Isaac Asimov

(Petrovich, Russia : 1920 – New-York, April 1992




Grotto – Part 6


- You are telling me a great deal.

- Yes, we are, but only superficially. If you repeat this in America, you will probably not be believed, and nothing you say will give the slightest hint as to the core of the miniaturization technique. – Boranova lifted her hand and Kaliinin again threw the switch.


The whine returned and the cage began once again to shrink. It seemed to be going faster now and Boranova, as though reading Morrison’s mind, said : “The further it shrinks, the less mass there is to remove and the more rapidly it shrinks further.”


Morrison found himself staring, in a state of near-shock, at a cage that was a centimetre across and still shrinking.


But Boranova raised her hand again and the whine died.

– Be careful, Dr Morrison. It weighs only a few hundred milligrams now and it is a fragile object indeed to anyone on our scale. Here. Try this.


She handed him a large magnifying glass. Morrison, without saying a word, took it and held it over the tiny cage. He might not have managed to make out what the moving object within it was if he had come upon it without prior knowledge, for his mind would not have accepted an incredibly tiny rabbit.


He had seen it shrink, however, and he stared at it now with a mixture of confusion and fascination.


He looked up at Boranova and said :

  Is this really happening?


  Do you still suspect an optical illusion, or hypnotism or – what



– Drugs?


– If it were drugs, Dr Morrison, it would be a greater achievement than miniaturization. Look about you. Doesn’t everything else look normal? It would be an unusual drug indeed that would alter your sense-perception of a single object in a large room of unchanged miscellany. Come, doctor, what you’ve witnessed is real.


– Make it larger – said Morrison, breathlessly.


Dezhnev laughed and suppressed it quickly :

– If I laugh, the wind may blow away Katinka, whereupon Natasha and Sophia will both strike me with everything else in the room. If you wish it enlarged you will have to wait.


Boranova said :

Dezhnev is right. You see, Dr Morrison, you have witnessed a scientific demonstration, not magic. If it were magic, I could snap my fingers and the rabbit would be its normal self again in a normal cage – and then you would know you were witnessing an optical illusion. However, it takes considerable energy to decrease Planck’s constant to a tiny fraction of its normal value even over a relatively small volume of the Universe, which is why miniaturization is so expensive a technique. To enlarge Planck’s  constant once again must result in the production of energy equal to that which had been consumed originally, for the law of conservation of energy holds even in the process of miniaturization. We cannot deminiaturize then any faster than we can dispose of the heat produced, so that it takes considerable time to do it, much more than it took to miniaturize.


For a while, Morrison was silent. He found the explanation involving conservation of energy more convincing than the demonstration itself. Charlatans would not have been so meticulous about obeying the constraints of physics.


He said :

– It seems to me, then, that your miniaturization process can scarcely be a practical device. At most it would only serve as a tool, perhaps, to broaden and expand quantum theory.


– Boranova said :

Even that would  be enough, but don’t judge a technique by its initial phase. We can hope that we will learn how to circumvent these large energy changes ; how to find methods of miniaturization and deminiaturization that will be more efficient. Does all the energy-charge have to pass from electromagnetic  fields  into  miniaturization and then into heat on deminiaturization ? Might not deminiaturization be somehow inveigled into releasing energy as electromagnetic fields again. That would be easier to handle perhaps.


– Have you repealed the second law of thermodynamics ? – asked Morrison, with exaggerated politeness.


– Not at all. We don’t expect an impossible 100 per cent conversion. If we can convert 75 per cent of the deminiaturization energy into an eledctromagnetic field, or even present only 25 per cent, that would be an improvement over the present situation. However, there is hope of a technique even more subtile and far more efficient, and that is where you come  in.


Morrison’s eyes widened :

I ? I know nothing about this. Why pick me out for your salvation. You would have done as well with a child out of kindergarten.


– Not so. We know what we are doing. Come, Dr Morrison, you and I shall go to my office while Sophia  and Arkady begin the tedious process of restoring Katinka. I will there show you that you know quite enough to help us make miniaturization efficient, and therefore a commercially practical venture. In fact, you will see, quite clearly, that you are the only person who can help us.




will follow with COMA, on next issue of AIR