Autobiography of Five Ideas By Tom Slattery This composition is compiled from five email letters to my friend Richard.

He had begun a discussion on the value of ignorance. I had countered with a play on a truism, "We do not know what we do not know." The real meaning beyond the truism was that prior to something being invented, discovered, or created we humans do not know about it. We just don't know. We don't know what may be out there in the realm of things to be known. Before it is known, we just don't know. There is an exception, though. For a fleeting instant at the moment of discovery, invention, or creation we know what we don't know. And after that instant goes by we realize that we now know what we did not know before. As that instant lingers before fading into the past tense, we realize that we now know what we did not know a fleeting instant prior to that. We cannot avoid the knowledge that during that fleeting instant our mind had reached into the realm of what it did not know, what humans did not know, and knew something that it did not know. Into that individual's life, and in the collective knowledge of humanity, there had come a fleeting moment when he or she, and eventually all of the rest of us, had known what he or she did not know. New ideas come constantly to us. Some of us may or may not have more new ideas than others of us. Some of us do seem, however, to have more of those profound new ideas that radically alter concepts and perceptions and bring about great changes in how we live and how we understand nature and ourselves, the Edisons, Newtons, or Einsteins among us. Whether these notable minds were just lucky and were just in the right place at the right time to grasp a new idea probably cannot be known. But the mysterious processes generating new ideas could possibly be studied. And in that light, I have been fortunate enough over the years to have had several memorable new ideas. And their being ever so slightly significant is what made them "memorable" enough for me to remember. Otherwise they would have been lost in the constant flow of new ideas that go through all of our brains, possibly even while we are sleeping. The order of these new ideas will not be chronological. I present them here in the order of the email letters that I exchanged with Richard.

I begin with the "Whistling Bottle" idea because it was published, thus allowing me to remember it. It has an illustration for the reader to more easily grasp not only the idea itself but some of the processes involved in the formation of the idea. WHISTLING BOTTLES By Tom Slattery From: "Readers Write" Column EastWest Journal (later renamed: Natural Health), August 1978, page 82 Fifteen-hundred to two thousand years ago, people living along the coast of Peru made a strange-looking ceramic bottle, actually two bottles connected together, which later archaeologists called a "whistling bottle." The name was chosen because of a whistling sound produced when you blow into the spout. Scientists classified them as drinking vessels or children's toys. Other observers theorized that they were musical instruments, or meditation devices used for psychic or spiritual healing. Whistling bottles were found only along the coast of present-day Peru. At least one pot has a fish sculpted into it. It would seem that if these dual pottery flasks had a musical value they also would have been found inland, where the real center of Incan civilization developed. This information came to me after I had discovered these strange objects while wandering through the Lowie Museum on the University of California's Berkeley campus. At the time I was studying my Japanese language cards. The Lowie Museum is not devoted to Japanese artifacts, but it is a nice place to walk through after burdening the mind with kanji characters. I looked up, finally, at a whistling bottle. A monkey sculpted into one of the flasks wrapped its tail around the other. On impulse, I sketched this on the back of the day's Japanese lesson because its curious use of clay seemed to pose a question. I would take it home and think about it. What happened was one of those wonderful flashes of creativity that discredits conscious programming and the carefully developed thought processes we call the conscious mind. I went home and slept on it long and deep. Not long after waking, it came to me in a flash — the whistling bottle could have been an ancient device for making drinking water from sea water. From that flash I began to construct the logic of it. One of the bottles is sealed, the other open. Now why did they do that? I rolled my sketch over upside down. Ah! The flasks, if immersed in sea water up to the connecting tube, will let brine in only on the open side, and only up to a point below the connecting tube. Then the sunlight does its work. Water evaporates inside the whistling bottle. Water vapor is a gas,

and as a gas it obeys certain physical laws; for instance, it distributes itself with equal density through any volume containing it. The water vapor passes through the tube and condenses on the walls of the sealed bottle, running down the walls to collect as drinking (distilled) water. And it did. I made a plastic "whistling bottle" out of some old plastic bottles, connecting them with a tube cut from a smaller bottle. I glued them together and sealed the cap on one side with waterproof airplane cement. I now had the world's first semiplastic whistling bottle. I set the contraption in a pan of simulated sea water on the room of my Berkeley apartment, and the summer sun distilled me a couple tablespoons of water. But my education was not over. The whistling bottle made drinking water from sea water, but this does not prove that the ancient people who lived on the Pacific coast of South America used their carefully crafted whistling bottles for distillation. "Consider what would happen," said a friend, "if someone came up to you with proof that the Irish harp was really meant to hang washing on — and then hung washing on one to prove it." The people at the Lowie Museum seemed affronted at my theory. My idea — even my proof — found a cool reception. One anthropologist warned me that "the Museum has very conservative ideas about these things."

4. WHISTLING FOR WATER: How the whistling bottle can distill water. Illustration from EWJ article, August 1978, page 82, drawn by Bill Burns from my sketch. Idea Number One The formation of the whistling bottle idea, email to Richard, March 2008. This may seem a little rough. But here it is. We owe human improvement to new ideas. We as a species would be nowhere without them. We would still be surviving in caves and lacking fire and apparel if it weren't for a few someones who had new ideas eons ago. And yet there is very little serious looking into either the minds or the processes that create new ideas out of, as it were, nothing -- nothing that has ever been there before.

