Saturday, March 1, 2008

Escape Velocity

Note: This blog is out of context in as much as the big bang theory is concerned...Its just a short story. Hope u enjoy it...(it was authored by Brian N Ball. I try to communicate the story though there are a few changes as I was unable to recollect the original version of the story)....

Eric was just back from the summer holidays. His internship session was about to begin and he wanted to start it in all seriousness for this was the first time he would be coming face to face with an industry. And not just any industry. It was the space industry –or rather- the research center for astronomical studies. He had it carefully thought through. The industry which he selected was the one he had yearned for all his life. Though now almost a computer science student (his degree was due in four months) he had never given up upon his ambition of wandering the depths of space, of walking on moon, of racing with his friends on Mars. And now the first stage of this big dream was closing in.

He had a penchant for studies and another penchant for applying his knowledge to diverse fields. And the list of these diverse fields was always topped by things –rather any thing- that had even a remote connection with space; a connection which people would not talk about or normally even think of, as it required -in their words- a clumsy crow-barring of the worst kind. In fact, these people some of whom were his best friends often mocked his enthusiasm for connecting every thing with space ridiculing him with their favorite sentence – “Hey Eric! Can you give me your crow-bar? Have to kill a shark.” Others said – “That man is never short of crow-bars. You can take as many as you want and he will never ask you to return ‘em”. But his enthusiasm never dwindled and in fact he found a way to stop these comments when he got interested in real shark-hunting and therefore bough a crow-bar. And from then on when anyone asked him for a crow-bar he would start giving them the real thing –a funny sight- for the person asking for crow-bar would often sulk away embarrassed.

His internship was to start tomorrow and he was busy filling forms for the same when he came across a potentially devastating statement saying that people with weak mitral valves are not allowed to be an astronaut. He would not have taken the statement too seriously had he not seen the statement –only one in a hundred thousands has a mitral valve which can withstand the acceleration when one is propelled to space. He got worried and talked to his friends about it. They said “You need not be worried. Why go to space? You are a computer engineer man. You can analyze the data from the earth itself.” “But no” said Eric, “Being there is different”.

“In which sense”

“You will never know”. He replied.

"Okay then, let’s hope the best for the test tomorrow.” They advised. “Or hey champ! Cheer up. If the medicos open their mouth you show them your crow-bar”. Saying so, they burst out laughing. Fuming, Eric left the place convinced that no good would come out of this discussion and he had better wait for the test which he would perhaps, if he had any luck (though he knew he had none) pass. The D-day duly arrived. He was tested and he was sent a letter of regret. How he hated it! The very sight of it took his breath away. He was furious on God, on friends, on parents, on society for reasons he could not fully understand. Hypnotically, he moved to pick up his belongings thinking to go out on a hunt. He picked up his crow-bar. Yes, its time to kill sharks. He was moving past the Proctor-House when he heard him talking to the Warden, “Yes the boy had a real bad luck. If only, we could help him.”

“You know you cannot. I mean, after all it’s about the body machinery. Right? The boy would do better if he would focus on ridding himself of this weakness”, said the warden.

“And what is that supposed to mean? Should he consider a heart-transplant? Eh” asked the proctor.

“No, no. I actually meant maybe there is some other solution around. Maybe he should kind of break-in. There are, I believe always some solutions to all our problems around us. One just needs to look harder when the situation gets more stipulative. “ Clarified the warden.

“And what solution do you find” enquired the proctor.

“Well it’s the boy’s story and he should better think about it” replied the warden.

In the meantime Eric who had accidentally chanced upon this conversation determined to do something about his only dream –of a space travel. He kept listening to this conversation and when he finally moved, he gathered that there was a rocket launch scheduled today. The rocket would go to the moon. And it would transport some of the leading astronomers to the satellite. Not that he did not know this earlier. It was in the papers all the time. But he had forgot it all after that devastating interview today which seemed to have been an year ago, though hardly two hours had passed since.

But now he was a man with a purpose. He planned it –or rather he thought he did. He would be sneaking into the rocket. How would he pull this off, he was not sure. But that he would was sure. He moved to the launch site as one of the spectators, as they were allowed on the launching grounds. But to move on, he would need an access code. And there would be extensive checking with all those cameras and God only knows which other kinds of instruments. Then he hit upon a solution to this dilemma. He would make a run for it once the launch procedures were underway. If he succeeded, he would simply shut himself up in a room where people normally are not supposed to go during the launch –the cleaner room. Every rocket has a cleaner room where oxygen cylinders are stored at a sub-zero temperature. In fact the temperature is so low that you find liquefied oxygen. This serves a double purpose. When the rocket is scheduled to take off this oxygen so released and then exposed to low pressure and a considerably high temperature, due to an initiated combustion, rapidly expands and supports further combustion. Also it allows proper oxygen supply for the astronauts inside the rocket.

