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The Billiard Ball

Jaht to say Professor Jah everyone is sure to knohom I mean even without the tide-always spoke slowly

I know I interviewed hireatest mind since Einstein, but it didn't work quickly He adreat a mind that it didn't work quickly

He would say so in slow abstraction, then he would think, and then he would say soianta touch here and then another there

Would the Sun rise to What do we mean by 'rise'? Can we be certain that touous in this connection?

Add to this habit of speech a bland countenance, rather pale, with no expression except for a general look of uncertainty; gray hair, rather thin, neatly combed; business suits of an invariably conservative cut; and you have what Professor Janetism

That's why nobody in the world, excepta murderer And even I a; he was always slow-thinking Is it conceivable that at one crucial ed to think quickly and act at once?

It doesn't ot aith it It is far too late now to try to reverseso even if I decided to let this be published Edward Blooh circue and in their propensity for the bachelor life, but opposites in everything else that mattered

Blooht; colorful, tall, broad, loud, brash, and self-confident He had a mind that resembled a meteor strike in the sudden and unexpected way it could seize the essential He was no theoretician, as Priss was; Bloom had neither the patience for it, nor the capacity to concentrate intense thought upon a single abstract point He admitted that; he boasted of it

What he did have was an uncanny way of seeing the application of a theory; of seeing the manner in which it could be put to use In the cold marble block of abstract structure, he could see, without apparent difficulty, the intricate design of a marvelous device The block would fall apart at his touch and leave the device

It is a well-known story, and not too badly exaggerated, that nothing Bloom ever built had failed to work, or to be patentable, or to be profitable By the time he was forty-five, he was one of the richest men on Earth

And if Bloom the Technician were adapted to one particular ht of Priss the Theoretician Bloohts, and as Blooained phenoues

Naturally it was to be expected that when Priss advanced his Two-Field Theory, Blooravity device

My job was to find human interest in the Two-Field Theory for the subscribers to Tele-News Press, and you get that by trying to deal with hus and not with abstract ideas Since my intervieas Professor Priss, that wasn't easy

Naturally, I was going to ask about the possibilities of anti-gravity, which interested everyone; and not about the Two-Field Theory, which no one could understand

'Anti-gravity?' Priss compressed his pale lips and considered 'I'm not entirely sure that it is possible, or ever will be I haven't-uh-worked the matter out to my satisfaction I don't entirely see whether the

Two-Field equations would have a finite solution, which they would have to have, of course, if-'-' And then he went off into a brown study

I prodded him 'Bloom says he thinks such a device can be built'

Priss nodded 'Well, yes, but I wonder Ed Bloo the unobvious in the past He has an unusual h'

We were sitting in Priss's apartlance this way and that Priss was not wealthy

I don't think he read my mind He saw me look And I think it was on his mind He said, 'Wealth isn't the usual reward for the pure scientist Or even a particularly desirable one'

Maybe so, at that, I thought Priss certainly had his own kind of reward He was the third person in history to o Nobel Prizes, and the first to have both of them in the sciences and both of them unshared You can't complain about that And if he wasn't rich, neither was he poor

But he didn't sound like a contented man Maybe it wasn't Bloom's wealth alone that irked Priss; enerally; maybe it was the fact that Bloom was a celebrity wherever he went, where as Priss, outside scientific conventions and faculty clubs, was largely anonymous

I can't say how much of all this was in my eyes or in the way I wrinkled the creases in my forehead, but Priss went on to say, 'But we're friends, you know We play billiards once or twice a week I beat hiularly'

(I never published that state counterstatean: 'He beats ly personal thereafter As a matter of fact, neither one was a novice at billiards I watched them play once for a short while, after the statement and counterstatement, and both handled the cue with professional aplomb What's more, both played for blood, and there was no friendship in the game that I could see) I said, 'Would you care to predict whether Blooravity device?'