There is a lot of figurative and literal dissecting of brains. But this seems tangential to the quest. They end up with dissected brains, remote from whole living minds. The whole mind is a living entity and more than the sum of its brain components. My "Whistling Bottle" article was originally published in the (now defunct) EastWest Journal, Boston, August 1978, from my discovery in the summer of 1977 in Berkeley. It was later republished in the now defunct online magazine Good Gosh Almighty, circa 2004. Here is what happened. As in the article I was walking around in the Lowie Museum (now renamed the Hearst Museum from a big donation by the publishing family). I kept passing the "whistling bottles," strange pottery double flasks with tubes connecting each single flask. It did not make much sense that primitive people used these as musical instruments because a single flask would produce the same sounds when blown into. I wondered, but did not put too much energy into it. One day on my way back as I was entering the Rochedale Student Coop where I lived, I noticed that the student had left a one-quarter-full wine bottle that he had used to water the garden out in the sun. The sun evaporated some of the water, the water vapor condensed on the sides of the bottle, and streams of it ran back down into the original water at the bottom of the bottle. I noticed it. But I paid little attention to it. And I went into the kitchen and sat down. I had made a drawing of one of the whistling bottles. And I may have been eating a sandwich or something and absent-mindedly turned the drawing upside down. And even then it did not register. I just kept on eating my sandwich and daydreaming. And then all of the sudden it hit me. The idea struck as a complete whole in an instant. Ancient people could have used these as water-distilling devices to make drinking water from salt water. The picture of how it worked had come instantaneously into my mind. I admit that these double flasks might not be ancient distilling devices. But on the other hand, they could be. And if they once had been, I had, in that instant flash of insight, literally reinvented them. Other than the original inventor, so long gone that no one even vaguely remembers what the devices may have been for, I had a totally new and original idea. I looked through the archaeological literature. No modern researcher had thought of this possible use before.

We do not know what we do not know. But for an amazing instant my mind reached into the realm of what I (not any other human) knew not. For an instant I actually knew what I did not know. I did not know, in the previous instant, how a whistling bottle might work as a distilling device. And then suddenly I did. I have had a few other sudden creative insights like this. Idea Number Two Electrokinetics, Hillsides, and Dams The main point of this composition is the profound newness of new ideas, the something-that-wasn't-there-before quality that suddenly becomes something-that-nowis. We all do this. The use of a hairpin to fasten something other than hair, the use of coathanger wire to temporarily hold a car's muffler on, etc. But we forget these all too quickly, and I have forgotten them. What I remember of my new ideas are the ones that seem to have had a minor effect in either the academic world or as a tiny advancement of technology and therefore civilization. And since these are the only ones that have stuck in my mind, these are the ones that I have to use to examine the processes. But I don't mind bragging a little. In 1808 Catherine the Great had been dead for about a decade. This remarkable person had, to copy the Western European governments, established the Russian Academy of Science. One of its publications in 1808 was by one Fredrick Ferdinand Reuss on his experiments with (to use the original quaint terms) "electrokinetics" and its mirror-image phenomenon "electro-osmosis." Electrokinetics and electro-osmosis are this. Electrolyte-free pure water in contact with a silicate material like glass, rock, or clay can be forced to move by the application of direct-current electricity. Similarly, in reverse, moving water over a silicate surface can generate an electric current. Reuss demonstrated his discovery by placing electrodes about a mile apart in the sand along the Moscow River (or maybe the Volga), connecting them with copper wire, and used a homemade battery constructed from 98 silver Russian rubles with acid-soaked cardboard in between. When connected, this apparatus forced a small but observable flow of water upstream, as seen in the sand by the electrode. In the early days of science various scientists and mathematicians were fascinated by the dual and "perfectly reversible" phenomena. The German mathematician Helmholtz demonstrated that there was a double layer involved in the perfect reversibility. Einstein played with it in 1901. It wasn't until Linus Pauling's discovery of hydrogen bonding in the mid-20th century that anyone understood the physics and chemistry of what was going on. Basically the idea proved useless and dropped out of scientific literature and interest. At about the time that Pauling discovered what was really going on, and I believe

won a Nobel Prize for it, a new concept and accompanying device called "electrophoresis" began appearing in biological and hospital laboratories. This is the concept and apparatus that now allows DNA separation and identification. It is directly based on Reuss' discoveries. So it turned out to have enormous value. When I was playing with toy ovens as a research technician at Kenner Products in Cincinnati in 1963 and 1964 just after I got out of the Army, I came across an article about Reuss (misspelled Roos) in a popular science magazine called International Science and Technology. And I went back to the lab and tried it out. I created a tiny rectangular rubber tub with an opening on one side, filled it with laboratory-grade magnesium silicate, soaked it with laboratory distilled water, and put electrodes across from the closed side to a pinprick-perforated aluminum foil gate at the other side. Kenner had been experimenting with a tiny 200-volt battery to be used in a children's toy and there were still a few in the laboratory. That was about as close as one could get to the voltage of Reuss' 98 rubles with acid-soaked cardboard in between. So I hooked it up. And to my glee, and somewhat to my amazement, it worked exactly as it should have. I tried to figure out a toy application for it, but never did. I went on from Kenner to work at the Stanford Linear Accelerator in California and pretty much forgot about the "electro-osmosis" idea. And after I left the Stanford Linear Accelerator I got a job for the free tickets at Pan American World Airways at San Francisco Airport. And while I was working there, huge heavy rains hit northern California. Hillsides gave way. Small earthen dams gave way. A fellow employee, Tim Holt, a grad student in English at San Francisco State who was working there because the night shift allowed him to take day classes, discussed the slipping hillsides and failing dams. And while we were talking I got the bright idea that one could use Reuss' discovery to remove water from saturated California hillsides and earthen dams. I absolutely knew that it would work when using laboratory magnesium silicate and distilled water from my pseudo-experiment several years earlier. But I was not completely sure about relatively fresh water and natural clay soil that had a lot of salts holding it together. Electrolytes like salts allowed the water-incontact-with silicate phenomenon to be bypassed and thus shut it down. But the very reason that the hillsides were slipping and dams were failing was because salts, especially potassium salts, which bound the silicates in the clay together, were leached out by the heavy rains. So Holt and I "borrowed" some rectifier diodes and a transformer from the Pan American supply room, raided a sandbox in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park, filled my bathtub to some adequate depth with it, and soaked the sand with fresh San Francisco water from the bathtub tap. Then we tried out device. It did not work very well, but it worked. We were able to "electrically pump" water out of the leached sand and fresh water mixture.

