A short fiction on a new discovery
|“Abhi, come over,” Dr. Venkat almost screamed.
The subject of his urgent calling looked up from his microscope. Venkat was seated at the far corner of the lab. He was waving like an air marshall helping dock a large aircraft.
A small man, Dr. Venkat’s brilliance shone through from his penetrating eyes and broad forehead.
Abhi extricated herself with a show of reluctance though he knew something was up. Dr. Venkat, usually taciturn and dour, demonstrated remarkable cheer.
She was not having a good day. Her daughter, down with the flu, and alone at home kept calling all morning. Abhi put it out of her mind and stood up.
The two technicians Jill and Loukos, halted their work and turned around.
In five strides, Abhi stood behind the agitated man and peered in the direction of Venkat’s finger.
“What is it?” Abhi enquired perplexed.
“Don’t you see it?” Dr. Venkat’s voice touched hysteria.
“Hmm, not really,” Abhi responded.
She stared at the enormous display serving as Dr. Venkat’s monitor.
Dr. Venkat jabbed at the left corner.
“That blob there. I’ll magnify it. Hold on.”
And then Abhi saw it.
The screen showed a magnified view of the events occurring behind the thick glass partition. Abhi ran to the transparent window.
Powerful instruments purred, and the supercooled interiors exhibited no evidence of the turmoil outside. Sterile magnetic machines glinted under the harsh white lights.
“What temperature is it at?” she asked, her voice barely above a whisper.
No sign of calmness from her colleague.
“Minus eight thousand.”
Abhi gasped. “You got it down so much?”
Back at the screen, the two scientists examined the lazy swirly mass. Much smaller than any known atom.
“Do you think….?” Dr. Venkat left the question unfinished.
Everyone crowded around the little man.
Abhi nodded, though not with certainty.
“Never seen anything like it for sure. It does seem you have created a new form of matter, Dr. Venkat.”
Dr. Venkat waved his hands.
“Please, just Venkat. I don’t call you, Dr. Abhi.”
The particles deep inside the machines began to vibrate and disintegrate.
“Quick, Dr., I mean Venkat, bring down the temperature,” Abhi yelled.
Venkat touched the screen and moved the temperature slider down.
An explosion issued from the vacuum-sealed machine and the two adjoining rooms descended into total darkness, except for the screen with a built-in backup power source.
In a second, the lights came back on.
Venkat’s eyes never left the screen. His voice changed.
“It’s gone!” he lamented.
Sure enough, nothing remained in the glass tube. No sign of the intriguing condensate which moments before had brought so much excitement.
Abhi rushed to the panel and brought up the logs. She hoped to reproduce the steps.
“It’s no use, Abhi. There are no logs.”
“But, we should be able to recreate it, Venkat.”
Jill and Loukos ran back to their stations. Multiple screens opened, and they got busy in silent frustration.
Venkat stood dejected, dwarfed by the screen at his side.
Abhi returned, optimistic as always.
“Don’t worry, Venkat. You’ve done it once. I’m sure you can do it again.”
Venkat didn’t share her vibe.
“No, Abhi, I cannot. I don’t think I can ever bring down the temperature so low again.”
Not to be deterred, Abhi brushed aside his misgivings.
“If not in this lab, we can do it in the other lab. Come on, cheer up!”
Venkat shook his head and plumped down on his chair, his bowed head in his hands.
No one said anything. There wasn’t much to say.
The minutes went by, and Venkat turned the swivel chair towards his table.
“The camera might have captured a snapshot of the matter. Let me check.”
Images appeared in quick succession as he typed furiously.
Jill spotted it first.
“Doctor, go back to one photo.”
Venkat stopped and enlarged the image Jill wanted.
Loukos spoke, in his hurried manner.
“Send me the image doctor. I will run it through spectral analyses and a few more image algorithms. The image is quite clear. We’ll get more details.”
Loukos rushed back to his seat.
Jill, Abhi, and Venkat continued staring at the screen, willing for a sign of revival.
An hour later. Loukos raised his right hand even as his left hand continued working on the image.
“I got something.”
As one, they rushed to him.
Loukos wasted no time.
“See the analyzed data there? It is clear it is a state of matter with absolutely no resemblance to a solid, liquid, gas, or plasma.”
He paused for dramatic effect.
“It is not even the fifth state of matter, the Bose-Einstein condensate.”
A collective gasp.
Once again, the lights went out. This time, even Venkat’s screen blackened.
In the inky smothering darkness, groaning sounds of metal tearing surrounded them.
The little group of four huddled together in fear and trepidation.
Then, a vision of the cloudless sky bespeckled with stars.
It took a moment for the reality to sink in.
All around them, the desert extended in every direction. No trace of the lab they had worked in for twenty years.
Whatever matter, Venkat created, had taken everything, wherever it had disappeared.