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Professor part 9
Thu Oct 12, 2017 11:12

As we strolled along I found myself intrigued and so drawn into some of the implications of the Professor's work which he was continuing to talk about, that it must have shown on my face.

"Penny for them, Tolbert?" said the Professor "You've been very quiet and I recognize that expression.

"I feel that a useful notion is eluding me, its tantalizingly within reach but every time I try to pin it down it slips out of my grasp. I am not sure that I have the right words for what is occurring to me and it will sound half baked but here goes.

You know how there's a spectrum that is used for light? Is it the same one that radio waves use? I mean if you go off past the ultra violet which I believe is the upper end of the light spectrum...but no, that can't be true because they are different in nature, you couldn't slow down a radio signal to the point of becoming visible."

"Speed up, you mean" the Professor interjected "Radio waves are quite a bit lower in frequency than light waves. It's a rather more complex matter than that, one cannot establish a direct comparison between two different signals.

However an invention known as the oscilloscope can be used to display different frequency signals using a cathode ray tube. There is currently a lot of interest in using something similar to detect radio signals reflected back from aeroplanes. This is very early experimental work and the equipment is far too expensive for someone like myself to purchase."

I continued "Perhaps we need to redefine a sort of universal spectrum or maybe that has already been done?"

"It has, it's the electro-magnetic spectrum which includes everything from radio at the lower end to x-rays at the upper end" the Professor explained.

"Well anyway," I continued " it strikes me that something like that is required to make sense of all the possible signals your equipment might detect. They have to be separated, categorized, sorted and defined so they can be filtered because you might otherwise never detect them.

I'm not making sense because I don't have enough knowledge so I'm struggling to give form to something I can't express. For a moment I thought I had a flash of insight." Tolbert laughed "I'm used to this, bright ideas that fizzle out when you try to explain them."

"Yes," the Professor sighed "It's unfortunately much easier to have bright ideas than to implement them especially when the concept requires materials and devices that have not yet been invented. For example, less than a century ago aluminium was so difficult to obtain that it was worth far more than gold and yet it's one of, if not the, most abundant metals.

Once its usefulness became apparent, enormous effort was made to find more economic means of producing it but the process required large amounts of electricity which were not available until many years after the initial discovery.

My work has been hampered at every stage by this same quandary, I've had to painstakingly construct the delicate sensory apparatus and the means to display the signals it detects. I had the good fortune to meet and gain the assistance of Dr Einthoven who passed away a few years ago. He won a Nobel prize for his invention of an electrical apparatus now used in hospitals to detect heart disease.

Before that I had to build very sensitive devices like solenoids of my own design to cause drawn lines upon a continuous sheet of paper representing the varying signals being detected. It was exciting and fascinating work Tolbert but the labours of Hercules were nothing in comparison. What was worse, was you know that saying about not being able to see the wood for the trees? That was happening to my original good intentions. I lost sight of the end goal through my determination to produce the equipment I wanted."

"Yes" I replied "I'm painfully aware of the truth behind it having reached that conclusion about my own writing sometimes. Also, forgive my pointing this out too but you began our conversation last night by promising to tell me the story of how you reached a startling conclusion which would be verified by your experiences.

Having concluded with the initial explanation of reading Brull's book and meeting its author, following a sad return home to find that the faithful dog who set you upon this path had died in your absence, you showed me that curious lightbulb and after that the tale fizzled out.

In other words Professor, you have ended the first chapter with a cliff hanger and I await the next with bated breath." Tolbert concluded with a smile.

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