Lacking money for a patent search, we notarized out discovery and sent the idea around. We got zero responses. That was that. However, a couple years later, while living in Japan, I read in a Japanese newspaper that the new subway under construction by a French company in Mexico City was using a variation of the device that Reuss had used in Moscow in 1808. Moreover, it was very similar to the apparatus that Holt and I had used in my bathtub in San Francisco in 1967 to electrically pump water from the former lake bed and swampy soil on which Mexico City had been built. So my of-the-cuff invention did turn out to be a useful device. And that is, of course, part of the reason that I remembered it. Now it is regularly used in saving failing earthen dams and the like and in construction efforts of various kinds. Like the idea for a possible use for a Whistling Bottle to make drinking water out of salt water, the idea was not original with me. But like the Whistling Bottle, it had been forgotten. I had found this largely forgotten idea in a low-circulation popular science magazine, mentally played with it, minimally experimented with it, and therefore understood it like only a very few people in the contemporary world did. As a result, I was able to conjure up a practical use for it. Idea Number Three Enrico Fermi Institute, Chicago, January 1960 to January 1961 Let me put this in again as a reminder. "We don't know what we don't know." At first the statement appears to be a truism. But here is the catch and the reason for this article. There is, for a fleeting instant, a moment when we do know what we don't know. And that is at the moment of discovery of something totally new that had never been known before. For just that one instant we really do know what we don't know, or in other words we know that this particular bit of knowledge was not known before. For a present-tense instant a mind has reached into what it doesn't know and knows what it does not know. And then it comes back with that knowledge and the knowledge becomes past tense. And we now know what we did not know before. That fleeting instant in the present tense of knowing something we do not know and are still in the process of knowing is what this article is about. It is meant to focus on the phenomenon of brand new ideas, ideas never thought of before, ideas not yet in the realm of collected human knowledge. Collected human experience rarely receives those profound concept-shifting new ideas like Newton's laws of motion, Lavoisier's discovery of oxygen, or Mendeleev's chart of the chemical elements. Scientific discovery and invention often refines and defines old concepts.

Keeping those profound and world-changing ideas in mind, here is some vaguely remembered background on the formation of a workshop idea that was far less ingenious and yet probably similar in its cerebral processes to those. When I got to the Enrico Fermi Institute in Chicago in 1960 as a minimum-wage nuclear particle film-scanner, knowledge of the existence of nuclear particles called mesons had been around for a long time. The Japanese physicist Yukawa discovered or mathematically predicted them in 1934. By the time I got to Chicago they had been seen, measured, and weighed. Their interactions had become entirely predictable. But to this day they remain mysterious. And in the late 1950s and early 1960s considerable effort was being made to find out what they were and how they behaved. The photo below is typical of the ones that I examined all day. It shows a pi meson (Greek letter pi) that decays into a mu meson (Greek letter mu) and then decays into an electron. It was one frame in thousands of feet of 35-mm photographs taken of meson events taking place inside the Chicago Liquid Hydrogen Bubble Chamber at the in the Enrico Fermi Institute in 1960. The bubble chamber in "the pit," an experimental area that included a cyclotron and was located two stories below the street level of Ellis Avenue to minimize neighborhood radiation exposure. My job there was to look at perhaps hundreds of thousands, at very least thousands, of similar photographs and make some simple routine measurements, literally using a small plastic ruler inside a modified library Recordak film-reading machine. The bubble chamber was basically a container about the size of a small snare drum that was insulated from the natural warmth of air inside a vacuum tank. This was to prevent the cold, pretty near absolute zero, liquid hydrogen from boiling away. The vacuum tank itself contained tanks of liquid nitrogen to keep the radiant energy room air from getting through to the liquid hydrogen. But there were windows on both sides of the long tube-like aluminum vacuum tank, and two more windows on each side of the snare-drum-like bubble chamber. To return to the photo below, you look into the bubble chamber and see a pi meson entering from the left side, it decays into a mu meson, the short solid line, and then the mu meson, in turn, decays into an electron. The electron is a stable particle. It will last forever. It is the dotted curved line that spirals down while losing energy in the intense magnetic field.

The 35-mm cameras used film with small grain size for increased clarity. The cameras were mounted outside of several sets of thick glass windows and shot pictures through them of the nuclear particle tracks inside the liquid hydrogen. Hydrogen was the choice of the physicists for these experiments because it is, at the nuclear level, merely protons. It simplifies all the reactions and calculations. It was also highly dangerous. In 1960 the Harvard University liquid hydrogen bubble chamber blew up, killed several people, and demolished the lab building like a bomb. But the risk was deemed necessary to find out what these mesons were. Wolfgang Panofsky had calculated a curiously stable decay ratio involving mesons. My boss Manfred Pyka was attempting to confirm it from a clever different experimental angle. And he did. And he got his Ph.D. in physics from the U. of Chicago for it. All of that added to scientific knowledge.

