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Analysis and Interpretation – the Nine Billion Names of God

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Analysis and interpretation – The Nine Billion Names of God

In 1953 Arthur C. Clarke wrote “The Nine Billion Names of God”. This is a science fictive short story where we meet a group of lamas who wants to write the nine billion names of God. Atypically, the lamas will not use the ‘normal’ alphabet; but their own alphabet where they have invented and written in their holy books. In over three centuries they have been typing these names down, and it would take another fifteen thousand years for them to complete the chore. Therefore, they purchase a special computer, Mark V, from a company, which can calculate and write all the letters down. Compared to the fifteen thousand years the computer will do the job in a hundred days. Later on we are following two engineers named George and Chuck. They have been hired to complete the project. However, one day Sam Jaffe tells Chuck the real purpose of this task. The real purpose is to find all the names and when that is been done, God’s intention with the mankind will be achieved and the universe will cease to exist. Of course, the scientists think that it is pure nonsense and they begin to plan their home travel at the same time, as the computer would be done printing out the names. They are afraid of the monks’ reactions when their task will fail, because of course it will fail. Unfortunately, on their way to the plane, they look up and suddenly without a fuss, the stars are going out.

It is clear that the dialogue in the start is a very special one. To me, I think it is the very classic “science vs. religion” when the two men are discussing. However, now religion needs science to fulfil its purpose. Also, it is interesting to see that the scientist Dr. Wagner and the lama are not on the same wavelength. One part is too incompetent to understand the other part’s errand....

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