Much Ado About Nothingness
Just when some of his critics claimed that he had, as it were, not a shot left in his locker, Professor Ovis Jopp has done it again. The lean, seven-foot-two, green-bearded ‘Sage of Trondheim’, addressing an assembly of distinguished European academics in Bergen, revealed today that he has succeeded in constructing a black hole. Astounded listeners heard his explanation.
The ever-genial Jopp was in expansive mood. “Once one grasps the principle, the rest is plain sailing,” he said. “Rather like making an atom bomb. Classical theory suggests that a body the size of the Sun will eventually collapse to become a white dwarf. A somewhat larger stellar object will change into a neutron star, while an even bigger body will transform into a black hole. My genius lay in understanding that the operation can be downsized. One needs only a core, a distributor, a coating and an imploder. As a core, I used an old cannon ball. My distributor was a thick layer of polystyrene, moulded around the core. The coating was a spheroidal green canvas bag painted with tar and perforated in places to hold the implosive element, which was a sophisticated array of normal fireworks – good old-fashioned bangers.”
After pausing to take a swig of green chartreuse, the professor went on: “I put my assembly into a thick perspex globe, around which I inscribed a deep equatorial channel. Into this groove I placed a golf ball, attached to one end of a length of strong twine, the other end being fastened to the core through a borehole. To achieve detonation, I employed the same team of students I had engaged for an earlier test, this time supplying them with very long tapers, which they used to ignite all the fireworks simultaneously. The blast was distributed evenly around the core by the polystyrene, which has many tiny cells, making it ideal for the purpose. I observed the result with great care, the critical question being whether there was mass transference from the golf ball to the core. I did not precisely quantify this, but was quite satisfied that the ball, try as it would to maintain itself in orbit, was drawn inwards, proving that the core had all the properties of a black hole. This is a mighty leap forward for humankind and a tremendous personal achievement for me.”
Asked why he had devoted so much of his valuable time to black holes, the professor said that he had become disturbed by the confusion experienced by other scientists. “They were far too academic,” he stated. “They didn’t want to get their hands dirty and preferred to occupy themselves with unprovable claims to have noted a possible black hole in the constellation of Cygnus something-or-other. I, on the other hand, was mindful of the comment made long ago by a German fellow, viz: ‘Nur in der Praxis zeigt sich der wahre Meister,’ meaning that the true master reveals himself only in practice. Of course, you did not come here to learn of my command of languages, impressive though it is.”
Reaction to Jopp’s pronouncement was speedy. His redoubtable antagonist, the short, hairless, ultra-round ‘Swedish Savant’, Dr. Terps Dunderklap, had a withering response. Found at a women’s hockey match in Skaraborg, he opined: “I have for decades considered Jopp a cretin and nothing he does disabuses me of that notion. Can it be that he fails to perceive his blunder? Obviously, the twine connecting the golf ball to the core became twisted, so naturally the ball was pulled inwards. I have shown that it is impossible for us to construct a black hole, my equipment comprising a grapefruit encased in plastic explosive and heated by skilfully arranged electric fires, for remote detonation at the critical temperature. The result was negative.
Jopp plans further tests. Dunderklap predicts failure, plus danger to participants.
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