathroom for a paper towel.
I searched my desk for notes on activity during the last two days, but couldn’t find anything. I was about to give up when I checked my email, and discovered that my graduate student sent me the paragraph from Monday! I re-read the paragraph, but it didn’t seem familiar to me.
Now suspicious, I checked my online lab journal, where I found a note from yesterday that the students didn’t remember Monday’s paragraph. Apparently, yesterday, I’d found this interesting, but assigned them the same paragraph for a second time.
But now, on Wednesday, they once again couldn’t remember a word of this paragraph. And, apparently, neither could I.
I’m not going to post the paragraph here. I suspect that posting the paragraph would allow them to find this post quickly, and they’d undoubtedly remove it. I’m well aware of how paranoid I sound right now, and no, I don’t know who “they” are. My head is in some pain right now, likely from the high doses of stimulants I’ve consumed, and I’m finding it very hard to focus. but I’m going to finish this.
In any case, the paragraph is just some sort of Biblical thing, I think. It sounds like it’s Biblical, at least. I have it here, somewhere… I’m not sure. I must have misplaced it. It’s something about angels and trumpets and a chariot or something. It’s rather incoherent, which is what we search for when assigning something for students to memorize. Can’t make it too easy on them.
When my graduate student came back from the bathroom, the flow of blood from his nose apparently staunched, I read the paragraph to him out loud. He agreed that he didn’t recognize any of it, despite that my notes said he’d been the one to originally find it on Monday!
Now, I’m afraid I must make a slight diversion here. In language, the concept of a “meme” has existed long before the internet. In language theory, a meme is simply some idea or concept that is passed from one individual to another by nongenetic means, usually through oral communication. Folk songs, for example, are memes – they are passed from individual to individual, generation to generation, through verbal communication.
There is, of course, no such thing as an anti-meme, at least in formal theory. An anti-meme would be some information that is NOT passed on, that cannot be shared with others. This is assumed to be impossible under current language theory, and even if such a thing were discovered, such a discovery could not, by definition, be shared, as the very act of sharing would disprove the thing’s identity as an anti-meme.
Yet on Wednesday, I believed that I had discovered just such a thing – an anti-meme, a bit of information that could not be preserved! I theorized that, perhaps, this paragraph in some way interfered with the brain’s normal approach to recording memories, thus overwriting itself. If my notes are to be believed, I was quite excited about this discovery.
In my journal, I note that I wrote down the paragraph on my notepad to create a physical hard copy, and also emailed it to several of my colleagues. Additionally, as is required every Wednesday, I backed up my online lab journal on the university’s webserver. That evening, in celebration of my discovery, which I suspected would become a well-cited paper, I enjoyed a glass of wine before going to bed.
On Thursday, yesterday, I woke up with a pounding headache. I remembered consuming a glass of wine, but little else. About the day, that is. Had I been excited about something? I drove into lab, trying to remember. As I pulled into my parking space, I suddenly found red liquid dripping down my steering wheel. My nose, it seemed, had started bleeding. Right there! Very strange.
In lab, the mystery continued to grow. There were no students scheduled. When I called my graduate student, I found him at home. He was in bed with a crippling headache and unable to come into work. I agreed to let him take the rest of the day off. I promised I’d only contact him if something urgent came up.
After fifteen minutes, the bloody nose seemed to stop. I searched through my notes, was trying to figure out what I’d been doing for the last three days of the week. The yellow notepad that I normally kept on my desk was empty. Just the cardboard backing remaining. I didn’t remember using it up, didn’t understand why I hadn’t thrown it away. I grabbed a fresh yellow pad from my desk drawer. I checked my online lab journal, but the entries for the last three days were completely blank.
Strnage. I always write in it. Don’t understand where they went.
The mystery of it all might have ended there, were it not for the email. I almost wish that it had ended there, now. I might not feel so hunted. I might not be trembling and strung out on caffeine right now. I can feel it wearing off, can feel it fading. I can’t let sleep take me yet. Not yet ready. More to say.
But I’d emailed the paragraph to other professors. Most of them must have read the emails last night, replied. Then they all forgot about it. But one of them, Prof. Hensen, hadn’t seen the email until today. He replied back. He sent me back my entire hypothesis, everything I’d discovered over the last few days. And a few inane follow-up suggestions, but they didn’t matter. Don’t matter. My head hurts.
I stared at the paragraph. I didn’t recognize a single word of it – but wasn’t that the point? I called my graduate student, read him the paragraph over the phone. He didn’t remember it, either. Was it true? Had I discovered an anti-meme? But why, even if I couldn’t remember the words, hadn’t I written it down somewhere? In my online lab journal, at least-
Wait. My lab journal didn’t have anything for the week. But I’d synced it with the server backup yesterday, hadn’t I? Heart pounding, I logged onto the backup server and downloaded that version of my lab journal.
