Madazine : Small World
We have long known that custom does not stale the infinite variety of Professor Ovis Jopp, any more than it did that of Cleopatra. Further proof emerged yesterday, when the lean, seven-foot-two, green-bearded ‘Sage of Trondheim’ entranced members of the world’s scientific community by telling of his latest exploit, triggered when he heard a British government minister say: “Nanotechnology will be huge.”
“I suspected the fellow was trying to elicit laughter,” said Jopp, “but I took him literally, at once apprehending that what he spoke of is significant. However, it is trivial compared to what is possible. I refer to worlds far smaller than those he had in mind. You will know that nano is the prefix for ten to the minus ninth power. That is only a start. We descend in stages of a thousand a time. After nano come pico, femto, atto, zepto and yocto, the last being ten to the minus twenty-fourth power. Such an array would be far more than enough for most experts in tininess, but I hurdled the supposed obstacle in less time than it takes to tell, without working up a sweat.”
The eminent egghead allowed a moment for the inevitable gasps, then proceeded: “The main problem was seeing what was what. As there was no instrument of sufficient magnifying power, I had to invent one, which I call the jopposcope. By the way, I have some pride in this tool, as it makes sub-atomic viewing quite simple. Having no particular objective, I contented myself with producing a soccer pitch on the yoctometre scale. That led me to think of the players, the football and so on. Plunging downwards, I reached the level of ten to the minus twenty-seventh power, for which I could find no prefix. Assuming that there is none, and without wishing to be presumptuous, I suggest that ovio might be adopted as a new standard.”
Quickly subduing more expressions of astonishment, the professor continued: “I appreciate that there may be few at present capable of understanding what I have done, but the same could be said with respect to others who have vastly outpaced their contemporaries. Anyway, that does not matter now. After all, I speak of a world which I alone have seen. Let me just say that there seems to be no limit to what can be attained. As for the jopposcope, I need to introduce a few minor refinements and after I have done that, I shall be happy to invite anyone to inspect my latest work, which I believe matches anything I have done in the past.”
Though the immediate audience was rendered near-speechless, a sharp observation came within hours from Jopp’s premier castigator, the rotund, follically-challenged ‘Swedish Savant’, Dr Terps Dunderklap. Enjoying his first sojourn in the USA, he was found loitering on the campus of one of the country’s most illustrious institutions – Vassar.
Dr Dunderklap is usually acerbic, and on this occasion he excelled himself. “Hah,” he scoffed, “another proclamation from the Ass of Alkmaar. It saddens me to think that we were both born in that Dutch town, on the same day and in the same hospital. Just imagine two people appearing in the world, so close in time and space and so different in mentality. I calculate the IQ gap between us as 250 points. Jopp is, as usual, way behind me. I went beyond his primitive ovio level long ago, when I reduced smallness to what I call the dundo stage, which is ten to the minus thirtieth power, thus producing a polo ground, a vast number of which could be put into the torpid troll’s enormous megadrome. No matter how far he delves into the microscopic realm, Jopp will never find anything there as diminutive as his own brain.”
A major rumpus seems likely.
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