It is increasingly difficult for many of us to keep abreast of the work of Professor Ovis Jopp, the lean, seven-foot-two, green-bearded ‘Sage of Trondheim’. Speaking yesterday in his fjordside home, he informed an audience of science reporters that he had proved the validity of the theory of Earth crust displacement, adding that it was probably this, rather than meteorite impact, that overwhelmed the dinosaurs.
Supplying his listeners with wine made by his wife from Italian gooseberries and dubbed by him Vino Verdi (he is an opera lover), the wily warlock explained that he was inspired to investigate the conjecture in question while walking in his garden. He said that the theory in question had attracted Einstein, admitting that the father of Relativity, along with Archimedes and Newton, had ascended to within hailing distance of his own intellectual eminence. “For me, and doubtless only for me,” – he chuckled – “it was not too difficult. I took one of my spherical green cabbages, a sheet of polythene, a jar of my own recently developed super-lubricant, which I call Ovilube, and a wok. I sawed the last item through the middle, top to bottom, setting the two halves slightly apart and putting them upon separate supports, placed to match the curvature of the vegetable.”
Pausing only to imbibe half a litre of wine, the professor went on: “I coated the cabbage with Ovilube, shrink-wrapped it in the polythene and placed it in the split wok, the inner surfaces of which I had also smeared with the lubricant. The cabbage represented the Earth’s main mass and the polythene its crust, while the wok was merely a suitable stand. I added putty to the top of my apparatus, little by little in a narrow ridge, recording the amounts. As I had suspected, a final increment caused abrupt inversion, my poles sliding through 180 degrees, the ridge of putty passing the slit in the wok and stopping exactly opposite its initial position. My calculations indicate that there is at present almost a polar equilibrium, and that an additional 800 million tons of ice to the North Pole would cause a half-revolution, analogous to that in my experiment. As a result, we in the northern hemisphere would find ourselves down-under. Briefly discarding my usual humility, I submit that this is the most elegant demonstration of its kind yet devised, and I cannot imagine that there will ever be a more convincing one.”
Though the audience reeled, disapprobation was not long in coming. Leading the charge was Dr. Terps Dunderklap, himself verging on the globular. The hairless one was located at a fashion show in St. Petersburg. His guffaws must have been audible almost as far away as his homeland. “I believe I have finally established what is amiss with the fool of the fjords,” he said. “It is a question of height. A brain at such an altitude as his must be oxygen-deprived and therefore not working properly. If I did not dislike Jopp so much, I would pity him.”
After interrupting his comments to view a little stuff-strutting on the catwalk – a blinding red and yellow number – Dunderklap continued: “I confirmed eight months ago that the notion of crust-inversion is nonsense, but did not publicise my finding, which was merely one result of several amusing experiments I carried out during an evening I spent entertaining some friends. My equipment comprised a medicine ball, a basin, a length of Cellophane, six ounces of petroleum jelly and some modelling clay. The test proved conclusively that there never has been and never will be such a swivelling as Jopp suggests. Further, his statement that so much mass would have to be added to the northern ice cap is as profoundly erroneous as the rest of his assertions. Anyone accustomed to delicate weighing would tell you that if there were a near-perfect balance, a minuscule addition to either side of the scale would be decisive. Incidentally, the ice around the North Pole is melting. What about that lot, Greeno?”
This wrangle may well absorb many physicists for some time.
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