In The Restaurant At The End of the Universe (what do you mean you haven’t read it? Or heard it? Look it up on Amazon right now) Zaphod Beeblebrox is sentenced to be punished by being placed in the ‘Total Perspective Vortex’ (see quotation below), a room which projects a scale map of the universe with an infintessimally small arrow and the words ‘you are here’ – the point being it makes you realise how utterly insignificant you are. In the original radio broadcast you hear the blood-curdling screams of the previous occupant before Beeblebrox is marched in…
And then he comes out quite unscathed, to the surprise of his captors. Turns out he was as important as he believed he was after all.
Anyway, I entered a web version of the Total Perspective Vortex today. I took a look at the PubSub LinkRank site and discovered, based on the number of other sites linking to me, that I am ranked 1,039,868 on the web – down (get this) from just 950,000th a month ago.
Check your own ranking out by clicking on the link and replacing the last part of the URL with your own domain. I can see the next few weeks getting a little obsessive…
The Total Perspective Vortex derives its picture of the whole Universe on the principle of extrapolated matter analyses. Since every piece of matter in the Universe is in some way affected by every other piece of matter in the Universe, it is in theory possible to extrapolate the whole of creation – every sun, every planet, their orbits, their composition and their economic and social history from, say, one small piece of fairy cake.
The man who invented the Total Perspective Vortex did so basically in order to annoy his wife.
Trin Tragula – for that was his name – was a dreamer, a thinker, a speculative philosopher or, as his wife would have it, an idiot. She would nag him incessantly about the utterly inordinate amount of time he spent staring out into space, or mulling over the mechanics of safety pins, or doing spectrographic analyses of pieces of fairy cake.
“Have some sense of proportion!” she would say, sometimes as often as thirty-eight times in a single day.
And so he built the Total Perspective Vortex, just to show her. Into one end he plugged the whole of reality as extrapolated from a piece of fairy cake, and into the other end he plugged his wife: so that when he turned it on she haw in one instant the whole infinity of creation and herself in relation to it.
To Trin Tragula’s horror, the shock completely annihilated her brain; but to his satisfaction he realized that he had proved conclusively that if life is going to exist in a Universe of this size, then the one thing it cannot have is a sense of proportion.