THE LAB TECH'S
There was silence when the tale was
Nor was there much desire in anyone
To speak or offer up
Hoping that this time he might prevail,
bartender said, "Now we should move on
Before the vast majority are
And end this game. It's getting rather late --"
again someone shouted, "Wait!
I have a tale that I would like to
And I have been assured I tell it well.
It's about a --"
"Please! We've had enough!"
The bartender implored. "All this new stuff
"A vote! A vote!" immediately was heard
From those who'd no idea
what had occurred,
But had from gambling recently come in,
restless, wanted something to begin.
"Just tell your tale!" the
Shouted out. A tall young man adjusted
pants and tucked his shirt, then stepped right up
Before the crowd and
raised an empty cup.
"Water!" he shouted. "Water! I need some
The bartender then filled it. "Now a quarter!"
He held his
hand out, swung it left and right.
"Come on, come on, we don't have all
Someone put a quarter in his hand.
He plopped it in the
cup. "Now I had planned
To make a million dollars down
Gambling. But as sadly we all know,
The odds are all against
us. But suppose ..."
And here he put a finger to his nose,
as with the alchemists of old,
I could turn this quarter into
Silence, as he paused theatrically.
"Of course I can't,"
he said. "But seriously,
A modern version of the ancient
Exists, as I will tell you if I can.
"I worked for what
would be an alchemist
Searching for the secret catalyst
turn water into energy
Without one bit of input. As you'll see,
simply put two wires in a cup
And to some sort of meter hook them
One is copper, the other one is zinc --
Oh, yes! It's quite as
simple as you think!
"This water then becomes a battery
runs any device you want for free.
Two cups will run exactly double,
Will increase your output that much more.
Ten will run your
house, ten thousand will
Run a warehouse, factory, or
"Really?" someone said. The audience laughed.
the lab tech said. "He isn't daft.
Getting energy from water is
right now by electrolysis.
The only problem is that you get out
energy than you put in. No doubt,
The equivalent of alchemy right
Is getting more than you put in. And how
My boss did this is the
subject of my tale,
After which the trick will be on sale."
THE LAB TECH'S
Once there was a scientist who
Of saving the world. When he was young, it seemed
possible to find the perfect cure
For poverty and hunger. He was
The answer lay in finding energy
That would be safe, clean,
plentiful, and free,
The engineering simple ? just a kit
anyone could use. He thought of it
As a child in school where he had
That water was made of fuel that could be burned
that all such fuels require.
My God! he thought. Then water is frozen
And from that moment he became obsessed
With what he
dreamed that H2O possessed:
A genie in an ordinary glass
liberation he would bring to pass.
He fantasized that like a monk
Devote his every moment to The Good,
Living sparely, even
Had made his Nobel-Prize discovery,
Using his vast fortune
Kits to all who could not such things buy,
rural factory and farm,
School, house, office, hospital and
Hummed with power, absolutely free.
This was what he
dreamed his life would be.
And so it was, at least the part
He made his great discovery. The more
He slaved and
sacrificed, the more he would
Ignore himself to serve the greater
Eating little, living in a room
Resembling a tiny, airless
One set of clothes to wear while one would dry,
lovers, friends, no gifts to buy,
Just work, work, work, to find the
That would turn water into energy.
Of course this had
been done, but with one lack:
One put more power in than one got
The current one would need to separate
The H2 from the O was
far too great.
But this did not deter our scientist,
problem was the catalyst
Required to produce a current strong
to move the process right along.
And so for years, decades, he tried
Minerals and alloys, but not any
Seemed to be of measurable
One day while reading a typically abstruse
And twiddling absent-mindedly a quarter
left forefinger and his thumb,
Wondering whether he was simply
Or the author of the article an ass,
He dropped the quarter
into a small glass
Of water recently electrolyzed.
rescue it, he realized
He might have left the current on, and
The voltmeter, whose filthy face was flecked
With grime from
years of dust, grease, oil, and sweat.
Twelve volts, it seemed to
read. Too much to get
The quarter from the glass. And so he
To switch off the transformer before he burned
diving down to save the quarter
Drowning in the glass of salty
But wait a minute! The transformer wasn't on!
the current coming from? Upon
His heart there lay an ingot of pure
Preventing it from beating. He turned cold,
Icy, trembling, too
afraid to touch
The voltmeter, the transformer, the glass ? too
Shot through him in that instant to contain,
indistinguishable from pain --
For where had those volts come from but
Catalyzed by his rambunctious quarter?
