Bottling It Up
An audience of leading international scientists was spellbound yesterday when Professor Ovis Jopp, the lean, seven-foot-two, green-bearded ‘Sage of Trondheim’ gave details of his latest – some say greatest – exercise in physics. The professor stated that he had become the first person to conduct a two-way experiment in which mass was converted into energy, which was then changed back into mass. Jopp said that he had in effect released the genie, then reconfined it.
“I rate this among the most satisfying of my many successes,” said the winsome wizard, admitting that his high spirits stemmed in part from a liberal intake of his greengage wine. “I grasped what others had failed to perceive, this being that what one needs is a miniature atomic explosion, one small enough to be reversed. The usual element, uranium 235, would not do, as the critical mass required to produce a chain reaction gives too drastic a result. What I needed was a very heavy fissionable substance. Learning from my experience in manufacturing ultra-light elements, I inverted my technique, to produce a massive transuranic one, which I call norwegium, in honour of my adoptive homeland.”
After much clapping and cheering, the professor went on: “The principle is the same as with uranium or plutonium, in that one must force together two sub-critical masses. However, with norwegium, the amount concerned is small, so a limited explosion results. I conducted the test in open land near Kirkenes, where I built a green chamber of lead-lined metal through which I passed a pipe, widened in the middle, with ends projecting beyond the container’s walls. I inserted a piece of norwegium into each end of the pipe and fastened powerful bellows to both extremities, then took one end, while a student manned the other. We generated an airflow, smashing together the sub-critical masses within the central bulge. The resulting denotation caused the pieces of norwegium to vanish temporarily. They had clearly been transformed into energy.
There was further wild acclaim before the professor was able to continue: “As I expected, the bubble almost burst. Now came the difficult part. To convert the energy back into mass, I had to contain it in an ever-decreasing space. I did this by lowering the roof of my chamber, as one sees in horror films, when someone is imprisoned in a room, the ceiling of which descends to crush the victim. My apparatus did the same, squeezing the energy into almost no space. Having allowed a brief stabilisation period, I raised the roof, entered the chamber and inspected the crushed pipe. I was gratified to find a number of small discs, which I analysed, finding that they were undoubtedly norwegium, and proving conclusively that I had turned mass into energy, then reversed the process. This is a masterly demonstration and a mighty landmark in scientific history.”
A swift riposte came from Jopp’s foremost foe, the shorn, stunted, ovoid ‘Swedish Savant’, Dr Terps Dunderklap. Found sitting on the gatepost of a Varberg maternity hospital, he was acerbic. “Jopp has assuredly gone too far this time,” he screeched. “I showed years ago that what he claims is impossible. I even produced a super-heavy element, similar to his norwegium. The problem, as I made clear to everyone but the fjordland fathead, lies in the fact that in order to fabricate an element heavy enough to have the requisite characteristics for low-mass fission, the substance itself would be too unstable to hold together, so would break up spontaneously. With regard to the supposed temporary disappearance of Jopp’s new element, he was the only observer, and I would remind him that there are none so blind as those who will not see. As for the recovered discs, my chief researcher acquired several and established that they were heads of hobnails, obviously from the boots worn by Jopp’s assistant. Incidentally, I note that Greenfly does not say what became of the poor fellow.”
Pressed on this point, Jopp promised to investigate.
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