Isaac Asimov (left) with Robert A. Heinlein
and L. Sprague de Camp, in
Philadelphia Navy Yard (1944)
The three of them are writers of science fiction
Russia : 1920 New-York, April 1992
One more rumour
said Konev - This I truly hate to repeat, but it
seems so important. Is it true that you have claimed that in your analysis of
brain-waves you have occasionally sensed actual thoughts?
Morrison shook his head vigorously:
I have never made such a claim in print. I have said
to a colleague, once or twice, that in concentrating on the brain-wave analysis
there are occasionally times when I seem to find thoughts invading my
mind. I have no way of telling whether
the thoughts are entirely mine, or whether my own brain-waves resonate to those
of the subject.
Is such a resonance conceivable?
I suppose so. The waves produce tiny fluctuating
Ah! It is this, I suppose, that made Academician Shapinov make that remark about a relay station.
Brain-waves are always producing fluctuating electromagnetic fields, with or
without analysis. You dont resonate if resonance is what it is to the thoughts
of someone in your presence, no matter how intensely he may be thinking. The
resonance takes place only when you are busily studying the brain-waves with
your programmed computer. It, presumably, acts as a relay station magnifying,
or intensifying the brain-waves of the subject and projecting them into your
I have no evidence for that except for an occasional
fugitive impression. Thats not enough.
It might be. The human brain is far more complex
than any other equivalent piece of matter we know of.
What about dolphins? said Dezhnev, his mouth full.
An exploded view said Konev,
at once. Theyre intelligent, but their brains are devoted too entirely to
the minutiae of swimming to allow enough room for abstract thought on the human
I have never studied dolphins said Morrison,
Ignore the dolphins ,
said Konev, impatiently. Just concentrate on the
fact that your computer, properly programmed, may act as a relay station,
passing thoughts from the mind of the subject you are studying to your own
mind. If that is so, Albert, we need you, and no other person in the world.
Morrison said, frowning and pushing his chair away
from the table:
, Even if I
can pick up thoughts by way of my computer a claim I have never made and
which, in fact, I deny what can that possibly have to do with
Boranova rose and looked at her watch:
It is time , she said . Let us go and see Shapirov now.
What he says will make no difference to me.
You will find , said Boranova,
and there was a sudden hint of steel in her voice , that he will say nothing
but will be utterly convincing just the same.
Morrison had kept his temper well so far. The Soviets
were, after all, treating him as a guest, and, if he could overlook the small
matter of his being carried off by force, he had little of which to complain.
But what were they getting at? One by one, Boranova had introduced him to others first Dezhnev, then Kaliinin, then Konev for reasons he had not penetrated. Over and over, Boranova had hinted at his usefulness without actually
saying what it might be. Now Konev talked of it and
was equally uncommunicative.
And now they were to see Shapirov.
Clearly this had to be a climax of sorts. From the first mention of him by Boranova at the convention, two days ago, he had seemed to
hover over the whole matter like a thickening fog. It was he who had worked out
the miniaturization process; he who seemed to detect a connection between
Planks constant and the speed of light, he who seemed to value Morrisons
neurophysical theories, and he who made the remark about the computer as relay
station that had apparently set off Konevs
conviction that Morrison, and only Morrison, could help them.
It remained for Morrison, now, to resist any
blandishments or arguments that Shapirov could
present. If Morrison insisted that he would not help them, what would they do
when all the blandishments and arguments had failed?
Crude threat of force or
Morrison quailed. He dared not put his refusal on the
basis of he would not. He would have to persuade them that he could not. Surely, that was a reasonable position on which to take his stand.
What could neurophysics and a dubious, unaccepted bit of neurophysical work
at that have to do with miniaturization?
But why didnt they see that for themselves? Why did
they all act as though it were conceivable that a person like himself, who had
never as much as thought of miniaturization till some forty-eight hours before,
could do something for them them, the only experts in the field that they could not do for themselves?
It was a rather lengthy walk along corridors and, lost
in his own uncomfortable thoughts, Morrison did not
notice that they were fewer in number than he had thought.
He said to Boranova,
Where are the others?
They have work to do. We do not have forever to do
what we must, you know.
Morrison shook his head. Chatty, they were not. None
of them seemed to scatter information. Always close-lipped.
A long standing Soviet habit, perhaps or something that was ground into them
through their work on a secret project in which even the scientists dared not
step outside the narrow limits of their immediate work.
Were they coming to him as a story-book.
American generalist? Nothing he had ever done, surely,
would give anyone that impression. As a matter of fact, he was himself a narrow
specialist, knowing virtually nothing outside neurophysics. This was a
worsening disease of modern science, he thought.