Even so, mesons remain mysterious. They are, in nature, the stuff of cosmic rays, born in the nuclear furnaces of stars, shooting through space everywhere, and constantly bombarding us pitifully unawares humans, going right through our bodies as if we weren't there. The photo labeled "pi-mu-e." was taken in a 12,5 thousand Gauss magnetic field. If it were not for this powerful magnetic field, these three particles would have traveled in straight lines. They would have looked like ruler-drawn straight lines. And those of you who may live in cold climates can see these straight or straight-jagged lines in the winter on the frosted glass of house and vehicle windows. Cosmic rays are largely mesons. That is what their tracks look like when they travel freely without being bent in a powerful magnetic field. They constantly go right through us. The curved line at the top of the bubble chamber photo is a stray electron passing through the bubble chamber. Below it is a pi meson entering the bubble chamber. The pi meson "lives" for an unimaginably tiny amount of time. Then it"dies." It ceases to exist. But phoenix-like, at the instant of its death it gives birth to a completely separate meson, a mu meson. The mu meson then goes off in a different direction. You see this in the photograph as a short solid line making a sharp acute angle with the longer curved line. Then the mu meson does the same thing. In an unimaginably tiny amount of time it "dies." And from it is born a stable particle, an electron. That is the curved dashed line that you see spiraling down to almost nothing and possibly exiting the bubble chamber. One might wonder at the mystery of why these mesons have rather precise and calculable "lifetimes," well known average half-lives. No one knows. But here is something that I contributed to the experimental processes of brilliant scientists trying to find answers to questions like these. To get these images of mesons and related nuclear interactions pressure on the liquid hydrogen inside the bubble chamber had to be withdrawn. This put the liquid hydrogen in a state of being "superheated." In this state in would boil when something disturbed it. When a nuclear particle like a meson shot inside the liquid hydrogen from Enrico Fermi's old cyclotron, it caused just that kind of disturbance. So, from the boiling a bubble formed. Bubbles formed along the line of the meson track through the superheated liquid hydrogen. And what you see in the photograph is the track of bubbles. As soon as the photo was taken, the bubble chamber was re-pressurized. The bubbles were squeezed back into the liquid. Seconds later, when the cyclotron had

produced new nuclear particles, pressure was withdrawn on the liquid hydrogen, and the whole thing was done again. The bellows that was used to withdraw pressure and put the liquid hydrogen in a state of superheat had to withstand super-cold liquid hydrogen temperatures. The only material that could do this was beryllium-copper alloy. Beryllium, however, is one of the most dangerous poisonous substances anywhere. And the bellows had to be carved out of a single block of beryllium-copper alloy on a lathe by people working inside space-suits. And sometimes there was a flaw in the caste-alloy, and they had to start all over again. So each pulse of a bellows brought it closer to metal-fatigue and failure. And then the whole apparatus would have to be brought back to room temperature, disassembled, and the hazardous-material bellows replaced. All through the experiment there were spurious non-usable events that took place inside the bubble chamber. These had to be thrown out. Sometimes a "cascade" of protons from the cyclotron would come through and make a huge bubble-boiling area that obliterated everything. Sometimes it would be just the opposite. Nothing would come out of the cyclotron and the bellows would pulse and the cameras would record a blank. So one day while my boss and I were having pizza at Nicki's Pizza on 55th near Ellis. We were bemoaning yet another failure of the bellows. And I suddenly had a bright idea. I suggested that he put a counter (as in Geiger counter) in front, another counter in back, and have a simple logic system governing the bellows. When "cascades" of particles came through, they went all the way through and were not bent by the magnetic field to stay inside the bubble chamber. The counter at the far end could pick up these. When there were no particles entering the bubble chamber, the counter on the opposite side would pick up the non-event. In both cases, the electronics, which process at the speed of light, could stop the bubble chamber's bellows before it pulsed. This would save about a third of the bellows strokes and thus allow one third more data to be collected before metal-fatigue caused the bellows to fail. So they immediately assembled this device and used it, and it became the norm for similar nuclear physics experiments all over the world. Shortly after that I got drafted into the US Army. But here was an idea that never existed before. for a brief moment I knew what I did not know. In fact, I knew what our whole species did not know up to that moment. And then in an instant it was in the past tense. It had become something known. I simply knew something known. Our species from that moment on knew something that had not been known. And it was useful. Even a crew of extremely brilliant scientists, peripherally including one Nobel Prize winner, had not thought of it. Forty-eight years later I can only wonder. Tom

