Blacker than Energy

 

A story of caution by Javier R. Romero

 

It wasn’t long ago that physicists ramped up efficiency numbers for solar panels. It seemed to be a material engineer’s dream. Exotic materials were being created based on nano-technology that had just been prototyped. Bleeding edge technology for a bleeding edge world. Like software, video games, and cellphones, now the energy sector was releasing “Developer level” technology to the public. What’s cooler than being in on beta testing? Well… alpha testing obviously. The newer the better! Who cares if you get cancer? There’s a new experimental drug for that out now anyway.

 

But I digress… solar power!

 

Triple-junction cells were just the beginning! While studying what the energy transfer looked like in those cells they found something strange happening. In areas of the cell that were darker than others things seemed to be bi-locating. That is to say in layman terms one particle was in two places at the same time. Even more fascinating the waveforms were harmonizing in these areas but as soon as they left the darker regions the waveform collapsed. What did it mean? It didn’t take too long for the fringes of society to start worrying that scientists shouldn’t study the phenomena. If we listened to them we’d still be sitting in caves because fire is dangerous.

 

Needless to say, everyone got to work on making a perfectly even distribution of those darker areas until they managed to produce a perfect 350mm x 350mm panel. The scientific world rejoiced just because they were able to create the panel, it would be 7 months until they were able to test it but that was the hard part. In order to pull energy from the panel we had to rethink the way we interface with solar panels. Unfortunately the only person who had come close to explaining the process was a disgraced electrical engineer. He was the guy who blew up a power-plant because the “gnomes” said it was bored. Don’t ask me how a power-plant can be bored. Normally no one would’ve paid attention to him but he locked himself in on one of the meetings and forced everyone to listen to him… at gun point.

 

After a 2 day hostage scenario the scientists came to see that Englebart knew exactly what he was talking about… this time.

 

After coaxing 5 million dollars out of the federal government for “Renewable Energy Technology Development” Englebart got to work. He locked himself away in the warehouse and any attempt to get inside by the scientists was met with frantic yelling about disturbing the “Quantilis”. Even when the power went out he calmly walked outside, started up the generator trucks and went back to work. The phrase, “A man possessed” was too perfect. At the end of it all he wheeled out a 10 foot tall behemoth of wires, glass tubes and a board with at least 14 different knobs on the front.

“Don’t touch the knobs they’re for the song. You have to sing in tune or else it will get dark. Not colour, dark in, in, in, feel. Everything will change… feel different. Change isn’t good, not this kind. Don’t touch the knobs. Gotta sing in tune. A…A sharp should be good. Sing once, first song, final song. No change.”

 

He only agreed to and was able to get one interview despite the constant push for him to become the face of this new technology. The other scientists said he would be a sympathetic personality for people to connect to. Englebart knew they were making fun of him.

 

“So, finally Mr. Englebart…”

“Please, Timothy. Call me Timothy, I like Timothy.”

“Well then, Timothy. Why is it that you’re so intent on having your… tuner set to A sharp?

“Energy is important. Runs through the wires like a, like a hum. 60or 50hz. Boring sound but ok for cavemen. A sharp is alive and happy.”

“I see. Well Timothy, is there…”

“Music makes people happy. When you hear a good song you smile. When you hear a bad one you feel bad. Electricity is waves. Waves have sound. Make good sound, make good energy. Make bad sound… Bad sound bad. A Sharp happy.”

“Tell me this Timothy, what would happen if your tuner fell out of tune?”

 

It was at that point that Englebart started crying uncontrollably. Newspapers would go on to call him a freak and a weirdo. The other scientists were quickly branded as “The minds behind the future.” No one ever understood what he meant. All they needed to know was that he made the tuners and once the first one was set the others were automatic because of his “Quantilis”, whatever that was. No one knows because they’re locked inside the tuners.

 

Needless to say, with the oil reserves nearly dry, the world was holding its breath when the first test occurred. In actuality the theoretical numbers were so good they were already in talks for retrofitting existing solar farms and manufacturing single home units. It was impossible to stop the machine of commerce now.

 

On the big day Englebart was nervous. He kept saying the weather was bad, but that’s because he was struck by lightning in the past, hence his mannerisms. Clouds always made him uneasy. He made sure everyone was standing far enough back as not to disrupt his tuning. After 4 minutes of him humming to himself on national television he yelled in triumph, startling some of the people around him. He said before they started that “When I say you can make toast it’s a success.”

 

Everyone held their breath as the numbers on the power meter rose, 30 volts, 60, 120, 240. The camera pans over to the other side of the tuner and the screen said 30 amps. When the numbers stopped rising a reporter walked up to Englebart curious about what the readouts on the myriad screens meant.

 

“So Englebart, what do these readings mean? Is it a success?”

“Well these numbers are for each line and when the lines are used there are 14 in total. Cut one of them in half and you have the others singing fine through the wires to, to, to, to your toaster. We just have to let the tu, tu, tu, tuner… You can make toast.”

 

It was at that point the reporter slapped Englebart on the shoulder in congratulations. The reporter walked in front of him and motioned the camera to zoom in on the screens.

“Please be careful. It has a few more seconds to set.”

The reporter waved at Englebart and walked back down the stairs talking into the camera as everyone else was rejoicing. Finally, we have an alternative to oil that was cheap and easy to access. The wire on the reporter’s backup mic was now coiled around Englebart’s feet. With each step the wire was pulled taught, eventually making Englebart lose his balance. His hand landed on one of the knobs and a look of horror fell over his face. However the cameras were now focused on the more photogenic faces of the scientists Englebart had held hostage. His tuner made the sound to let him know the frequency had been set and Englebart fell to his knees.

 

It wasn’t until 4 years later that Englebart had his last interview.

“… Don’t you love how everyone is smiling now because of the green, cheap and affordable energy you helped provide them?!”

“Smiles hide mean thoughts. I don’t like the smiles. Everyone mean outside now not just inside… I said A sharp… this isn’t A sharp.”

 

It was slight, only visible for a flash of an instant but it was noticeable. The interviewer glared at Englebart with a murderous intent.

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