Chapter 7: Interference
Amo, amas, I love a lass as a cedar tall and slender.
Sweet cowslip's grace is her nominative case,
and she's of the feminine gender.
...... The song ran through Kip's mind in cadence
with his feet hitting the track. It had been a good morning so far. Instead
of memorizing grammar in Latin, the fourth form had come in and serenaded the
third with songs in and about Latin. An old Amdexter tradition according to
his Latin master. And then they taught one of songs--the one coursing through
Kip's head. It was actually sort of cool knowing a hundred year old song.
...... Social studies was interesting, as usual, and Phys. Ed. held an unexpectedly pleasant surprise; instead of spending the period shooting hoops, something he stank at, they went for a run outside. And that suited Kip fine; his sport was cross country running.
...... As he ran on the oval track, the song ran its course. Then, in the mental silence, he imagined he was a charged particle in a cyclotron. He visualized the cyclotron's electromagnets pulling him forward and he ran ever faster, but with an easy practiced cadence, until he lapped the less energetic particles on the track. He smiled, watching as some of those particles looked at him in clear envy.
...... As the period drew to a close, Kip visualized food rather than electromagnets providing him with energy. Ahead was lunch, then orchestra and then it was back to home territory.
...... A few hours later, Kip jogged into Snack Bar for assembly. He glanced at the blackboard.
...... ...... ...... ...... Gedanken Today! Raves about Waves.
...... Kip's eyes were then drawn to a table
in a corner pushed up against the front blackboards. On it, sphinx-like, sat
a cat--a seal-point Siamese with faun colored coat and brilliant blue eyes.
Paradox! Under the table, Kip saw a cat carrier, water and food bowls,
and a litter box.
...... Kip shifted his gaze to another table: glass topped, prominently placed, and set two meters or so in front of the blackboards. A big, rectangular glass dish filled with water sat on the table. On the floor underneath, a bright light beamed upward, casting a shadow of the water dish onto the ceiling. There were a couple of what looked like toy construction blocks next to the dish.
...... As Kip took his seat, Dr. Ralph rushed in. He had a small device in his hand and scowled at it. It made a clink as he plopped it roughly down on the glass table. "Brand new and useless," he said under his breath.
...... Dr. Ralph greeted his class, then explained that the glass dish, a ripple-tank, was for demonstrating wave motion. He pointed at the device he'd carried. "And that actuator was supposed to generate the waves. But it doesn't work."
...... "Do physicists have cats as companions?" Charles broke in, "like witches?"
...... "What?" Dr. Ralph glanced at the cat then back to the boy. "We physicists aren't witches." He paused. "Most of us are warlocks." Amidst laughter, Dr. Ralph held up his hands. "Wait, no," he said. "Just a joke. And please don't repeat it to any civilians--especially to Brother Wakabyashi."
...... The cat had jumped from the table and was wandering through the class, stopping occasionally as he was petted. "Paradox likes to wander," said Dr. Ralph, "so I thought I'd try giving him the run of the class so he wouldn't be stuck in the apartment."
...... Dr. Ralph put a hand over the ripple-tank and touched the water's surface with his forefinger. On the ceiling, Kip saw a circular wave expand across the tank.
...... "When we make waves in this thing," said Dr. Ralph, "you can see them projected on the ceiling." He put the two blocks in the water--set in a line with a small gap between them. "Okay." He pointed at the gap. "This is the one-slit case." Grabbing the actuator, he turned to the class. "If this weren't broken, it would have generated a continuous sea of waves. But I guess I'll have to use my--"
...... The class, as a whole, laughed.
...... Dr. Ralph turned around to the glass table--where Paradox was lapping up water from the ripple tank.
...... "Look at the ceiling, sir," said Wolfgang.
...... Paradox's rhythmic lapping had generated a regular pattern of waves which all could see on the ceiling.
...... Dr. Ralph looked up. "Wonderful!" Then he turned to his cat. "We needed a ripple tank actuator and, Paradox, faster than the twinkling of a nose, provided one."
(For more about the waves in the ripple-tank, click here)
...... Dr. Ralph spent some more time discussing waves and interference, then said, "We'll discuss what this has to do with electrons at our next gedanken session. Expect big-time weird!" He glanced at the wall clock. "All right. It is time for your next classes." He chuckled. "And a discussion of time is for another time."
...... He dismissed the boys, but one stayed behind.
...... "What's up, Kip," he said when the other boys had gone.