Idea Number Four Laser-Triggered Fusion This one ends in tragedy. It also tends toward the flavor of a pulp mystery, and a reader's imagination might be forgiven for fantasizing about a possible mystery-novel murder. From time to time I have told this, and I have tried not to change of embellish it. And I hope that I have not here. I am only telling it from what little that I know. And this is what I know. That year at the Enrico Fermi Institute was, if nothing else, educational. I worked with nuclear physicists every workday, all day. The best that a U. of Chicago student could hope for was ten or fifteen minutes with a professor during office hours once per semester. I was with good minds all day, and they answered my questions and taught me bits and pieces of their arcane craft for lack of anything else to do. Most of this was done by my immediate boss, Manfred Pyka. I worked on helping to prove the Panofsky Ratio, Pyka's Ph.D dissertation project. The Panofsky Ratio is a ratio of decays of mesons. You have already seen a typical picture of mesons in the Chicago bubble chamber. Among the things that Pyka explained was how an atomic bomb and a hydrogen bomb differed, and in doing so explained in layman's terms how each one worked. He knew a lot about it. Keep in mind that this was the Enrico Fermi Institute, directly across Ellis Avenue from the site of the world's first nuclear chain reaction on December 2, 1942, under the by then torn down football stands at Stagg Field, as part of the project to make the first atomic bomb. In fact the window of my work area looked out onto Stagg Field where the stands had once been. One of the things explained was how it took atomic bombs to create enough energy to set off a hydrogen fusion reaction that made hydrogen bombs work. I cataloged it in my mind as an atomic match needed to light the explosive hydrogen fusion reaction. After I had contributed my idea to save bellows strokes in the liquid hydrogen bubble chamber, they talked to me even more. By then, however, I was getting very close to being drafted into the US Army. One day, as best I now recall in late October or early November, 1960, I was quite honored to walk home with Hungarian physicist and world expert on mu mesons Dr. Valintin Telegdi. Telegdi was a friend of Edward Teller, "father of the hydrogen bomb." Pyka, Telegdi, and I all lived down toward the Illinois Central Railroad tracks and walked down either 56th or 57th streets from Ellis Avenue that evening.

Telegdi began talking about lasers. This was 1960, and there was no popular information on lasers yet. They had just been invented. So this was all completely new to me. And the fact that lasers could go, as Telegdi said while we walked, five miles without spreading out was contrary to the physics of light as described in textbooks, where there is a precise little formula for light spreading out in a square of the distance from the source. So I had the nerve to argue with this world-famous nuclear physicist that light could not do that. Telegdi merely said that the laser light was "coherent," which meant nothing to me. And my boss had to shush me up and explained it later. Not long after that I got drafted. And for some reason they assigned me to a field hospital at Fort Lewis, Washington, that was inhabited by some very bright soldiers. Among them was the junior chess champion of Peru, Eddie Vildosa, and a guy who would go on after the Army to design solar arrays for NASA satellites for the rest of his life, Hans Schurig. And there was a lot of time to talk philosophy, science, or whatever. I also wrote regularly to Manfred Pyka. During that time he pulled down a Ph.D. at Chicago for his clever way of verifying the Panofsky Ratio. And then he got a job at the Princeton Institute for Advance Studies and went there. In October or November, about a year after that walk home with Pyka and Telegdi, Scientific American magazine had an ad for a new magazine called Optics. So I sent off a few bucks for the charter issue of the magazine. It was largely too technical for me. but one article in it described how these new (still brand new to the public then) lasers, when focused by normal glass lenses, could burn holes through several of the old steel Gilette razor blades stacked together. Moreover, and more importantly, that the "coherent" laser light could be focused on a point and generate several times the surface temperature of the Sun. I tucked away the magazine and slept on the new facts. The next day Hans Schurig and I were sitting on our Army beds talking about something in physics. I don't remember now exactly what it was. And all of the sudden I had this bright illumination in my head and instantly there was a "vision" of a diagram of a spherical array of lasers focused on a point. And the idea accompanying it was absolutely clear. One could (eventually, I knew that even then) focus coherent laser light on a point and generate enough energy to be the "match" that could set off a hydrogen fusion reaction. And I absolutely knew that it would work. In my euphoria I visualized "hydrogen fusion cars" that could go for years without refueling. But there also was an inherent potential to make a hydrogen bomb with this idea. And indeed, just as I thought of it quite independently in late 1961, Edward Teller was put in charge of an ultra-top-secret project to see if an H-bomb might be devised from a laser-triggered thermonuclear reaction. This is all declassified and known now. But it was all classified Top Secret until the mid1970s. It was so secret that even Teller himself complained because not enough ideas could be exchanged to cross-fertilize the research project.

But I was, of course, out of that loop. I was a dumb private in the US Army who happened quite independently to think-up the same basic idea, although I was not able to do much beyond that. I went on a Christmas-New Years leave to California. From a friend's house where I was staying in San Jose, California, I wrote a letter to my former boss and friend Manfred Pyka. He was by then working in the Spark Chamber Group at the Princeton Institute for Advanced Studies at Princeton University (the same institution where Einstein worked in his final years). I explained and diagrammed my idea to use lensfocused lasers to trigger a hydrogen fusion reaction. It was recreational. I wondered what he might think of it. On nearly my last day of Army leave, and also my birthday, I borrowed another friend's car and drove to the Stanford campus to try to find where the groundbreaking ceremony for the new Stanford Linear Accelerator had been held a few days earlier. It had been in the San Jose newspapers. Wolfgang Panofsky, the newly appointed director of it and discoverer of the Panofsky Ratio, was to do the initial groundbreaking. Alas, I could not find the place and drove back to San Jose disappointed. And then I headed back to Fort Lewis and became just another soldier in olive drab fatigues picking up cigarette butts and trying to remain invisible from sergeants. Strangely, I heard nothing from Pyka. And in the spring the field hospital went on its annual maneuvers at the desert-like Yakima Firing Center on the other side of the Cascade Mountains from coastal Fort Lewis. I was glad to see that a strange lone telephone booth was literally still out in the middle of the desert sagebrush. Some base commander must have had it put there. The field hospital set up its tents about a half mile from there. That was to be home for the next few weeks. President Kennedy had allowed the largest military maneuvers since World War Two to take place at Yakima Firing Center that spring. And about a week into these war games I got a letter not from Pyka but from his wife Ingrid. And she explained that Pyka had opened an unlabeled container of lithium hydride, and the volatile and unstable substance had exploded in his face, possibly because he was, as usual, chain-smoking when he opened it. His chain-smoking habit was well known. What crossed my mind was that there would probably be little use for lithium hydride in spark chamber physics research. However, lithium hydride is the substance used at the core of a hydrogen bomb. The lithium is merely slightly heavier hydrogen and the hydride is more hydrogen. The advantage is that it is solid at room temperature and does not require complex ultra-cooling apparatus to keep it in condensed form. An atomic bomb sets it off. That is, in simple form, all a hydrogen bomb is.

