Isaac Asimov

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

 

 

Coma

– Part 2 –

 

And who are the people who do know the basics of miniaturization?

 

That also is not something that, in general, it is safe for you to know. However, I can lift the curtain just a bit in this matter. Pyotr Shapirov is one of them.

 

Crazy Peter said Morrison, smiling –. Somehow I am not surprised !

 

You shouldn’t be. I am sure you say “crazy” only as one of your jokes, but it was he who first worked out the basic rationale behind miniaturization. Of course – she added thoughtfully –, it may very well be that required a certain insanity – or, at any rate, a certain idiosyncrasy of thought. It is also Shapirov who first suggested a method of achieving miniaturization with a minimum expenditure of energy.

 

– How? The conversion of deminiaturization into an electromagnetic field?

 

Boranova made a face :

– I was merely giving you an example. Shapirov’s method is far more subtle.

 

– Can it be explained?

 

Only  roughly. Shapirov points out that the two great aspects of the unified theory of the Universe, the quantum aspect and the relativistic aspect, each depend on a constant that sets a limit. In quantum theory it is Planck’s constant, which is very tiny, but not zero. In relativity, it is the speed of light, which is very great, but not infinite. Planck’s constant sets a lower limit to the size of energy-transfer, and the speed of light sets an upper limit to the speed of information-transmission. Shapirov maintains, furthermore, that the two are related. In other words, if Planck’s constant is decreased, the speed of light would increase. If Planck’s constant were reduced to zero, then the speed of light would be infinite.

 

Morrison said at once :

– In which case the Universe would be Newtonian in its properties.

 

Boranova nodded :

– Yes. According to Shapirov, then, the reason for the enormous energy consumption of miniaturization is that the two limits are uncoupled ; that Planck’s constant is decreased without the speed of light being increased. If the two were coupled, then energy would flow from the speed-of-light limit into the Planck’s constant limit during miniaturization, and in the other direction during deminiaturization, so that the speed of light would go up as miniaturization proceeded and down again during deminiaturization. The efficiency should be nearly a hundred per cent. Very little energy would then be required to miniaturize, and re-expansion could take place very quickly.

 

Morrison said :

– Does Shapirov know how miniaturization and deminiatur- ization can be carried through with the two limits coupled ?

 

– He said he did.

 

Said ? Past tense ? Does that mean he has changed his mind ?

 

– Not exactly.

 

– Then, what has he done ?

 

Boranova hesitated :

– Albert – she said, almost pleadingly –, do not go too fast. I want you to think. You know miniaturization works. You know that it is possible, but not practical. You know that it would be a boon for humanity and I have assured you that it is not meant for destructive or warlike use. Once we know that out national precedence is recognized, which we want for psychological reasons I have presented to you quite frankly, I am sure we will share miniaturization with all divisions of the globe.

 

– Really, Natalya ? Would you and your nation trust the United States if the situation were reversed ?

 

– Trust! – said Boranova, and sighed heavily –. It doesn’t come naturally to anyone. It is the weakness of humanity that we constantly read the worst into others. Yet trust must begin somewhere or the fragile mood of cooperation we have enjoyed for so long will shatter and we will be back to the twentieth century with all its horrors. Since the United States feels so strongly that it is the stronger and more advanced nation, should it not be the first to risk the act of trusting ?

 

Morrison spread out his arms :

– I can’t answer that. I’m a private citizen. I do not represent my nation.

 

– As a private citizen you can help us, knowing that you will not be harming your own country.

 

– I can’t possibly know such a thing since I only have your word for it and I don’t believe you represent your nation any more than I represent mine. But all this is irrelevant, Natalya. Even if I wanted to, how on Earth can I help you make miniaturization practical, when I know nothing about the subject ?

 

– Be patient. In a while we will have lunch. Dezhnev and Kalinin will be through with the deminiaturization of Katinka by then and will join us, together with one other whom you must meet. Then, after lunch, I will take you to see Shapirov.

 

– I’m not sure about that, Natalya. You told me just a while ago that it would be dangerous for me to meet anyone who really understood miniaturization. I might learn too much and this might raise problems with my return to the United States. Why, then, should I risk seeing Shapirov ?

 

Boranova said , sadly – Shapirov is an exception. I promise you that you will understand this when you see him. And you will also understand why we must turn to you.

 

– That – said Morrison, with the conviction with which he had lately proclaimed the impossibility of miniaturization –, I will never understand.

 

To be followed