'You ? H ravity is built around Einstein's General Theory of Relativity, which is now a century and a half old but which, within its limits, remains firm We can picture it--'

I listened politely I'd heard Priss on the subject before, but if I was to get anything out of hih in his oay

'We can picture it,' he said, 'by i the Universe to be a flat, thin, superflexible sheet of untearable rubber If we picture ht, as it is on the surface of the Earth, then ould expect aupon the rubber sheet, to reater the mass, the deeper the indentation

'In the actual Universe,' he went on, 'all sorts of masses exist, and so our rubber sheet must be pictured as riddled with indentations Any object rolling along the sheet would dip into and out of the indentations it passed, veering and changing direction as it did so It is this veer and change of direction that we interpret as de object coh to the center of the indentation and is ets trapped and whirls round and round that indentation In the absence of friction, it keeps up that whirl forever In other words, what Isaac Newton interpreted as a force, Albert Einstein interpreted as geometrical distortion'

He paused at this point He had been speaking fairly fluently-for hi he had said often before But now he began to pick his way

He said, 'So in trying to produce anti-gravity, we are trying to alter the geometry of the Universe If we carry on our hten out the indented rubber sheet We could i it upward, supporting it so as to prevent it fro an indentation If we make the rubber sheet flat in that way, then we create a Universe-or at least a portion of the Universe-in which gravity doesn't exist A rolling body would pass the non-indentingits direction of travel a bit, and we could interpret this as ravitational force In order to accomplish this feat, however, we need a ravity on Earth in this ould have to make use of a mass equal to that of Earth and poise it above our heads, so to speak'

I interrupted him 'But your Two-field Theory--'

'Exactly General Relativity does not explain both the gravitational field and the electrole set of equations Einstein spent half his life searching for that single set-for a Unified Field Theory-and failed All who followed Einstein also failed I, however, began with the assumption that there were two fields that could not be unified and followed the consequences, which I can explain, in part, in terms of the "rubber sheet" metaphor'

Noe ca I wasn't sure I had ever heard before 'How does that go?' I asked

'Suppose that, instead of trying to lift the indenting mass, we try to stiffen the sheet itself, make it less indentable It would contract, at least over a small area, and become flatter Gravity would weaken, and so would mass, for the two are essentially the same phenomenon in terms of the indented Universe If we could ravity and ether

'Under the proper conditions, the electroravitational field, and serve to stiffen the indented fabric of the Universe The electroraviational field, so the former could be made to overcome the latter'

I said uncertainly, 'But you say "under the proper conditions" Can those proper conditions you speak of be achieved Professor?'

That is what I don't know,' said Priss thoughtfully and slowly 'If the Universe were really a rubber sheet, its stiffness would have to reach an infinite value before it could be expected to re mass If that is also so in the real Universe, then an infinitely intense electroravity would be impossible'

'But Bloom says--'

'Yes, I iine Bloom thinks a finite field will do, if it can be properly applied Still, however ingenious he is,' and Priss srasp on theory is quite faulty He-he never earned his college degree, did you know that?'

I was about to say that I knew that After all, everyone did But there was a touch of eagerness in Priss's voice as he said it and I looked up in tihted to spread that piece of news So I noddedit for future reference

Then you would say, Professor Priss,' I prodded again, 'that Blooravity is impossible?'

And finally Priss nodded and said, The gravitational field can be weakened, of course, but if by anti-gravity we nificant voluravity may turn out to be impossible, despite Bloom' And I had, after a fashion, what I wanted

I wasn't able to see Bloom for nearly three ry mood

He had grown angry at once, of course, when the news first broke concerning Priss's statement He let it be known that Priss would be invited to the eventual display of the anti-gravity device as soon as it was constructed, and would even be asked to participate in the deht him between appointments and asked him to elaborate on that and he said:

'I'll have the device eventually; soon, maybe And you can be there, and so can anyone else the press would care to have there And Professor James Priss can be there He can represent Theoretical Science and after I have deravity, he can adjust his theory to explain it I'm sure he will kno to make his adjustments in masterly fashion and show exactly why I couldn't possibly have failed

He ht do it now and save time, but I suppose he won't'

It was all said very politely, but you could hear the snarl under the rapid floords

Yet he continued his occasional game of billiards with Priss and when the two met they behaved with coress Bloo by their respective attitudes to the press Bloorew curt and even snappish, while Priss developed an increasing good humor

When my umpteenth request for an intervieith Bloom was finally accepted, I wondered if perhaps that meant a break in Bloo final success to me It didn't work out that way He met me in his office at Bloo, well away fro as e industrial establisho, had never been as phenomenally successful as Bloom

But Bloo in tenpast his secretary's desk with the barest nod ina lab coat, unbuttoned

He threw himself into his chair and said, 'I', but I didn't have as much time as I had hoped' Blooonize the press, but I had the feeling he was having a great deal of difficulty at thatto this principle

I iven to understand, sir, that your recent tests have been unsuccessful'

'Who told you that?'