My God! My God! My
God! he kept repeating,
Unaware his heart was hardly beating.
done it! But how? And what precisely were
The steps that made this
Quickly he scribbled notes upon the page
earlier elicited his rage:
Proportions of the salts in distilled
The nickel-to-copper ratio in the quarter,
between the copper lead-in wire
And the zinc wire leading out. He was
He scarcely was aware what he was writing.
Would he--should he--dare another sighting?
He leaned over towards the
voltmeter and saw
Again twelve volts. Thank God! He looked once
Twelve volts again! It was, it was, it was true!
leaped towards what he had to do:
Replicate it first, and then
Then vary salts and volumes, noting when
It stopped, the
And then a thousand times repeat,
And then, before pursuing publication,
He'd submit a
Millions, tens of billions this was worth!
to speak of freeing the whole Earth
And all its beings from their
To filthy, hot-house, high-cost energy.
Just three years
later, or no more than four,
A shorter time than ever seen
In consideration of his age
And that his great discovery set
For universal wealth and equity,
Peace, health, freedom,
joy, and dignity,
A Stockholm audience would turn its eyes
the winner of a Nobel Prize!
He fantasized his speech, which would
But would touch lightly on the things it ought:
those years of selfless sacrifice,
Of loneliness, a life not very
But, yes, sublime in aim and quiet passion,
And rich in ways
unknown to flesh and fashion.
Of course the breakthrough was an
(Describing in some detail the event),
But one that
happened at a place and time
Where there was someone ready to
It into science, replicable and sure,
His method painstaking,
his purpose pure ...
By this time he had put himself to
Exhausted by his unexpected leap
Into greatness, wealth, and
Morning found him in the same position,
barely moved for many hours,
Dreaming of bouquets of fancy
Sent to honor some success or death,
He wasn't sure which
one. He tried his breath,
Relieved to find it working, so it
Then some success. But what? He sensed he dreamed
some discovery, a sudden breakthrough
That ? wait! -- now he
scrambled over to
His voltmeter to see what it might
Remembering all, believing nothing, greed
Gripping him for the
first time like a pair
Of pliers, pulling him near panic by his
It's mine! he thought. But there it was ? it wasn't
Just what he might hope it does, it doesn't --
The meter was at
zero, but he saw
The same dark spot of grease he'd seen
Splotched across the twelve. Oh, God! So that
Was it? No
Nobel Prize? No billions? Nor at
The age of seventy-three a chance to
As though his disappointment were a pin,
And all those
years a balloon that kept on filling,
He burst right there, just burst,
no longer willing
To follow his obsession any longer.
A wasted life!
The sense of that grew stronger,
Grew into anger, into
To salvage something from this brute
Thus idealists turn their cherished
Corrupted, into calculated schemes.
If he could not get
energy from water
Catalyzed by what was in a quarter,
He yet could
get some greedy fools to think
That what they saw was real, and so to
Some money into it, so as to be
In on this new source of
Yes, that was it! Then all was not yet wasted!
sweet ambrosia has been tasted,
It isn't easy to relinquish it.
so our scientist used all the wit,
So long and fruitlessly on good
At last to serve himself. It all depended
On some reliable
source of energy,
So well concealed no prying eyes could see,
then the pretense that things must be kept
Absolutely secret. The whole
Into his mind at once -- the invitations
Secret," the mini-free vacations
In posh resorts, the secret,
At which the pitch was made, the first-day
In chemistry and physics, the second-day finance
with the flavors of romance,
And in the afternoon aggressive
Going after prospects like bulldozers!
an immoral electrician,
Part techno-geek, part bona fide magician,
could rig up the apparatus so
The mini-solar battery would not
You know he'd hire the first poor slob he'd see,
Who, as it
turned out, happened to be me.
What happened next is better left
The scientist--unnamed--alive or dead--
make millions from his scheme
And so fulfilled a portion of his
The portion that he could. The other part
Was far beyond
ability or art,
An alchemy much like the one of old,
Which tried to
turn base metals into gold.
But you can fool your friends with this
Just as we did our investors. Wit
Combined with shameless chutzpah
Success in life as long as you're not pure
yourself. The causes of
One's woe are ever honesty and
Just $15 each! A buy! A steal!
And all your friends will
swear that it is real!
Come one, come all! I have only a few!
or there'll be none left for