Anyway, the letter from Ingrid also said that the "accident" had happened on my birthday, the very day when I was driving around the Stanford campus looking for the spot where Wolfgang Panofsky had broken ground for his new linear accelerator. By the time Ingrid wrote me the letter it was late March or early April, and I was out in the middle of the Yakima desert. But there was that one telephone, also out in the middle of the desert. So I borrowed what change I could from other soldiers in the unit. I believe I had nearly five dollars in change from it. And I headed down a dirt path that might have been called a road to the telephone booth. I called information with a dime. They gave me the hospital number where Ingrid had said Manfred was hospitalized. And I dialed the hospital, and before I could stop them, they connected me with Manfred Pyka's room telephone. And I got the most awful moan of a groan of a sound. And I knew it was Pyka. And I identified myself. And he gave an additional moan of a groan. Adn then his wife Ingrid picked up the phone and I told her it was me. And she said that Manfred was very ill. And we talked for a few minutes, apparently with her holding the phone so Manfred could hear. And then my change ran out. So I ambled back to the field hospital tents set up in the desert. Later that day, or maybe the next day, and possibly even the day after that, the medical group that was the umbrella over two field hospitals and some other units suddenly got orders that we should all be in Southeast Asia immediately. Consider this. These were the largest and most important military maneuvers since World War Two. Huge planning and cost had gone into them. And in the middle of it this field hospital and it's companion field hospital got orders to be in Southeast Asia in a week. Might this not have broken up a considerable expensive effort of military planning. So we packed and left. I may or may not have lucked out. They created two new field hospitals. The less lucky one went to Vietnam. The other, with me in it, went to Thailand as a backup. And there I stayed for seven months in the field hospital set up at Korat Airfield on the plain in central Thailand, 150 miles northeast of the Thai capital of Bangkok. One of my several minor duties was to take serums and other body samples to the Seventh Day Adventist Hospital in Bangkok for tests that the primitive field hospital lab could not perform. It was something of a bad joke. We had to put these serums in ice cube containers from the mess hall and fill the containers with ice cubes. Toward the end of six months there the unit ran out of time on its original orders to be in Thailand. We started into the seventh month.

I had to take some more serum samples to Bangkok. And I left. It was late November. Our ploy was to stretch out the serum-taking expeditions to three days, one to go there, one to take the serum to the hospital lab there, and one to come back. That gave us three days of extra per diem pay. No one said anything. So there I was. I left early on November 30. There were no cell phones in those days. I had already left when some strange, even for the US Army, orders came down. I took the serum to the hospital. And then I went to a high school play (in English) that a Thai friend's daughter was in. I stayed overnight one night at their suburban house. I stayed the next night in a vacant dorm room at Kasetsart University that a Thai student friend from Korat knew was vacant due to a student dropout. So I was not in all of the usual places where one might find a soldier, bars, bordellos, etc. Come the morning of December 2, 1962, and I started back for Korat, probably on the New Zealand Air Force Bristol Freighter flights that we used. And when I got back to the field hospital in Korat, it was effectively gone. What a surprise! The field hospital had gotten orders to immediately return to the United States and leave only a skeleton crew there. Unknown to me at this moment was that Manfred Pyka had died in a New York City hospital on November 30. I had difficulty getting back because my orders were typed up for a different MATS flight. I finally ended up on the US Embassy mail flight, Bangkok, to Saigon, to Clark AFB Philippines, to Guam. A typhoon had destroyed the airport building at Guam and we had to stand in the rain while they refueled the plane. From there we went to Wake Island, to Honolulu, and to (as I recall) Travis AFB near San Francisco. But Hamilton AFB may still have been open and the plane may have landed there. Yore has it that Hamilton Army Airfield was where the first military atomic bombs had been flown from Los Alamos. They were then driven across the Golden Gate Bridge and loaded on a ship to Tinian Island, from where they would be flown to destroy Hiroshima and Nagasaki to make World War Two the first atomic war. And I got back to Fort Lewis the next day. There were the guys from my unit in Thailand. I only had a few more days on my Army draft time and I got an "early out" for Christmas. So that was the end of a strange episode, and I was out of the Army. I have no idea whether anything went on in some dark secret national security room. All I can say is that all of this may have been some strange horrible coincidence. A friend and former boss was dead, possibly even murdered. And I was out of the Army, out of Southeast Asia, and civilian and free again. 1962 became 1963. Later that year I would get a job as a "research technician" in the lab at Kenner Products in Cincinnati.

