Thursday, June 28, 2007

Zero Point

The lights came up. The smoke settled. The whirring hum of the machinery faded away.

"What is the result?" shouted the Professor. His rigid demeanor was betrayed by excitement.

The assistant read off of ticker tape spilling out of the machine, "Zero-point-zero-one-zero-three-five-three... seven... repeating." Looking up with anxious eyes behind thick protective goggles he offered, "That's an all time best, Professor- nearly a 40% reduction."

The Professor did not reply. For the moment he simply stood back and surveyed the elaborate assembly of equipment filling the room. He arched a scrutinizing eyebrow. The technological amalgamate before him did not spy the stern gaze of its progenitor, nor did it realize that its efforts were being evaluated- nor even that they might be deemed unworthy. The equipment did not fret, it simply waited.

Of course the Professor expected no such thing from the inanimate objects. He finally relaxed and approached the assistant. "That is not the target result," he finally said. "That is not Zero."

"But, Professor..."

"Again," directed the Professor.

"Yes, Professor," replied the assistant, snapping presently to attention. "It will take several hours..."

"I know how long it takes. So get started."

"Yes, Professor."

As the assistant set about preparing the equipment again, the Professor retreated to his study to examine the data and adjust the parameters of the experiment. He had convinced the investors that he could produce a result of exactly Zero despite every precedent in the history of science. He had every intention to deliver that result exactly. If he was successful the ramifications would be Earth-shattering. What had been imagined as an impossible dream since humankind first began to study the nature of the world around it would finally be reality. Countless lives could be saved. The global economy would be redefined.

But, it had to be perfect. The smaller-minded might accept encouragement in a result of zero-point-zero-one-zero-three-five-seven repeating, or perhaps even zero-point-zero-zero-one-zero-three... or zero-point-zero-zero-zero-zero-one-zero-three... But, none of those were close enough. Zero-point-anything was too simply too much. Each experiment produced a smaller result but each result was infinitely wrong. No margin of error was acceptable.

And so, the Professor returned to his data, and he pondered and he pored and he calculated. Every variable was studied, every deviation eradicated. Several hours passed.


"Yes, I'm coming. The equipment is ready?"

"Yes, Professor."


The Professor recalibrated the equipment per his redefined parameters. The assistant engaged the power switches and pushed the execute button. The lights went down as the equipment energized an the experiment commenced.

When it had concluded the Professor asked, "What is the result?"

The assistant did not reply. The ticker tape was still printing.

"The result?" demanded the Professor.

"Yes, Professor," the assistant nervously replied as the tape continued to stream out of the machine. "Zero-point... zero-zero-zero-zero-zero-zero-zero..." He caught his breath and just watched the tape continue to slide through his hands. "," he concluded, looking up at the Professor.

The Professor did not respond. For a moment there was no sound and no movement at all except for the endless printing of the ticker tape.

The assistant finally asked, "Is that close enough, Professor?"

Monday, June 04, 2007


Filbo Stoutwrist didn't know much about the world. He was born in his village and he knew full well he'd die there. He hadn't ventured more than a half mile outside of it either- because that, as everyone knew, was folly.

But Filbo, like virtually all his kin and townsfolk knew pretty much all there was to know about farming. As Hobbits, there was a natural inclination, of course, but it could be said with no exaggeration the good folk of that village had lived for several generations at the pinnacle of the craft.

They knew everything there was to know about making things grow. Everything about the soil, the sun, the water and the air that was needed to produce healthy taters, rhubarb, strawberries, and all manner of vegetables and grains, not to mention some of the loveliest flower gardens in all of Eriador.

The people of that village were so skilled in farming because those gardens (and in fact their whole village) was little more than a prison. For their home was nestled on the fringes of the dreaded Ettenmoors, a land becoming eclipsed by the Shadow.

Roaming bands of orcs, wargs, and spiders did daily run rampant and unchecked across the lands all around them. Mighty men defended the ruins of ancient keeps that dotted the region but in time all were swallowed by the Shadow. For generations it had been thus. Truth be told, no one currently in the village could be quite sure why their forefathers had ever come here at all.

And yet, here they remained, all this time drawing beautiful life from blood-soaked rock. Perhaps the land was once upon a time nothing but pure and green. And now, while the men fought in keeps with swords and shields against a vicious rampaging army... The Hobbits remained in their village and fought against darkness with beauty; fought against death with life. They would never surrender, and they were indeed mighty, these Master Hobbit farmers of the Ettenmoors.