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Conflicting reports from the annual meeting of the International Society of Astrophysicists point to a schism over explanations for several recent anomalies in terrestrial cycles. The majority opinion, presented in an official statement from the Society’s board earlier this week, is that a slight bump in the lunar atmosphere has brought on a stretching of the orbital band, as it may be called. This variation is presented as a simple matter of a correction for the expansion of the universe since the Big Bang, the pace of which is popularly considered invariable but is understood in physical and astronomical sciences to be anything but. Hiccups in other portions of the galaxy are recorded several times a year and there is reason to believe these exceptions are very well the norm. 

A small but growing group of dissenting Society members has gathered with researchers from an eclectic range of sciences including particle physics, nutrition, nanotechnology, neurobiology, mathematics and zoology, among others. This as-yet unnamed assembly has issued a lengthy statement regarding possible larger forces working outside the recognized boundaries of the known universe. Its assertion, in broad strokes, is that “irregularities” in measures of velocity related to mass as well as in the attractive force between objects in space are actually quite regular. The variations may in fact be patterns of force and timing, perhaps due to a sort of squeezing or pulsing from beyond known limits, causing shifts in physical processes long thought to be fixed. “The inability of our most complex equations to capture new universal trajectories is not a failing of calculation but a direct result of willing blindness to changes in the phenomena being calculated,” the group declares. “Even mathematical perfection will not return us to a steady state that has long since ceased to exist, if it ever truly did.”

The Society’s board chair summarily dismissed these comments as “The zodiacal zealotry of a god-thirsty fringe.” Shortly thereafter, representatives of several Christian and Muslim denominations as well as a Sikh group and several Lubavitch Jews arrived with picket signs and holy books to pray at the entrance of World Center Marriott’s conference wing just as the Society’s members were wrapping up the final day of panels.

One presenter was willing to speak on the condition of anonymity. She reported that in a closed-door session prior to the official start of the conference, select participants discussed at length the meteor hit in Russia in February and the 17,000-mile near miss that followed on its tail. These two incidents, though unrelated, brought about a flurry of speculation about changes being noted a few weeks later. She refused to elaborate.

A spokesman from the World Geography Institute was more forthcoming. He reasoned that had these two bits of cosmic debris collided with each other near the surface of the planet or slammed earth at the same moment, they would have contained enough force to generate a significant tremor perhaps triggering changes in atmospheric and possibly planetary cycles. He went on to describe a possible similar phenomenon occurring on the lunar surface with shocks from the impact being far greater relative to its size. Depending on the force of the impact, the reactive reverberations might be enough to cause a “perhaps only temporary” bump in the orbit. It is unlikely that such an event has occurred unnoticed, given the sheer quantity of telescopic and other recording equipment trained on the skies from observatories around the world. In any event, the current algorithm indicates a delta of +.0002 (adjusted to 1.9818*1020 N) in the force of attraction between earth and our moon.

The effects of such a click are almost too minute to measure with even the most sensitive equipment. If it were not for the simultaneous oddities in biological and physical processes, the perplexing equation adjustment would likely never have made the news. Strange phenomena noticed in several insect and animal species point to a shift in native tendencies. Wetlands ecologists report minor increases in the wingbeat frequencies of dragonflies and early molting by northern migratory waterfowl. The metabolic rate of the tree frog commonly known as a “peeper” appears to have increased. Three varieties of saltwater fish demonstrated a twice seasonal spawning, and biologists are keeping a close watch on those whose breeding periods are approaching. Similarly, a dual heat season has been observed in two types of Amazonian tamarins and at least one family of spider monkeys. The ground speed of several cheetahs under observation has been clocked consistently higher by fractions of a second than any known record, as have fastballs at Wrigley Field, Camden Yards and Fenway Park.

Despite a flurry of statements by various scientific associations, it is altogether unclear if these anomalies are related to the miniscule shift in planetary configuration or if they are the result of some other event – perhaps a climatological, chemical, or seismic occurrence – that has not yet been identified. Needless to say, investigations are ongoing and tempers are high. The long-term effects of these changes, though likely to be considerable, are now pure speculation. The only known fact in all of this is that for the moment, the gravitational force of our planet has slipped. Each of us now weighs a fraction less than ever before in recorded history. Whether we can discern it or not, each footfall, raindrop and milkweed pod lands more lightly today than it did a month ago.

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