From there I would go to the Stanford Linear Accelerator. There I would work indirectly under Wolfgang Panofsky and directly under Martin Perl, who would win a Nobel Prize in Physics years later. Idea Number Five Non-Mechanical Gyroscope This idea also harks back to my days at the Enrico Fermi Institute in 1960, and from several angles. But it was concocted in a bar in Tokyo in the autumn of 1969. I told you about it. But I love telling it, and here it is from this new perspective on new ideas. In that same time frame that I was being paid to look at thousands of feet of 35mm bubble chamber photographs in a relatively high-cost nuclear physics project to verify the Panofsky Ratio from a different perspective, something interesting was going on elsewhere. A brilliant German physicist named Rudolf Mossbauer ran a simple lowbudget experiment to demonstrate the Doppler effect taking place at the nuclear level. The April 1960 issue of Scientific American called his experimental apparatus the "Mossbauer Clock." I loved it. Big money and powerful expensive nuclear physics machines had not been used. The whole apparatus might have cost Mossbauer less than a few hundred dollars, if even that. And the Nobel people were also impressed. Mossbauer won the Nobel Prize in Physics for it in 1961. In April 1960 some strange coincidences that had gotten me the job at the University of Chicago had not mushroomed into the tragedy and intrigue that I related in the previous chapter. I just did my job in Chicago with the Army draft hanging over my head. And then in January 1961 I got drafted. After basic training I did my time at Fort Lewis and in Thailand. I came back from Asia, immediately got out of the Army, and later got a job at Kenner Products in Cincinnati. I went from there to a job at the Stanford Linear Accelerator headed by Wolfgang Panofsky of the Panofsky Ratio. After almost two years I quit that and got a job at Pan American at San Francisco Airport, mostly for the free tickets, and ended up living in Japan. I scraped together a down-and-out existence by writing English correspondence for a sporting goods manufacturer, teaching English conversation in several fly-by-night schools, and appearing as a white foreigner in a couple movies. And this last got me a brief gig assisting in five Saturday morning English teaching programs on Tokyo channel 12, the public broadcasting station there. It has been said that Tokyo in 1969, at the height of the Cold War and with its nasty little hot war going on in Vietnam, may have been a little like Madrid during the height of WW II. Intelligence was bought and sold at whatever the market would bear. When I got the brief gig at Tokyo channel 12 in the autumn of 1969 I was not totally unaware of this. But I had nothing to contribute, or so I believed.

After the Friday afternoon taping of the last of the five segments in which I would appear, the station staff and crew went over to their favorite sushi and sake bar. It was just tradition with them. After the tension of taping a TV program they all went over there to unwind. And I unwound, too. In fact, I downed a lot of sake and got quite smashed. And then, as best I can remember of what could sense in my total inebriation, a Japanese gentleman ambled over from another part of the bar and leaned on the counter beside me. "What do you think you could do with lasers?" he asked me in perfectly good English. This might not strike you as a strange question for a stranger to ask a soused foreigner in a bar in Tokyo, but it did strike me a bit odd. How often has someone asked you what you might do with lasers while you were half drunk in a bar? By then Manfred Pyka had been dead for seven years. He had died, in fact, while I was in another Asian country. I had not forgotten about it or what had caused his death, an unlabeled package of lithium hydride exploding in his face. And I was not unaware of what was going on in Tokyo as far as people trying to find out what other people might be doing there. Possibly due to the added energy input of high-grade ethanol circulating among my brain cells, my mind began to work very fast. It may have worked faster than it ever had before or ever would again. The question required an answer. I had an idea that the expected answer might have something to do with my long-ago idea that lasers could possibly be used to trigger a thermonuclear reaction. But I sensed that there was potential hot water for me in talking about this. In the less than two or three seconds that went by as one part of my mind was thinking along those lines, another part of my mind invented the world's first nonmechanical gyroscope. Alcohol notwithstanding, it came to me in one of those bright illuminations of the mind, and complete. My mental image was not quite the apparatus that Mossbauer had used. Among other things, it used no radioactive sources. But it was certainly influenced by what I had read in Scientific American over nine years earlier. By 1969 "diode lasers" had been invented, lasers that could be "pumped" to threshold with electric current instead of light. But light, of course, could be added to trigger the lasing action. So in those few seconds while the Japanese gentleman waited for an answer, I followed that strange phenomenon where for an instant I knew what I did not know,

indeed what the whole human race had never known before. And then a complete image of an invention came to me at once. I had an answer. "You could make a non-mechanical gyroscope," I told him. There being, up until that moment, no such thing as a non-mechanical gyroscope, I have to guess that he was as surprised as I was by my answer. The idea was electrically pumped diode lasers, probably connected to what were then called "light pipes," but are now part of what people call fiber optics. These I placed in a square shape. They would continuously "lase" and trigger the next laser, and this would lase and trigger the next laser, and it would go on forever. What would stop it is movement in this or that direction. The Doppler effect would change the delicate tuned frequency of the laser light, and it would fail to trigger the next laser. A simple logic circuit would detect this and thus record movement in that direction and then compensate for it. I drew a diagram on a napkin. There were two "squares" of four lasers each, one on the X-Y plane, another for the Z plane. That covered all movement. I believe I only drew one and held the napkin vertically to show the other. When a laser failed to lase the logic circuit did two things. One was to indicate the direction of movement. The other was to "tell" the electric current that was pumping lasers to threshold to increase slightly to turn the laser back on. Movement could be continuously tracked that way. Compensation for the movement could be continually induced until the movement ceased. The Japanese gentleman was no dummy. He grasped the concept immediately. I have to guess that he had a substantial background in science. We talked about it only for a few more minutes. Well, actually I was maybe too drunk to register how long we talked. I was also too drunk to recover my diagram on the napkin. It disappeared. The basic idea turned up a few years later. It was the basis of anti-locking brake technology that became standard on virtually all automobiles manufactured in the world. The early ones actually used lasers. Later they used piezoelectric equivalents. My napkin was both simplistic and profound. No non-mechanical gyroscope had existed up until that moment. Whether someone else also had the same basic idea as I had in that sushi and saki bar, I have no way of knowing. but the basic patent for these movement detectors used in anti-locking brake devices all over the world is a Japanese patent. I am therefore slightly suspicious that my napkin might have found its way quickly into a Japanese research facility. And I learned from this that alcohol does not much inhibit human abilities to know for an instant what humans do not know, and then after time consumes that instant, minds go back to not knowing the remainder of what we do not know. Book Ideas