...... Kip pawed the ground, shyly. "I just wondered.... Can I pet Paradox?"
...... "What?" Dr. Ralph looked over to the corner table on which the cat was now curled up. "Yes. Certainly. He loves to be petted." Dr. Ralph led Kip to the table. "Even though he's a noisy Siamese, he's a Teddy bear."
...... Kip gently stroked the cat from between the ears to the tail. Paradox splayed his front paws and purred.
...... "You like cats," said Dr. Ralph.
...... "I love cats." Without looking away from the cat, Kip added, "I kept my door open a little. I hoped Paradox would come and visit. But he didn't. I don't think he did, anyway."
...... "Are your roommates okay with a cat running around?"
...... "Sure," said Kip. "They like cats, too."
...... "Okay. After classes, I'll give you a catnip mouse to leave on your bed. That'll tell Paradox your bed is an approved sleeping place. But warn your roommates. I wouldn't want them to freak out when they see what looks like a dead mouse on your bed."
...... Kip chuckled, then asked, "Why do you allow Paradox to run around in the dorm at night?"
...... "We keep our door open a crack so we can hear if anything is not okay in the dorm. So Paradox just runs out."
...... "Are you spying on us, Dr. Ralph?" said Kip, lightly.
...... "No." Dr. Ralph seemed uneasy. "I just want to be aware if, say, a man-eating tiger or a man-eating shark invades the dorm."
...... "What about a man-eating spaghetti?"
...... Dr. Ralph laughed, his expression of unease gone. "That, too. Anyway, with the door open, Paradox can do his duty as a watchcat." He gave Kip an avuncular pat on the shoulder. "Better run off to your class. You wouldn't want to be late."
...... "But it's your class," said Kip.
...... "I wouldn't want to be late, either."
...... In their bunks a few minutes before lights-out,
the three occupants of subdorm-8 discussed life.
...... "The math and science stuff is great," said Paul, "but the rest is, like, you know...school."
...... "You mean Latin," said Kip.
...... "I like Latin." said Wolfgang. "Ubi, oh ubi, sub ubi est?"
...... "What?" said Paul.
...... "It's a Latin joke. Ubi, oh ubi, sub ubi est? Where, oh where, is my under-where."
...... "All right, Kohl," said Paul. "Tell us when to laugh."
...... "You know, it's strange," said Kip. "At Amdexter, the teachers call us by our last names and treat us like kids. But at EASP, they call us by our first names and they treat us like scientists."
...... Just then, came the lights-out chime. Kip saw Wolfgang take off his glasses and lay them on his desk. It's funny how different people look without their glasses.
...... Wolfgang reached out from his lower bunk and switched off his desk lamp.
...... "Who's there?" Paul called forth in a loud stage whisper--in the exaggerated voice of an actor.
...... "What?" said Wolfgang.
...... "Nay answer me," Paul went on. "Stand and unfold yourself."
...... "Unfold myself?" said Wolfgang.
...... "Oh, gosh," said Kip. "He's probably quoting Hamlet."
...... "Long live the king!" said Paul in a whispered shout.
...... "Bernardo?" said Paul affecting a different voice.
...... "He," said Paul in the first voice.
...... "You come most carefully upon your hour." Paul alternated voices at each line.
...... "It is now struck twelve. Get thee to bed, Fransisco."
...... "Twelve?" said Kip. "It's only nine-thirty."
...... "And who's this Fransisco?" said Wolfgang.
...... "For this relief, much thanks. T'is bitter cold, and I am sick at heart."
...... "How can you be sick at heart?" said Kip. "You've just made ten dollars."
...... "Have you had a quiet guard?" Paul went on, taking no note of the others.
...... "Not a mouse stirring."
...... "Squeak!" said Wolfgang.
...... "Not a mouse stirring his coffee?" said Kip.
...... "Well, good night," Paul intoned, still in an actor's voice.
...... Kip chuckled. "Good night, Paul."
...... "Good night," said Wolfgang.
...... "Night, Kip," said Paul in his normal voice. "Night Wolfy."
...... Kip snapped awake to what appeared to
be an earthquake. Then he felt the earthquake walking toward his head. He put
out his hand and contacted fur. Paradox! The cat settled down next to
Kip's face and purred--a loud purr, like a car with a bad muffler on idle. Kip
wondered how his roommates could sleep through it. Kip nuzzled against the cat
and closed his eyes.