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Source: 2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke Editor: tallman
Info: A jet-black slab of material that is ominously reminiscent of a tombstone. Perfectly sharp edged and symmetrical, it is so black it seems to swallow up the light falling upon it; there is no surface detail at all. One curious, and perhaps quite unimportant, feature of the block has lead to endless argument. When the dimensions of various monoliths were checked with great care, they were found to be in the exact ratio of 1 to 4 to 9 - the sqares of the first three integers. What importance this bears is questionable, but it becomes apparent that the monolith is the first objective evidence that the universe contains intelligent life other than man.

In the course of the novel, 3 monoliths are discussed. There was one at the dawn of mankind, one burried on the moon, and one found orbiting Saturn (or Jupiter, in the film).

The significance of the monoliths are debateable, though their placement suggests that they mark certain milestones in human evolution, and even, in some ways, help along the lengthy process of evolution.
Further Reading: The Novel 2001: A Space Odyssey, by Arthur C. Clarke, was developed in concert with the film 2001: A Space Odyssey, directed by Stanely Kubrick.

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