Changing fantasy to fact is not a new experience for Professor Ovis Jopp, the lean, seven-foot-two, green-bearded ‘Sage of Trondheim’, but even the most hardened physicists were shaken yesterday, when the formidable fjordsman announced that he had become the first Earthling to negotiate spacewarps. Feeding his listeners with green pralines, made for the occasion by his wife, he divulged that his discovery was virtually accidental.
“Like other great thinkers, I believe in validating my ideas in more than one way,” he said. “As you know, I have already demonstrated that my scientific contemporaries have gone astray in their thinking on propulsion systems for interstellar travel. I was not satisfied with a single contrivance, such as the space centrifuge I built recently. This time, the principle was still ground-based powering. I realised that if I had done that by one method, I could do it by another. Therefore, I produced a second revolutionary machine, which I call the ultracoil.
After an eruption of applause, Jopp went on: “Thank you, but it is not the innovation, brilliant though it is, that takes centre-stage here. I just mention it in passing. So far, I have made only one small model, four feet long in repose mode, and vanishingly small in its opposite, or taut condition. The full-sized version will be vastly more powerful. However, even the prototype has produced an epoch-making, if to some extent inadvertent, result.”
With his audience enthralled, the professor described his apparatus. “I will not bore you with the finer details of the appliance,” he said. “Basically, it comprises a wire spring of immense length – or height – which must be compressed. This can be done horizontally, by sophisticated hydraulic ramming, so subtle that I shall have to invent it myself, or vertically, by upending the relaxed spring and hauling it groundwards by means of huge winches of such complexity that here again, the design will require supervision on my part.”
“I was pleased to note that the device performed even better than I had imagined it would. However, that was as nothing compared to my feelings when the nose probe returned four days later, covered in a strange whitish substance, which I subjected to spectroscopic analysis. Imagine my excitement when I discovered that the Fraunhofer lines indicated that this matter was identical solely with an element found in a galaxy eighty million light-years from us. This could have come about only because my machine found its way through one or more of the spacewarps so beloved of those in the realms of fantasy, and – amazingly – returned. This is a sublime moment for the human race and a glorious one for me.”
Not everyone is overwhelmed. Perhaps least impressed is top anti-Joppist, the squat, convex, depilated ‘Swedish Savant’, Dr. Terps Dunderklap. Located at a go-go bar in Karlskrona, he was exceptionally trenchant. “Oh, the dolt,” he cried. “I noted his recent fatuous claim to have gone below the absolute zero level of temperature. Now he seems set to do the same with respect to intelligence. As it happened, one of my students was concealed at the site of Jopp’s preposterous experiment, and observed a total failure. The returning probe landed on the roof of Jopp’s own house and was doubtless later blown down by the wind. As for the spectroscopy, there is but one explanation other than that which Jopp mentions. The object shows the same Fraunhofer pattern as do pigeon droppings. Need I say more?”
Perhaps not, but he probably will.
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