“M-Ph” is a complicated term, as it refers to different things in different disciplines. Even the question of what “M-Ph” stands for rarely elicits full agreement in a gathering of scholars; a plurality agree on “Mysterious Phenomenon.” Generally, it refers to things related to a mysterious progenitor megaculture within the Bottlenose Nebula.
Meanings across disciplines
The term first saw usage amongst xenosociologists working in the Bottlenose Nebula after they noticed that many isolated cultures had a number of cultureways in common across all of them, far past the point of statistical likelihood of pure coincidence. As an example, one such cultureway is a tendency towards isolation, while paradoxically also embracing cooperation within any perceived group identity. Another incredibly common cultureway is a varying degree of antipathy towards machine intelligence, even if a culture has developed it to some degree. This has made Infomorph Rights a topic of deep import across many M-Ph cultures.
As many of the species within the cultures seemed morphologically distinct--compare as an example the Dolphin Riders of Tau 21 Theta 3, the various cultures of Purnisc, and the sole inhabitants of the solar-system-sized Wandering Husk-Child--no simple explanation has become the consensus.
In dig sites throughout the Bottlenose Nebula, xenoarcheologists have noticed an astounding number of artifactual similarities, both in the history of currently existing cultures, as well as many extinct ones. Although not immediately noticed, as many scholars focus on their own work, once the first connection was made, a rush soon followed, creating a web of ancient artifacts linking civilizations across the Nebula. Disappointingly, there is no clear zone of high-frequency where these artifacts can be found, nor has any pattern been able to be discerned in their spatio-temporal distribution.
Nevertheless, xenoarcheologists label such civilizations “M-Ph Connected.”
After the Validation Crisis of 2.35.1644.25468 [ERROR #!: Reference outside the scope of current document set, no information will be retrieved], xenoarcheologists specializing in the Bottlenose Nebula created stringent requirements and testing that any site, investigation, or artifact must go through before being designated M-Ph Connected.
Many of the most fascinating and frustrating M-Ph related works have come from the field of xenobiology. Given the mandate to not act as agents of first contact and reduce impacts on independent development within subluminal civilizations--a directive, it should be noted, that this author agrees with in spirit, and interprets along the lines of consensus in the Society for Counterfactual Empiricism--comparatively few results can be found in this field, as biological study without disruption proves a significant challenge. Still, those results which exist have had an outsized impact on M-Ph scholars across academia.
A surge of xenobiological interest in the Bottlenose Nebula occurred as M-Ph findings in other fields became more widely circulated. At first, focus was on explaining the lack of morphological similarity between some classes of species that share M-Ph cultural traits or historical artifacts. After enough data could be non-intrusively collected, a sort of M-Ph taxonomy emerged that was in wide usage, until a paradigm-shifting disruption occurred in the wake of the discovery that some of the species currently considered M-Ph Connected shared significant and unique biological markers with species not even remotely considered related due to a lack of relevant findings in other areas. Even more frustrating was the total lack of these markers in species that appeared to be strongly M-Ph Connected.
No dominant explanatory paradigm for this discrepancy has been put forth, but in the meanwhile xenobiologists studying the phenomenon maintain a Scale for M-Ph Propinquity that solely relies upon biological evidence.
General explanatory theories
Almost all fields seem to have converged on two explanations for their findings:
- Dominion Theory: An extinct nebula-dominant culture held dominion over all M-Ph societies.
- Natural Theory: Some physical property unique to the Bottlenose Nebula created conditions advantageous for the independent development of M-Ph-like states of culture/biology/history.
Those who favor Dominion Theory rely on the work of xenoarcheologists as evidence, while Natural Theory proponents tend to favor the work of xenobiologists and point to the unique nature of the Blowhole and its close relationship to the Wandering Husk-Child as proof of their beliefs. Many xenosociologists will say that the two theories can be reconciled, and tend to be dismissed by all involved, and even those who are proponents of some kind of reconciliation theory will tend to favor one or the other as the cause with more explanatory power.
Within these theories, many more detailed possible explanations have been suggested. Within Dominion Theory, there is much speculation as to whether species with high M-Ph Propinquity were engineered, seeded, or are mere cast-offs of serendipitous natural selection from a dying dominant megaculture. Similar ruminations exist for the cultural aspects, and whether different explanations exist for both--and why that would be the case. Others assert that any claim of teleological certainty is a fool’s game, and it is far more likely that the M-Ph progenitor culture is merely responsible for initial conditions and the rest is the result of randomness and natural selection.
Natural Theory proponents tend to be a bit more unified in that the Blowhole often plays a prominent role in their explanations, but there are some rogue scholars who believe that the Blowhole is a red herring, and that scientists would find more answers in discovering the nature of the mysterious Quintessence Ombral unique to the Bottlenose Nebula that permeates the entire space.
Identity of the M-Ph progenitor culture
Although arguments abound about how strong a role the M-Ph progenitor culture played in all of this, most scholars will agree that something along those lines must have existed. The identity of this culture, however, is a matter of strenuous debate, with many claiming they were a nebula-dominant branch of the proto-culture that also gave rise to the Nerenith, or even the Nerenith themselves. Others point to evidence of existence predating the Nerenith’s zenith to argue against such claims.
Frustratingly, the somewhat small intersection of species that are high in M-Ph Propinquity and cultures strongly identified as M-Ph Connected makes it hard to even get consensus on who or what was connected to any such M-Ph progenitors. Much squabbling occurs over questioning the validity of the methods and results from other fields, to say nothing of a grand unifying question such as the identity of the M-Ph progenitors. For now, it remains an unsolved mystery, and something of a holy grail for interested scholars, and one to which the Society for Counterfactual Empiricism is hoping to uniquely contribute towards.