There it was. I figured out what had happened over the days since Monday. But now, I realized it. Someone must be actively discouraging me. Who had erased the journal from my computer? Who removed the paper from my notepad, where I must have written it down? Who had deleted the other emails? They hadn’t caught the online backup. They didn’t get the email in someone else’s inbox. But they were trying to stop me.
This time, I didn’t take any half-measures. I emailed the paragraph to everyone I could think of. I sent it on to several newspapers and government groups. I even, in one frenzied moment, considered sending it to the “reply-all” listserv for the entire campus. I was hoping to start a massive chain of constant responses that would keep it preserved forever. I hesitated before taking quite so drastic of a measure. Probably good.
Now, looking back at my notes, with no memory of that fact, I probably should have done it. Too late now. Can’t get to work to send the email. Don’t think i can drive straight at this point.
I updated my lab journal with what I did. I backed it up on the server again. I even found a website that would delay a file for a set amount of time before sending it out. Used that. I arranged to have my journal, with the paragraph, sent to me tomorrow.
The rest of the day, I fielded calls from reporters, other professors, and various academic persons about this paragraph. I just focused on getting it out to as many locations as possible. I needed to share this. I still believed that this would become a huge coup for me. I thought this would be a great paper.
When I got home, I made one last note in the online journal, noting that I still remembered the full paragraph. Head hurt, but I remembered it. Got another nosebleed. Very strange. When did it vanish from my mind?
Friday. Today. I woke up with a splitting headache, so bad that I couldn’t get out of bed for several minutes. The very light seemed to be trying to cut into my skin. I just laid there and groaned, confused. The whole week felt like a blur. What had I done? Had I gone on a bender with some of my students last night?
I tried to call my graduate student. He didn’t answer, despite ringing him four times. Perhaps he’d been at the same party. So strange, he always answers his phon.
Getting hard to focus, hard to read the screen. Need to write more. Maybe some spelling mistakes now, sorry. Trying not to fall alseep.
So the server thing emailed me the file, like they were supposed to do. Guess it’s automated, so that’s how they knew to do it and didn’t read it. Didn’t get eraased. Okay. Got my journal, read what happened. Shit. Still don’t recognize the apragrah.
Read about how I sent it to all these news places. That didn’t work, since it’s not on the news. Okay. Maybe, if this headache is because of it, that’s good. Could have caused a panic, ahha, madelots of peopel sick. Oops. Crisis averted, yay!
But now I’ve read it again. I’m going to get… hurt? I don’t know. Maybe it will kill me. I still don’t understand how it’s vanishing from places. Are there secret agents who follow me arund and steal the paragraph from me? Whose doing it? My head hurts. I’m tired.
No, yesterday. I got out of bed, tried to think. Thinking is hard. It hurts so much now, I can’t imagne how bad it was yestrday. Ow. Tried to fnd more about the paragraph, did some searches online. It’s still on there, although you can’t find it with Googl. Gotota use a different browser, one of the bad ones. Old one, must still be indexed or archved or something liek that.
I treid to catch them. I went to the campus security, told them that someone stole something frorm my office, needed to see the tapes. Watched, saw no one. But at night, then someone came in. Me. Late at night, hadn’t I gone to bed? But I came in, tore off papers, did stuff on the computer.
They’re in me, controlling me. It is, ist doing it. Tryign to erase itself. In my head now, eating, gnawing. Think its taking more every time, wiping me out.
So sleepy. Just want to sleep. Head hurts. No more caffeine tablets, don’t think they do anything now anyway, just make my head hurt. So strange. verys trange.
It’s all falling apart. I’m not going to get a paper out of it, just hope that I survive. I’m sharing this, putting it out there, and then I’n deleting it all. Hope that’llb e enough. Would delte my students Reddit account, if I knew how. Can just make another, yeah? Just need to tell people, someplace they can’t find it, can’t get tot it.
Need to give a lead. Quote. Can I do part of the paragraph, is it the whole thing, or does even a partof it make you forget, break your mind like it did mine? I dontknow. Don’t know. Maybe I can post a part, just so that others can find it.
“The scroll […] is unrolled forwards and backwards simultaneously.” That’s from it. Not the exact words, but most of it. Part of the paragraph. GO find it. Or don’t, it probably will just hurt you, ttoo. Maybe its’ better if you don’t find it, if no one finds it at all. Lose it, it’s dangerouss.
Need to sleep. Sleep. Posting, then goint gto sleep. Maybe delete everythig, this time, so it doesn’t hurt so much any more. Don’t wanna remember it. Just wanna make it all go away.