'I would say it was general knowledge, Mr Bloom'

'No, it isn't Don't say that, young oes on inthe Professor's opinions, aren't you? Priss's, I mean'

'No I'm-'

'Of course you are Aren't you the one to whoravity is impossible?'

'He didn't make the statement that flatly'

'He never says anything flatly, but it was flat enough for him, and not as flat as I'll have his damned rubber-sheet Universe before I'm finished'

Then does that ress, Mr Bloom?'

'You know I am,' he said with a snap 'Or you should know Weren't you at the demonstration last week?'

'Yes, I was'

I judged Bloo that demonstration It worked but it was not a world beater Between the two poles of a ravity was produced

It was done very cleverly A Mossbauer-Effect Balance was used to probe the space between the poles

If you've never seen an M-E Balance in action, it consists priae wavelength slightly but ravitational field and if anything happens to alter the intensity of the field, the wavelength-change shifts correspondingly It is an extreravitational field and it worked like a charravity

The trouble was that it had been done before by others Blooreatly increased the ease hich such an effect had been achieved-his systeenious and had been duly patented-and he ravity would become not merely a scientific curiosity but a practical affair with industrial applications

Perhaps But it was an incomplete job and he didn't usually make a fuss over incompleteness He wouldn't have done so this ti I said, 'It's my impression that what you acco, and better than that was achieved in Brazil last spring'

That so? Well, calculate the energy input in Brazil and here, and then tell ravity decrease per kilowatt-hour You'll be surprised'

'But the point is, can you reach 0 g-zero gravity? That's what Professor Priss thinksthe intensity of the field is no great feat'

Bloo that a key experi that day and he was annoyed almost past endurance Bloom hated to be balked by the Universe

He said, Theoreticians h he were finally tired of not saying it, and he was going to speak his mind and be da around a few equations, but what has he done with it? Nothing! I have done so to do more with it, whether Priss likes it or not

'I'ets the credit He can keep his damned title and his

Prizes and his kudos froripes him Plain old-fashioned jealousy

It kills hi 'I said to hiether, you know--'

It was at this point that I quoted Priss's stateot Bloom's counterstatement I never published either That was just trivia

'We play billiards,' said Blooae chuh, I'll never know He ot a bare pass- out of pity, I think-in every humanities course he ever took'

'You did not get your degree, did you, Mr Bloo his eruption

'I quit to go into business, dae, over the three years I attended, was a strong B Don't iot his PhD, I orking on my second million'

He went on, clearly irritated 'Anyere playing billiards and I said to hiet the Nobel Prize when I'ets the results Why do you need two? Giveup his cue, and then he said in his soft namby-pamby way, "You have two billions, Ed Give me one" So you see, he wants the money'

I said, 'I take it you don'tthe honor?'

For ato order hed instead, waved his hand in front of hi from an invisible blackboard in front of him He said,

'Oh, well, forget it All that is off the record Listen, do you want a stateht today and I blew my top a bit, but it will clear up I think I knohat's wrong And if I don't, I' to know

'Look, you can say that I say that we don't need infinite electronetic intensity; ill flatten out the rubber sheet; ill have zero gravity And e get it, I'll have the damndest demonstration you ever saw, exclusively for the press and for Priss, and you'll be invited And you can say it won't be long

Okay?' Okay!

I had time after that to see each ether when I was present at one of their billiard gaood But the call to the demonstration did not come as quickly as all that It arrived six weeks less than a year after Blooave me his statement And at that, perhaps it was unfair to expect quicker work

I had a special engraved invitation, with the assurance of a cocktail hour first Bloo to have a pleased and satisfied group of reporters on hand There was an arrangement for trimensional TV, too Blooh to be willing to trust the de room on the planet

I called up Professor Priss, to make sure he was invited too He was

'Do you plan to attend, sir?'

There was a pause and the professor's face on the screen was a study in uncertain reluctance 'A demonstration of this sort is most unsuitable where a serious scientific s'

I was afraid he would beg off, and the drareatly lessened if he were not there But then, perhaps, he decided he dared not play the chicken before the world With obvious distaste he said, 'Of course, Ed Bloom is not really a scientist and he must have his day in the sun I'll be there'