We are accustomed to sensational offerings from Professor Ovis Jopp, the lean, seven-foot-two, green-bearded ‘Sage of Trondheim’. Only the themes remain mind-boggling. Speaking today to an invited audience in his fjordside home, recently enlarged by the addition of a lecture hall for delivery of his famous talks, the jolly giant unveiled his latest scheme.
The listeners, all science journalists, sat enthralled as Jopp, sipping greengage wine, told all. “I got the idea by noticing that the Earth is not quite spherical,” he said. “The equatorial diameter is slightly greater than the polar one. Now, it is clear that the difference concerned arises from centrifugal force, caused by the speed of our planet’s rotation. For an intellect such as mine – of which there is admittedly only one – it was but a hop to realise that a higher rate of spin would produce a more pronounced effect. I took the notion to its logical conclusion. If the Earth were to rotate fast enough, it would change from a near-sphere to a disc.”
After an outbreak of gasps, the professor went on: “I immediately seized upon the beneficial implications for humankind if the required spin-speed could be achieved. Within an hour, I had the eureka moment. What we need – and I have designed it – is a series of thrusters, mostly land-based, but with a few at sea, placed around the equator. I considered jet engines, but rejected that idea as too crude. Securely anchored rockets would do better, their velocities being made incremental, according to the number of sites. They would be ignited serially rather than simultaneously and could impart speed to any desired level. If hydrogen and oxygen were to be used, the exhaust velocity would be, I believe, 17,000 feet per second, which could be repeated as each stage burned out. With appropriate fuelling arrangements, the potential is virtually boundless.”
The assembled experts showed their appreciation with prolonged applause, then Jopp continued: “We could flatten the Earth to any degree, my preference being a disc with only a nominal rim-thickness. The Earth’s surface area is about 197 million square miles, so omitting the trivial width of the final edge, the top and bottom would each be about half that figure. We could drive shafts through the disc, to bring what are now antipodean places to within a few miles of each other. A good analogy is Emmentaler cheese – wheels riddled with holes, though the perforations I have in mind would go all the way. Of course, land areas would be spread out. The equatorial circumference of 25,000 miles would be extended, everything being, so to speak, hammered out. That is a small price to pay for the huge benefits in terms of travel.”
Self-appointed leader of the jopposition, the broad-as-he-is-long ‘Swedish Savant’, Dr Terps Dunderklap, was dismissive. Located in an oak tree overlooking a Girl Guides’ encampment near Halmstad, he moaned: “I would like to say that words fail me, but I usually have a few when this clown’s name turns up. ‘Sage of Trondheim’ indeed. ‘Nutter of Norway’ would be a better title. Jopp doesn’t understand that his proposed whirligig would hurl into space everything within quite a distance of his new equator, scattering the Solar System with debris. Also, he has ignored the Earth’s molten outer core, which would squish out towards the perimeter. How is he going to drill through that lot? The holes in a Swiss cheese are as nothing compared to those in the head of this ignoramus. He should place all his rockets at sea, since that is where he is usually to be found. Will nobody put him into a straitjacket?”
Further vitriolic exchanges are anticipated.
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