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Question 1

Elena works as a translator. Her company measures their employees’ productivity by the odd metric of how many feet of poems they translate—almost as though in working, they were making their way towards something or away from something. At the end of each year, in a fluorescently lit ceremony, they rank the employees, converting their total feet translated into miles and then extrapolating, from that figure, which exotic locations the employees made it to, where exotic is a value that represents anywhere but here. Last year, Elena made it to Utah; her coworker, Lupe, on the other hand, made it 1/3 of the way to Europe but fell short and drowned in the Atlantic Ocean. Elena isn’t sure which of their virtual fates was better, and furthermore, this doesn’t make Elena feel competitive with Lupe because success at this job means never making it to one of these locales in actuality but instead dutifully following a haggard trail of paper into a protracted vanishing point. She imagines Lupe sinking serenely to the bottom of the ocean, as light and language fade. This year, Elena is translating at a rate of (10 – kt) feet per hour where t is the number of hours since she started translating and k is a constant accounting for the fact that Elena slows down as she gets tired—a constant into which everything collapses. Elena is so tired. She thinks about how at some point, while she wasn’t looking, a page turned and it would be like this for the rest of her life. Of course, knowing what has been lost is not requisite to loss. If today, she starts at noon and translates 5ft between 2pm and 3pm, what is k?


Question 2

If your two remaining unfrayed nerves found one another on Saturn at 2:00 AM (Earth time)

  1. Do they cast a shadow?
  2. Calculate the rate at which they are forgetting


Question 3

An engineer calculates the acceleration rate for each of the planes that use the airport. Of the planes, the lowest acceleration rate is 3 m/s2. The takeoff speed for this plane is 65 m/s. One morning the engineer wakes up, thinking: what is the minimum required length for the runway? The engineer is not designing a runway—he’s not that kind of engineer. He wakes up like this often, problems burning in his mind. It started at first as numbers, then sentence fragments, and then, gradually, questions. One might conclude that these strange thoughts are merely a result of his vocation, a mutagen weaving itself into him—but he’s not that kind of engineer. Despite not knowing where the problems come from, he  solves them dutifully as they arrive, as though preparing for some final test. A stone is dropped into a well. A feather falls on the pith of the moon. A bullet exits a gun.

In time, the questions become increasingly diffuse, numbers jumble and disappear, the symbolic order smears.

One of his employees is late for work and says: sorry, it’s because … time dilation.

True or false, his date asks: the instant when love begins is when you forget the escape velocity. He imagines the characters in these problems imagining him. A feather is dropped on the moon.

He seeks the help of a psychiatrist. The psychiatrist is smug to a degree that is unwarranted for a practitioner of such an inexact science. He writes him a prescription which he says has a 50/50 chance of making his problem worse. The psychiatrist glances at him knowingly and says: they say that madness is reason dazzled. They say a unit of reason pushes against its own limits, overwhelms itself, a saturation of self, a superorganism breaks weeping billions of buzzing brains. The engineer asks what this has to do with his condition. The psychiatrist shrugs: they say, I don’t know.

At home—which is a cube of variable dimension—the engineer swallows the first of the thirty pills. Each of which, he imagines, will gradually dissolve him into a plot device. Calculate the rate of dissolution. A bullet exits a gun.