OF THE CIRCUS AMPEREAN SO FAR
being a somewhat Tolkienesque but true tale
of idyllic stability, sudden disruption,
and ultimate quantized happiness
For as long as he could remember, Eddie the electron had been attached to a copper atom. It was a pretty good life in the 2nd orbital—he was glad he wasn’t a valence electron, always getting hassled and switched out for somebody else. Here he could just hang all day, being gently jostled by the wave functions of the other electrons. Occasionally he could feel the slight tickle of the edge of Ellie’s probability density. Her fringing field was warm and soft, but she was in an inner shell, so lotsa luck ever getting anywhere with her. But he could dream, couldn’t he? The only reason they could even have this little interaction, of course, was the huge positive charge on their common nucleus holding them both in place in this atom.
It seemed that it had always been thus. He had been in this same atom since about 400,000 years after the Big Bang. He had a pretty good memory of the time since then, but only vague recollections of the Inflation, and of course nobody, least of all Eddie, had any memory of the Singularity, although they all wondered with awe and reverence what it must have been like.
Occasionally a slight external influence could be felt, but nothing really worthy of writing home about. That was, until March 27th, 1957, when suddenly a strong force intruded on his placid existence. “Wha-- what’s that?” he asked his neighboring electrons. “Maxwell’s third equation,” they answered, “Didn’t you listen in school? You’re feeling del cross E, baby, from a rapidly changing magnetic field.”
The valence electron suddenly left and was not replaced! Deprived of the screening, Eddie felt himself being propelled into a large, empty region populated by pairs of nitrogen atoms with a few oxygen pairs mixed in. For the first time in his life since the Big Bang, Eddie was a free electron! But he didn’t have long to think about it, as one of the oxygen pairs pulled him in and he stuck there. Suddenly WHAM! Another electron hit and Eddie was propelled into the void again, emitting a beautiful blue-violet photon. Then BANG! POW! SOCK! BIFF! He was being pummeled by a veritable avalanche of free electrons. How long was this going to last? Only microseconds ago he was thinking of Ellie’s soft, warm wave function. Then as suddenly as it had begun, the action slowed and stopped, leaving Eddie attached to a group of three oxygen atoms.
All around him was a crackling sound, and several rather nerdy pimply-faced high-school types were jumping and dancing around and laughing like a bunch of baboons. A strange-looking apparatus was sitting in the middle of Keith’s living room in Prescott, AZ, emitting beautiful blue-violet sparks.
One of the oxygen atoms in Eddie’s ozone molecule, a rather metastable character at best, split after a while, and Eddie’s oxygen molecule eventually ran into a leaf and left Eddie there. Ahhhhhh--recombination at last! He was once again surrounded by electrons in an atom. Magnesium this time, but at least he could feel surrounded by warm wave functions once again. Did he still miss Ellie? Since electrons are indistinguishable, we’ll probably never know. Not Ellie, most likely, but maybe Elvira, or Elisa, or Edna, or Edie, or Elaine, or… So did Eddie live happily ever after? Well, not yet.
Let’s leave Eddie to catch his breath in his new environment. Fast forward now to 1997, Albuquerque, NM. One of the nerdy pimply-faced high-school types, no longer in high school and fortunately now devoid of pimples, throws a switch on a strange-looking apparatus and immediately beautiful blue-violet sparks fill the room. Carlos (the former nerdy pimply-faced high-school type) and his colleague Rico, a high voltage engineer, are pleased with their creation, a Tesla coil, but express it in a somewhat more staid manner, as befits the male gender: “Hmm. It works.” “Hmm. Not bad.” The scene is Metz’s garage. The assembled multitude watches in awe as a seven-foot spark leisurely and sinuously propagates through the air, looking for something to attach to, finally choosing Metz’s garage door opener. It never worked again. Well, Metz needed the upper-body exercise anyway. But still, he was ticked.
The Muses inspired Carlos and Rico to show off their new creation, and soon they were contacted by BuboniCon, the New Mexico Science Fiction convention. The resulting show was wildly successful. Then the New Mexico Museum of Natural History gave them a grant to perform their educational and entertaining show in small towns around the state of New Mexico. These shows were very popular, and best estimates are that the mighty Tesla coil played to about fifteen thousand people.
But the Fates intervened, as the Fates are wont to do, and their dusty winds blew again, and Carlos found himself in Tucson, Arizona, with a bunch of large boxes containing the parts of a Tesla coil. He thought, “Hmmmmmm. It’s time to disrupt the hitherto placid lives of these desert electrons. Let there be arcs and sparks!”
Arcs and sparks there were. And all who saw wondered and marveled, and great were the multitudes who gathered round. And midst these hosts largely unbidden to prominence were a few outstanding ones who channeled the spirit of Nikola Tesla, and they knew they had to become human electrical conductors.
After several months of sometimes painful research, a technology was devised that conducted the current around the body, rather than through it. Needless to say, this was a major advance. It involves an elaborate array of metallic conductors connected to the Tesla coil at the performer’s feet. They carry the current to electrodes where sparks originate at the performers’ fingertips and other appropriate sites. (And occasional inappropriate sites.)
There have been Thirteen, and only Thirteen, in the known universe who have stood atop the mighty Tesla coil and created lightning. They did not draw down lightning from the sky, they hurled lightning up into the sky. The Thirteen:
Alex, Aurelia, Danny, Gabe, Heather, Libby, Mike, Michael, Nadia, Natalie, Sasha, Serena and Wendy.
May their names be inscribed among the brave, the explorers, the fearless, who, at sometimes great bodily discomfort trod the road into the unknown. We are indebted to them for the best parts of our show.
Today the troupe consists of Mike Urdiales, our interlocutor and high voltage performer; Vanessa Rohler, expert at stagecraft and manipulating fire; Eric Ward, audio, video and fire expert; and Carl Noggle, the old man behind the curtain. Our stalwart little troupe bestrides the land as a colossus as we travel along the road into the future, faces radiant, hair streaming back.