The Riddle of the Universe and Its Solution is a short story authored by Christopher Cherniak, a researcher in the intersection of information theory and neurology at the University of Maryland. The story is presented as a public service announcement about what has become known as the Riddle. The Riddle was discovered in a university computer lab when one of the researchers working on automated theorem proving was discovered to have spontaneously entered a coma while in front of his work station. Soon after one of the research assistants is found in a similar condition while going through the researcher's work. A third victim lapses into coma and the building is quarantined. The research is transmitted over the phone lines where one of the project managers freezes mid-sentence while reading some of the code. At this point the nature of the pathogen is identified as informational.

Research of the phenomenon is hampered by the danger that handling inherently lethal information presents. It is assumed that it may have been discovered on previous occasions only to be lost when the logician or mathematician checked out, with a few recorded deaths over the last century being probable candidates. Sadly, the riddle begins cropping up in other locations, killing a topology in France, and some but not all students in a computer science class. Without knowledge of the areas involved in the understanding the Riddle how can one avoid it? Yet it is unsafe to distribute information about it lest someone connect the dots. The warning is part of the threat.

I like this story but it also sort of scares me, not because of the whole killer idea part but because my own work of fiction, Theory of Everything is really similar despite the fact that I wrote it before ever reading this. And I mean beat for beat similar. I'd probably accuse it of being a total ripoff if not for the fact that I wrote it. In terms of presentation The Riddle is better written but I still prefer my story on grounds of having a slightly more interesting premise. You can find the full story here.


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