Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Creativity Excerise 3 (Granta Park, moth, For All Practical Purposes)

Place: Granta Park (a science, technology, and biopharmaceutical park located near Cambridge, England
Object: Coleophora alniella (A moth common to North America which eats leaves)
Other: For All Practical Purposes (A scientific statement indicating that something has always been observed as true, even though it can not be proved true)

The windows of Abington Hall glinted in the sunlight as the cricket players ran about on the green in front of it. Dr.Powers watched the men chase the small ball across the green while another man jogged about, cheered on by a small crowd of students and men taking a small break. "A break of their senses," Powers thought irritably. He had never had much time for cricket, or for any such frivolous games. After all, he was a man of science, and it is well known that men of science must leave off everything for the pursuit of knowledge. He still took his exercise to be sure, a brisk walk in the morning to wake up the mind in the fresh air of the park. But even on these walks Powers considered his research, looking at the morning clouds and whispering trees for inspiration in his work.

Powers checked his watch and make as tsking sound. His colleague was late. The man had been pestering him for weeks now, something about a moth and the universe. Powers snorted. Probably some nonsense about butterfly wings and hurricanes. How the scientific community let such beliefs still stand was unthinkable. String theory was all well and good, but people always took these things too literally. A metaphor became scientific fact and the general population ended up believing the stupidest things. And was it not up to the scientific community to set them right again? Powers certainly thought so, but their was little he could do to sway public opinion.

Powers' colleague arrived and it can be accurately said that Powers' colleague was nothing like Powers himself. For while Powers wore a suit and slacks and shoes which had been shined that morning, his colleague had none of this professional attire. Dressed in a button up shirt and jeans, Powers' colleague seemed all disarray and confusion, and spent several moments sitting down, an event which Powers watched with no amusement whatsoever. "Dr.Young," Powers said, extending his hand with a ever so slight grimace on his face, "How are you today?"

Dr.Young, who had finally managed to be seated, stared at Powers' hand for a moment before seeming to suddenly realize he was supposed to shake it. "Dr.Powers," Young said with a smile, "Quite well thank you, and yourself?" Young shook Dr.Powers hand rather vigorously.

Powers extracted his hand from Young's. "All right," Powers said, "It is a nice enough day to sit in the park." Dr.Young looked around, as if for the first time noticing he was in a park at all. "Yes, quite," Young murmured and then immediately pulled a cage onto the table. Inside it a pair of small gray moths fluttered around somewhat frantically. Upon placing the cage on the table, the moths settled again. Young then began to dig around in his back, muttering quietly to himself.

Powers stared at the moths in the cage. They looked like garden variety moths to him, but then he knew little about moths. His specialization was electronics, not insects, and he had no great love of moths in general. Annoying creatures really, which served no useful purpose save to fly into fragile equipment and get electrocuted. He glanced back at Young, who had extracted a strange looking device from his bag and was hurriedly connecting wires to it. It had six wheels and a circuit board with a CPU and some ram on it as a chassis. A great many wires ran off the thing and it was to these that Young was connecting things. Probes mostly, but also pieces of metal and smaller circuit boards and even what looked like a little hat. Powers' mouth curled back in distaste, and his distaste was only increased when Young removed a scalpel from his bag, grabbed a moth from the cage and cut off its head.

"Really," Powers said, "Why in the world did you do that. I did not come here to watch you kill insects." "You will see in a minute," Young said as he began to attach wires to the unfortunate bugs head. "I can not keep them hooked up for long since the heads decompose, but I'm working on that too." He placed the little hat on the head and placed the head on the chassis. Wires stuck out of it at odd angles. "Frankly," said Powers, "I am not sure what you are trying to prove here." "Oh, it is quiet simple really," said Young, and then began to expound on how the head generated impulses and how the wires were connected to the head and so forth. Powers understood little of it, after all he had no degree in biology, and stared with mounting horror at the sad little head on the circuit board. The feelers on it were still moving slightly, though with the breeze or because the poor thing was still alive he couldn't tell. Young continued on about humans and how it could be expanded and more testing was needed. Powers looked at him with growing frustration.

"This is what you have to show me?" Powers said, "A head attached to a little car. Quite frankly this is one of the most disturbing things I have seen in a long time. I have no idea how I let you talk me into this meeting." "Just wait," said Young, "Soon you will see what this type of technology can do." "I doubt," said Powers, "that it will do anything at all. Attaching a head to car does not magically create science. I expected to see research and proposals, forms of applications and the like. even hurried emails would have been nice." Young stared at him, a slightly exasperated look on his face. "Why should I have those things?" Young said, "If you just wait..."

"I have waited long enough," Powers said. "Good day to you sir. For all practical purposes a scientist who does not have papers and research and proposals is no scientist at all." And so saying this Dr.Powers got up and left. Young sat at the table, somewhat dumbstruck, as Powers walked out of the hall. "Well, that was rather rude", Young though to himself as he looked down at the car, "And what a waste of a moth." As if on cue the car began to roll across the table and since Young was lost in his own thoughts, we has not quick enough to prevent it rolling off the table and crashing into the floor. Young sighed as circuitry and wheels skittered across the floor and began picking up the pieces of the little car, watched with no curiosity whatsoever by the other moth.

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