The Internet has many features: sometimes it can shock, amuse and frustrate its users.
In this brief overview we are going to deal with neither standard computer defects nor with hackers and computer viruses. These phenomena can hardly be called the mysteries of the worldwide web. They are caused by certain people and therefore can be easily explained. For a long time computer viruses are known to be written either by teenagers willing to increase their self-esteem or by produces of anti-virus software programs intending to improve sales. A small fraction of special service employees and criminals creating similar “phenomena” are not going to be the subject of this overview either.
The facts I am going to dwell on are cited in Russian and foreign authoritative websites and the press.
A certain Ezhi Kovalsky, taxi-driver from Warsaw, received the e-mail message warning him to insure his apartment against fire which is going to happen there soon. Тhe taxi-driver did not trust the message much and thought it was an advertising trick of an insurance company. However, he could not figure out the name of the company because the e-mail was signed by … him. Ezhi hesitated, but finally visited the nearest insurance company and signed the contract. Two weeks later he thanked his well-wishing twin and his own foresight because his apartment was damaged because of the fire in his neighbors’ place, but his losses were covered by the insurance company.
Similar situations happen in Russia as well.
One morning Nikolai Somov, the poet from Moscow, was looking through his e-mail and found the following brief and mysterious message: "Don’t open a bank account! Hide your money at home, leave it with your aunt or lend to somebody, but don’t put it in a bank! Nick Som”. Nick Som is one of the poet’s literary pseudonyms, but the most important thing was he was going to have a significant deal on that day – Nikolai was selling the apartment he inherited and was supposed to receive a big amount of money.
Somov thought this message is the affair of criminals who wanted to grab his money if he received cash for the apartment. Finally the poet put his money into the account of the “most reliable” private bank.
It was July 31, 1998. Nickolai responded to the stranger, but the letter was returned to Nikolai –the address did not exist. 18 days later the rouble default happened in Russia and many banks went bankrupt…
Doctor Eugenia Dubinina from Belgorod received the e-mail message with the recommendation to keep her Oka motor-car in the garage and not to drive it for a week. The message’s author signed by Eugenia’s name – “E. Dubinina” and advised her to go to work in her husband’s car or take a bus.
The doctor considered the message to be a bad joke. “Perhaps my colleague did it because he envies my wealth’”- Eugenia thought.
She was driving her new mini motor-car around the town. At the intersection “Pobeda” (old Russian motor-car model) hit her. Luckily, Eugenia was not wounded, but her vehicle was damaged badly. The driver who caused the accident was a disabled veteran. The court made the veteran to pay the car damages, but he is not doing this…
As in the previous case, the letter was sent from the “future”, and the e-mail address of the sender did not exist.
Vladimir Ivanov (the name is changed for the reasons you will understand soon), a teacher, was going to participate in a TV quiz show with big sums of money as prizes. In the morning before the show broadcast he was surfing the Internet and encountered the letter containing the answers to the questions from the quiz! The teacher decided it was a joke because the message was dated by the next day and was signed with his own name. Nevertheless, he read the questions and remembered the answers, just in case.
The teacher was surprised, then shocked and scared when he first succeeded in the preliminary contest , and then gave the correct answers to the 13 questions. Unfortunately, the e-mail message contained answers to only 13 out of the 15 quiz questions. But still the teacher was awarded an enormous money prize which was equivalent to his salary for several years of work at the school.
Summing it all up, what explanations can be found?
The case of Mr. Kovalsky came under the insurance company scrutiny. The company decided that his neighbor himself put his apartment on fire, but remorse made him warn Mr. Kovalsky about his intentions in advance. However, no proof of this was found.
The case of Nick Som can be explained that many economists foresaw the collapse of the national currency, and Nick’s friend among them decided to warn the poet about the coming trouble.
The accident doctor Dubinina had could be a coincidence – the woman was not an experienced driver and her mistake could cause the accident, meanwhile the letter could be sent her by some envious person.
There are constant hot debates about TV quiz shows - if they are “honest or not”. Some well-wisher could probably help him because of pure altruism or to spite the sponsors of the quiz show. Meanwhile, this idea can be false. Once I was a quiz show participant and remember the despair of the show organizers exclaiming: "Are you going to win or not?! The more you win the better for the show!" This is true, because TV viewers’ interest grows after every prize is won. At the same time, nobody tried to play unfair game by telling the correct answers to the participants.
The most shocking event happened to Matthew Felps, the employee of NASA. He received the e-mail letter with the picture of a space object. The letter was sent by himself. Several days later the US space station transmitted the photos of the one more Saturn’s satellite which was unknown before. After processing the station signal Felps saw the same picture he had once had in his e-mail. This case is more difficult to explain than Oka damaged motor-car. If not intelligible, but earthly explanations can be found for all the previous incidents. However, one cannot imagine that somebody could reach Saturn, photograph its satellite and return to the Earth in 3-4 days.
Matthew addressed this problem to the security department. They tried to figure out the sender of the message with the help of the special system called CARNIVORE and designated to trace anonymous terrorists, but failed because the system indicated that the server where the letter had come from did not exist.
Everyone can sign his/her e-mail message by a different name. It is easy to change the time set in the system. There are special software programs allowing to cover up the sender’s traces by inserting the address which does not exist instead of the real one. But no software is able to transmit the picture of Saturn’s satellite.
There is a fantastic story about a complex Metro system in a big city. At one point, the development of the network of the Metro lines and the connection between them reached new effect. After launching the new line connecting all the other lines simultaneously, the trains passing this line started disappearing in time and space dimension. The same phenomenon applies to the Internet. The worldwide web is rapidly expanding and developing and the amount of new connections is being transformed into a new quality. It is possible that some parts of the web have the conditions allowing to penetrate into the past from the future. However, in the future Nikolai Somov will hardly warn himself living in the past about the rouble default and tell the public about this action. Probably, the branching of reality happened after August 18, and the person who warned Nick Som in 1998 lives not in our future, but in the parallel future. Such a phenomenon is possible.
Another short story. A popular writer said he was using the Internet when gathering information for his new novel. Once during his search he found a web address of this novel, meanwhile the novel had not been published yet!
He visited this address and found the text of the novel there! First the writer decided that hackers managed to receive access to the files of his computer. However, after careful studying the text he discovered that the online novel was completed, while the novel he had on his computer disc was just a draft ¼ of which had not been written yet.
The writer addressed this problem to the institutions dealing with copyright issues. However, it was discovered that the website where his novel was published had never existed and its address was invalid. The writer tried to repeat his entering the site many times, but every time his efforts trouble to his computer. To repair it, the writer had to call specialists.
Finally he sent this online novel to the publisher. It was three years ago. Currently total circulation of the novel is more than 250 thousand copies – big figure providing that nowadays literature is less popular than it used to be.
I have to confess, I myself experienced similar situations.