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Professor part 6
Sun Oct 8, 2017 12:06

Some of the artifacts on display looked like giant insects made from a variety of materials not all of which were unfamiliar. One in particular I did recognize as using mica to form the multi-faceted eyes of a house fly or some insect species similarly equipped.

As I paid closer attention I realized that many of the sketches were of various creatures or rather specific parts of them like antennae or eyes.

Returning to my notes I added these observations to them because it seemed relevant especially given the previous nights demonstration of the lightbulb which, now I came to think of it, had an odd assymetry to its parts that were similar to some of the insect like artifacts.

Thats when the penny dropped. 'Ingenious Engines that Talk to Plants' read the poster that adorned the barkers stand I had seen at the entrance to the pier. These must be some of them though it seemd that they were more likely to be machines that listened.

As a boy, young man really, I had built several crystal sets with which to search the ether for radio stations I could identify and listen to with headphones. You stood the best chance in the wee small hours when a radio receiver blaring squeals and static would not be appreciated by those asleep. You had to have the volume up because most signals were very faint.

One thing the crystal set enthusiast quickly learns is the importance of a really good ground such as a long copper rod driven deep into the earth preferably in a spot where the earth was always slightly damp. The second equally important thing was a good aerial consisting of three seperate wires, a short vertical, a long horizontal and an oblique one twice as long as the shortest. The actual lengths and angles are vital but I don't remember the exact details.

These wires needed to be properly insulated at their anchor points using ceramic insulators and the input end needed a three way selector switch to seperate the signals. Hotly debated was the nature of the crystal itself because some chaps seemed to get satisfactory results from a razor blade whilst others swore that galena a lead sulphate which resembles iron pyrites in colour was the only mineral worth using.

The stations were located via a 'cats whisker' a very fine stiff but springy curly wire that was rotated mechanically with a knob such that the cats whisker could traverse the surface of the 'crystal'. A tuning capacitor further helped to improve reception which despite everything was highly dependent on atmospheric conditions.

It was very hit and miss though. You could try to arrange a card and pointer to indicate positions that would bring in a station but try as one might and did we ever try, the results were unpredictable but that's what added to the enjoyment.

So if I guessed correctly, the Professor had experimented using a variety of tuned antennae to pick up a signal he expected to find emanating from flora and fauna? 'How can you build equipment to locate a signal that may not utilize the radio spectrum?' I said to myself.

"How indeed young Tolbert but remember we do at least, thanks to Messr Brull, know that a signal exists and I rather suspect that its only one amongst thousands." remarked the Professor who had emerged from his room so quietly that his voice startled me.

"You see around you my attempts to mimic some insect equipment. Notice what a variety of sensory apparatus they possess. Does it not seem possible that they grow in such variety because each species only communicates between its fellows and their antennae are built to focus on their own signal to the exclusion of all others?

Have you breakfasted? No, then let's have a spot of lunch and if I may I'd like to continue where I left off last night."

I was uncomfortably aware of being on the horns of an ethical dilemma because I had presented myself as a reporter for the Daily Mail whereas I was a freelancer, effectively enjoying the Professors hospitality under false pretenses.

Bad enough that I had now enjoyed or was about to enjoy my second meal having already had dinner and overnight accomodation, probably what an hotel would have charged one hundred pounds for but the Professor presumably expected a favourable science article or more likely a series of articles promoting his work.

Whereas in truth were I to submit my first impressions to my agent he would have looked for a second tier newspaper and probably have suggested that a slightly flippant tone be presented so that if need be the articles could still be salvaged by switching to an approach suggesting entertaining quackery was his purpose as witness the lecture circuits audience reaction.

As we cleared away the lunch things I cleared my throat nervously and said "Professor I feel that I should confess that I am flying under a false flag. Although I am a reporter and I have written articles published in the Daily Mail, in actual fact I am a free lance writer. My agent sent me to Brighton to report a conference that was subsequently cancelled and I came upon your lecture by sheer chance.

If I telephone him to announce what I'm doing here, he will in all likelihood regard it as fit for provincial newspapers only and when he reads the first submission in all likelihood will suggest it be edited to present your work in a humourous light. That's putting it kindly if his past performance is any indication. He may be willing to extend me a few days on spec but that's all.

From all you have said and what I have seen so far I do not wish to be party to this cavalier treatment of what seems to be a worthwhile and complex series of studies but I have to make a living as you do, so I feel it is unfair for me to put undue strain on your resources since your hospitality is not likely to be suitably rewarded."

"My dear Tolbert," quoth Ronald Thistle "you need have no fears on that score and I flatter myself that I am a good judge of character because I noted a slight air of unease when I mentioned that the good offices of a relative were all that allowed me to travel by ship 'for a pittance'.

So after I retired I placed a telephone call to an old friend of mine who is a mine of information on every walk of life from the highest to the lowest and he spoke very well of you.

Your uncle Thomas who employs my relative that arranges travel is a member of the same Club and had been considering employing you to investigate my work because it has ruffled a few feathers some of which belong to august Club members.

Apparently your findings and lectures have caused no small amount of brouhaha in the Club Smoking Room, beards tugged, top hats thrown, that sort of uproar and Uncle Thomas felt an investigation carried out discreetly would settle the matter once and for all.

You may recall my earlier remarks about the hidebound mentalities of the British and American scientific societies which have done their level best to put every conceivable obstacle in my way when I have applied for certain publications in their libraries or asked for an introduction to their members whose work bears relevance to my own.

The layman probably imagines that the authors of learned studies would be delighted to have their findings verified if not given further useful information by having themselves quoted as references or their experimental methodology discussed. Nothing could be further from the truth.

They regard their trove of knowledge like Jacob Marley regarded his strong box. Its nobody's business but their own how they arrived at their conclusions and the information is grudgingly eked out only before their peers to confirm the accuracy of their work. Insanely jealous of those who are mentioned glowingly in the Press despite which they treat all enquiries with the deepest suspicion.

I have not exaggerated one whit although I should concede that its mainly a small body of the most august personages that stand on their dignity like this because they are throwbacks to the Victorian era as, of course, am I.

Anyway, I'm afraid I rather got sidetracked there but the nub of the matter is that I am delighted to have your honesty confirmed by your own confession and my enquiries. So shall we adjourn to my study and pick up where we left off last night?"

    • Re: Professor part 6 - roger, Mon Oct 9 11:14
      Mike, Your description of the crystal radio reminded me that sometime around 1945 Imabe a crystal radio that was very similar to your description that used a piece of Galena. I have no idea why I... more
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