Once he was inside this room –when launch procedures would be about to start, Eric thought, he could be on the journey to moon safely. Safely? He mused. He may die of mitral valve problems. But it did not matter. He was ready to pay the price. He may not die after all. And why not try this solution? For, once he was inside the cleaner room, he could as well start oxygen leakage. For fear of cold oxygen, nobody would come inside the room. Yes, this was it –this was his salvation, his solution. Nobody had ever tried the cleaner room before. So, he could rest in peace with his thoughts that security controls for those inside the rocket to go into the cleaner room would be lax.

And when the launch hour ticked near, a menacingly near at one hour before launch, he dashed for the rocket. Dodging some guards, and oh, in fact dressed as a guard himself. (Which he had done after over-powering one and making him unconscious in the process)

He ran into the cleaner room, shutting it close after him. No one noticed. He was glad though his heart continued at a pace which rivaled the fastest race horses he could imagine. And then, the COUNTDOWN!!!

Off, the rocket, was about to take. “Oh, my mitral valve” Eric panicked. Suddenly he heard footsteps outside. Did they know he was in? Will they drive him out? Hell, he had not even cared for his life to see this moment. In desperation he crow-barred open one of the oxygen cylinders and was suddenly drenched in an outpouring of cold oxygen. Imagine being exposed to the coldest thing you can imagine and imagine bathing in a sea of that thing. Even that thought would not give you the shivers which did not last more than five seconds for Eric which were given to him by cold oxygen at -230 degrees Centigrade. The shivers received from an exposure to immediately cold environment can be fatal, so our body shuts itself in that case in a matter of seconds. But those shivers are so gruesome that you cannot have even seen them in movies or documentaries; they can only be asymptotically imagined. Eric knew end was close. And before going unconscious he could hear 3…2….1….0..lift-off.

When he opened his eyes he found himself in a place where he felt light and had a strange happy feeling. Was this heaven? After all he was dead after bathing in cold oxygen. And he was happy, so hell was ruled out. Therefore, going by logic it was heaven. Or was it? When he started moving around he could see a cratered surface stretching for miles and miles around him. He asked himself aloud “Does God leave you in your most cherished place after you die”.

Suddenly he heard a woman “You are not dead, you fool. But you sure would have had I not gone inside the cleaner room in time. We know the story. You are Eric. You wanted to go to Moon and you are here with us. But I must say your solution to mitral valve problem was mind blowing”.

“Eh.” Eric asked “I never solved that”.

“Ow..We thought that you knew that cold oxygen would slow your heartbeat considerably so that escape velocity acceleration does not hasten your heartbeat to a heart-bursting rate. At any cost, your solution was nice and you should know that you have got a bigger fan following on earth than we astronauts do now. They say –the age of dare has not died. It has been restarted through your rash though I must admit bold steps.”

“Do I stay” Eric asked in a fearful voice.

Laughing, the woman replied “Oh yes! You do. Or what do you think. Would we call our mission back once we are here? Though I must say your going back to earth will involve the same procedure, an exposure to ultra-cool oxygen. That’s quite a way to thwart escape velocity acceleration. And it also has inspired a generation to break free of their limitations as they too rise breaking those bondages at an escape velocity…Adventure Continues”.


Abhishek Goswami said...

just how many times do we hear/read abt inspiring stories. and how do we respond ? get inspired...sit back...get on with life. the matrix has the grip for now. just how bad do we want to get out.

Akash said...

Readers Beware...

I, Akash Kumar, who wrote this blog hereby warn you of its technical details.

They are mostly grossly incorrect.

Lest it appears to tarnish Brian N Ball's work, I hereby reinforce this idea in your memory that it was not Brian N Ball's work which contained any mistakes or inconsistencies.

It was just the portions of the work that his original story contained which I have tried to outline here.

Though it is certainly possible that rockets may (OR MAY NOT - possibly MAY NOT) have the things mentioned above like cleaner room and all of its uses - one thing is certain.

You should not go away with an impression in your mind that the technical details mentioned above are what you should use while you are giving a presentation/talk or even having some serious chat (or some other equally important thing) - its just a story ;a story for fun and maybe something more as it was for me.

PS: That mitral valve is certainly true (at least thats what Ball says).

qraal said...

A big chunk missed is when he explores "The Graveyard" - a former aerospace museum, now just old spaceships - and contemplates how to get to the Moon. At first he imagines reconditioning an old spaceship, but that's much beyond his technical abilities. Eventually he finds a forgotten space-suit and realises he can wear it to sneak aboard the Moon Shuttle that regularly flies to the Moon Base and the Observatory where he wants to work as an astronomer - all the visible light astronomy done by professionals is done on the Moon.