The scientific world was stunned today by yet another revelation from Professor Ovis Jopp, the lean, seven-foot-two, green-bearded ‘Sage of Trondheim’. Speaking to reporters in the green room of his fjordside home, the professor announced that he had overturned generations of misconception, by reaching a temperature below minus 273.15 degrees Celsius, which had hitherto been believed to be absolute zero.
Jopp – readers are reminded that his name is pronounced Yopp – stated that he had not set out to achieve this result. It was a digression from other work in the field of low-temperature physics. “I was just tinkering,” he said. “Basically, I proceeded as most others would have done, using adiabatic demagnetisation techniques. When I reached the lambda point of 2.19 degrees Kelvin, I was struck by a mental thunderbolt, realising that all my predecessors in the field had been wrong, in that they had applied theoretically sound cryogenic methods, but had been using the elements known to them. They lacked the vital ingredient of imagination.”
After passing around glasses of his home-made greengage champagne, the professor continued: “I leaned on my recent faster-than-light experiment, in which you will recall that I was obliged to manufacture a completely new, sub-hydrogenic element, joppium. It occurred to me that what I needed this time was something of even lower mass. I therefore produced a synthetic, ultra-light substance, which I call ovisium. I was at first inclined to name it in honour of my well-known but distinctly inferior contemporary – hardly a colleague, you may agree – Doctor Dunderklap. However, I heard that he had already named dunderium after himself, which seemed to leave only klappium as a possibility, and in view of a certain unsavoury predilection for which he is well-known, I feared that name might be misconstrued.”
When his listeners were restored to order, Jopp went on: “Once I had produced, thermally isolated and demagnetised a quantity of ovisium, the rest was easy. I gradually drove out the heat, which you will appreciate is merely molecular activity. However, there was one unexpected result, which arose as I progressed downwards a further 273.15 degrees, or precisely twice as far below zero Celsius as had previously been considered the lowest level. At that point, I was intrigued to note that my material showed the same behaviour patterns as it did at the freezing point of water. It appeared that as I continued to plumb the depths, the superconductivity I had observed earlier in the operation was lost, so I suppose one could really consider my experiment as U-shaped. I shall doubtless overcome this technicality, but even as it stands, the finding is remarkable and ranks among my best efforts to date.”
Reaction to Jopp’s announcement was swift. Within an hour, his leading opponent, the short, round, hairless ‘Swedish Savant’, Dr Terps Dunderklap was found and interviewed in the doorway of a Gothenberg nunnery. He was pithy. “The imbecile,” he shrieked. “Apparently his lunacy has no limit. Naturally his experiment was U-shaped. Does the buffoon not understand what he has done? Clearly, his equipment failed in the intense cold. He went down one stem of the U, encountered the obvious malfunction, then went up the other U-stem, returning to zero degrees Celsius. It will be a blessing for all of us when the men in white coats take him away. Incidentally, I proved recently that by use of table salt and an ingeniously extended kitchen thermometer, it is possible to achieve a minimum of eight degrees below what is usually regarded as absolute zero. I saw no merit in publishing my conclusion.”
This one could run and run.
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