There must be a limit to the number of superlatives that one person can attract in a lifetime, but it seems that boundary has not yet been reached in the case of Professor Ovis Jopp. The lean, seven-foot-two, green-bearded ‘Sage of Trondheim’ was positively incandescent when he addressed yet another invited audience in his fjordside home. Having circulated the contents of a firkin of his now famous greengage wine, the master explained his latest brainwave.
“It was a synthesis,” he said, “and one that only an intellect of cosmic proportions could conceive. For some time, I had been thinking about the crudity of our techniques for leaving the Earth’s gravitational influence. Purely by chance, I heard a joke about an incompetent hoodlum, who was asked how he fared when trying to blow up a rival’s car. He said that he had come to grief by burning his mouth on the exhaust pipe. Obviously he failed to distinguish between blowing up and inflating.”
Calming gales of laughter, Jopp continued: “Yes, it was funny, but I saw beyond the humour. It has long been clear that our attempts to break free from the Earth’s gravity by using absurdly large amounts of chemical propellants are unsatisfactory. Further, I concluded that such methods as plasma and nuclear pulse systems are inadequate. Happily, I found a solution within a week of first addressing the problem.”
Applause was stifled by professorial arm-waves. “It is quite simple,” said the luminous one. “The well-known inverse square law gives the clue. If the size of a body is increased while the mass remains constant, then the surface gravity decreases as the square of the change in radius. I merely applied this to the Earth, realising that if the planet were to double in diameter without significant addition to its mass, then the surface gravitational force would be only a quarter of its present level.”
The professor paused to ensure that his point had sunk in, then went on: “With this in mind, and using my engineering skill, which someone kindly described as legendary,” – more clapping – “I designed a giant pump, which we could insert into the Earth’s crust, then, using the air around us, we would be able to inflate our planet to the required size. This operation would reduce surface gravity to only twenty-five per cent of the current figure, so we would be in a position to undertake space flight with much less propulsive power than we now need. I don’t like repetition, but confess that the idea has a passing similarity to my earlier one for increasing the Earth’s spin rate by girdling the planet with anchored rockets. In that case, distances between some places would increase, while this proposal would affect all points.”
Audience response to Jopp’s scheme was tumultuous, but not everyone is captivated by it. A typically acidic retort came from the ultra-round, super-critical ‘Swedish Savant’, Dr Terps Dunderklap. Vacationing in Switzerland, he was found outside the ladies’ changing room of a ski chalet. Here, he is quoted verbatim. “Poor Jopp. He spends too much time fiddling with pieces of paper, which doubtless accounts for his inability to cope with the three-dimensional world familiar to most of us. He speaks of globes, but does not understand them. I would remind him that the formula for the volume of a sphere is pi times the radius cubed, times one and a third. To inflate the Earth as he envisages would require more air than there is in our atmosphere. Apart from that deficiency, how would we then breathe? As it happens, I recently perfected an anti-gravity device, but did not feel that the world was ready for it. I will give details in due course. Meantime, please ignore the Norse nitwit.”
We shall surely hear more of this.
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