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Einsteinian Comedy of Errors

Einsteinian Comedy of Errors

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Published by Patrick Das Gupta
A science-fiction based on Twin Paradox and Y2K bug, set in the milieu of International Year of Physics.
A science-fiction based on Twin Paradox and Y2K bug, set in the milieu of International Year of Physics.

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Published by: Patrick Das Gupta on May 11, 2011
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05/18/2011

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Einsteinian Comedy of Errors
Patrick Das Gupta
Department of Physics and Astrophysics,University of Delhi, Delhi - 110 007 (India)
1
 
December 31, 1999. 18.00 hrs. Burdhwan, West Bengal.Professor ”Astro Nut” (actual name Jyotish Nath) was furiously programing the com-puter softwares that would assist Pushpak’s space odyssey. After his retirement, he hadbeen secretly developing a light weight spacecraft in his personal laboratory, located in thebasement of his house, and had named it after the mythical flying chariot of Ravana. Mostlose interest in creative work after retirement, but not Astro Nut. Why, the other day hewas spotted in the garden, lecturing to Polka (their pet dog) the nitti-gritties of quantummechanics while dangling a juicy piece of bone, held between his index finger and thumb.With his eyes closed, he was solemnly saying, ”You know, Polka, according to the quantumtheory I could arrange a situation in which this piece of bone is here in my hand as well ashidden somewhere in the garden. Amazing, right?”Looking eagerly at the bone while vigorously wagging its tail, Polka appeared to besaying, ” I would rather have the bone between my canines. Surely quantu....whatsitsnameis’nt more important than that?”Astro Nut, without paying heed to Polka’s appeal, had continued rambling, ”Listen tothis, young dog! You could have a whale of a time with Schrodinger’s cat. You could bechasing the cat and at the same time you could be standing triumphantly over the verysame old cat, thanks to the quantum principle of superposition.”The cat story had seemed to create a faint interest in the dog, although he was still eyeingthe piece of bone patiently. Astro Nut’s lecture, however, was not over yet, as he added, ”Itis this weird quantum nature, that makes the electric current in a loop of superconductingwire flow indefinitely without the need of a battery. Funny thing is, the electrons in asuperconducting ball move in tiny quantum whirlpools so as to make the magnetic fieldinside the ball vanish.”Not so funny when you realize that Astro Nuts drone was beginning to be as persistantas the current in a superconductor. The professor continued with his sermon, ” More goodnews for you, Polka! Suppose, you have got accidentally locked inside the house, while allof us are out visiting friends. And, ofcourse, you want to get out. Then, don’t lose heart.Simply keep bumping against the wall in the house. According to quantum theory, there isa remote possibility that you will just tunnel out of the house.”That was too much for Polka. Bone or no bone, he could not take it any more. With ayelp, he tunneled out of the scene.2
 
Back to the main story, now. While working on the project Pushpak, Astro Nut hadachieved several technological breakthroughs. Firstly, he had managed to create substantialamount of anti-matter. Anti-matter is matter with all its electric charges reversed. Forexample, an atom of anti-hydrogen will consist of an anti-proton and a positron. An anti-proton is exactly like a proton, except that it is negatively charged, while a positivelycharged electron is called a positron. When matter comes in contact with anti-matter,the result is rather catastrophic - both disappear spontaneously, giving rise to a powerfulburst of electromagnetic radiation. Fortunately, using a new invention of his, the so called‘supermagnetic flask, Astro Nut could succeed in isolating the anti-matter from matter toprevent spontaneous annihilation.Secondly, thanks to a new kind of nano-material employed by him to build the spacecraft, Pushpak was as hard as diamond, as strong as steel, and yet was ultra-light. He had alsodeveloped a large number of nano-engines, each made of only about hundreds of atoms, thatcould exchange signals with each other through quantum tunneling of electrons. Each of these nano-engines assisted in attaining controlled annihilation of matter and anti-matterto produce radiation, with hundred percent efficiency. Adding all the nano-scale annihi-lation energy and amplifying them into a narrow and powerful radiation beam by a lasermechanism, he had the propulsion jets ready! Beauty of the scheme lay on the fact thatas matter-antimatter annihilation continued, the rest-weight of Pushpak decreased steadily(due to the magic of Einsteins formula,
=
mc
2
).Simply put, the rocket jets were powered by energy released from matter-antimatterannihilation. So, the only fuel his spacecraft used was a battery of anti-matter, sealed bymeans of supermagnetic flask, that was neatly stacked at its rear end. The modus operandithen was simple - release anti-matter into matter cavities - instant but controlled burst of annihilation energy - Newton’s action-and-reaction, and bingo - Pushpak propels forwardwith high speed! A computer inside the spacecraft had been interfaced with the nano-engines, so that the annihilation rate and, thereby, Pushpaks propulsion speed, could bemanipulated through input data. Astro Nut had already programmed it to a speed limit of one hundreth of light-speed.Another milestone for Astro Nut was a new mechanism he employed to minimize theadverse effects of acceleration on human bodies. According to Einstein’s theory of gravity,acceleration is equivalent to a gravitational field. It is an everyday experience that when a car3

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