Like Nothing On Earth
The apparently inexhaustible Professor Ovis Jopp has done it again. Speaking yesterday to a select gathering at his home, the lean, seven-foot-two, green-bearded ‘Sage of Trondheim’ dropped yet another blockbuster onto the scientific world, revealing that he had discovered a planet circling, or perhaps one should say ellipting, the Sun in the same orbit as ours.
“I must confess,” said Jopp, “that I got the idea while watching a film which purported to show that there was a ‘mirror’ Earth on the far side of the local star, but always out of our sight because it is constantly in precise opposition to us. Why not, I thought. You know that I am accustomed to discovering, even conceiving, planets, so this project was not a totally new experience for me. I worked on the Hardanger Plateau. My equipment comprised twenty skilfully arranged and ingeniously connected empty oil drums, painted green, a simple megaphone and an army surplus transmitter/receiver, in which I implanted the vital component, a piece of an isotope of my recently invented element joppium, which you may recall I used in an earlier experiment.”
Calming his excited audience, Jopp continued: “Realising that any other body in our orbit must be regarded as leading or chasing us, I worked backwards to achieve the swiftest possible connection. Imagine my joy when I picked up the first message. I will not tax your minds by explaining the linguistics involved, but I established that there is what one might call a shadow Earth, matching our planet in size but consisting mainly of gases, so having very low density and mass. This body would not be observable by any of our space cameras, as it is enveloped in an occlusion zone, which both prevents direct sightings and neutralises gravity. The latter characteristic explains why the planet is able to maintain its course, despite its low mass. Incidentally, I have not yet given it a permanent name. Until I do so, Earth 2 will suffice.”
Here, Jopp paused to light one of those mammoth green seaweed cigars which Captain Nemo might have envied. He then went on: “Our friends on the ‘other side’ are somewhat similar to us in appearance, though obviously rather less solid – ‘ethereal’ is the word. Happily they are not hostile. Also, I am delighted to say that they have among their number a scientist who is not so very far from being my equal, and who has perfected a method of sending messages in a direct line around our joint orbit, instead of spreading them in the usual electromagnetic way. I hope I am not being immodest in saying that the task of intercepting the transmissions seemed destined to fall to me. I feel sure you will understand why I have not indicated exactly how I used my apparatus. I do not believe the world is yet ready for mass extra terrestrial communication. These are early days and all will be revealed at the right time.”
A response to Jopp’s words came quickly from the ‘Swedish Savant’, Dr Terps Dunderklap, who was vacationing in London, close to Holloway Prison. He was as forthright as ever, saying: “So, the cerebral Cerberus that protects Jopp from reality is still in place. I do not enjoy carrying out a further demolition job on him, but feel bound to say that I can refute his arrant nonsense. I investigated this matter a year ago, using twelve empty casks of Limousin oak, cleverly arrayed, a trumpet and a transmitting and receiving device, similar to the one Jopp employed, the difference being that my vital addition was a sliver of the element dunderium, which I produced a short time ago.
As I had predicted, the result was negative. My messages zipped around the allegedly shared orbit, returning home without having encountered any obstacle. Jopp’s supposed planet could exist only if it occupied one of the Lagrangian points, which are places of gravitational equilibrium, allowing a small body to hold its position because of a balance between two larger ones. There is no such spot at the location Jopp suggests. Take more water with it, Greenie.”
The professor riposted: “I have seen Twerpo’s figures which, if the champion chump could only see it, show that all of his communications took a fifteenth of a second longer than they would have done, had they not met Earth 2, which they were obliged to semi-circumnavigate. I’d like to know what Blunderklap makes of that.”
Another lengthy dispute seems inevitable.
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