Thoughts on Ideas and Writing I have taken the five autobiographical accounts of processes involved in those five original ideas and assembled them. And I have to repeat that the only reason I remember those five ideas is that they turned out to have some significance. I only vaguely remember some of the many other ideas, and I know that I have forgotten others. So the five ideas may sound pompous and bragging, partly due to their effects. But the fact is, I remembered those five ideas out of all the others now forgotten simply because they had effects on my life. I add this concluding thought. Some of the ideas that went into my fiction and nonfiction books were as original as the five above. I remember the book ideas because the books were published. From time to time I have been forced to recall some details in them. But except for the sudden insight into the possibility of the initial smallpox pandemic bringing a sudden end to bronze-age civilizations and effectively to the Bronze Age itself, these have been less profound and came to me without a startling impact. My nonfiction book The Tragic End of the Bronze Age is based on an original idea of mine. It is yet another original idea and I was again amazed when it came to me. I forwarded a news story to you about the Boeing research facility in Spain flying the world's first hydrogen-fuel-cell-powered airplane the other day. I had used these in my screenplay/novel Sinking Into Summer's Arms in 1985-86. Actually I had only alluded to them. Due to movie-making considerations, I had a gasoline-powered helicopter used at high altitudes in the Alps in circa the 2020s while the two main characters discuss why they are not using a hydrogen-powered helicopter. And I have fleets of hydrogenpowered commercial aircraft taking off from the world's airports. The idea of hydrogen-powered aircraft was not original with me. I'm sure earlier science fiction utilized the idea. I put it in because it fit with the anti-global-warming theme of the story. The main underlying idea of the story, however, was quite original in 1985 when I began my first draft. Even the popular conception of global warming had not yet materialized. In the original draft I had to use the term "greenhouse effect" because the term "global warming" was not yet in the popular vocabulary. And when I asked around, not many people knew what the "greenhouse effect" was, either. But I went way beyond this. Before the term "global warming" came into the popular vocabulary I proposed that what would later become known as global warming could precipitate a new ice age. It took another two decades before official science accepted that possibility.

When I wrote the first draft of my short novel Norikaeru in Tokyo in the hot summer of 1968, most people on the street could not have told you what the Big Bang was. Indeed, there was a lot of doubt about it in astronomy and cosmology. British astronomer Sir Fred Hoyle's steady-state universe seemed more reasonable and acceptable. The new idea behind the story came about while I was standing on the center platform at Nakano Sakaue subway station. Two of the red-colored Marounochi Line subway trains began accelerating out of the station on parallel tracks on both sides of me. But one of them was accelerating slightly faster than the other. And an idea came to me that maybe the Big Bang was not a solitary big bang to create the present universe. Instead, to simplify this explanation, an infinite number of "big bangs" could have taken place in that same instant. But each one exploded and accelerated out into the void at a different rate. Each "big bang" would thus have slightly different matter-energy that would obey slightly different physical laws. And because this matter-energy was different and the laws governing it were different, nothing in the other universes could detect these other simultaneously created universes. They would effectively be other dimensions. They would pass through one another undetected without any effect. The dimensions accelerating at only slightly different rates would evolve similar natural histories. One might, for instance, only evolve slightly more slowly than its closest adjacent dimension. So I created a dimension in which the American Revolution failed because Thomas Jefferson had a horse-and-buggy accident, and this dimension had a natural history evolving ever so slightly more slowly than our own dimension. It is every so slightly more backward than ours. And in this dimension Prime Minister McKenna of British North America is assassinated in The Dalles, Oregon Province, on November 22, 1963. Like all stories, fiction and nonfiction, my stories depend on at least one element of unique newness. Other than some minor skills at storytelling and entertainment, that is what we authors have to offer. In my science fiction stories this newness is often scientific or technological newness. The stories then became vehicles for exploring the implications of this new science and technology. In 1988-89 when I wrote the first draft of my novel End of the Road, not many people were considering what might happen if peak oil would force such a profound change in our internal-combustion-engine civilization that roads as we now know them would be no more. It was certainly a new idea. But the value and entertainment of the book is a view of what living in this world might be like.

I took up writing because I had ideas to write about. Partly I took up writing because my ideas in themselves were going nowhere. Patents for my various devices were way too expensive for me to get. My science ideas were at the time too bizarre for acceptance in science. Furthermore, I had no credentials to get anyone to listen to them So toward the end of the 1960s I began to experiment with writing stories and popular nonfiction as vehicles for my new ideas. And now, almost a half century later, here is where I am with it. Maybe the End or Maybe the Beginning Bay Village, Ohio, April 2008