Scientific Theories

The auditorium was packed. They had to turn people away. The famous Dr. Frederick was speaking today. The MC paced nervously backstage. The roar of the audience was intimidating.

How many people were there? What would that look like? Maybe he should peek and see so that he could mentally prepare. He took a deep breath and peeked around the edge of the curtain.

The auditorium hushed and everyone was looking at him. The MC ducked back behind the curtain, and the noise started up again. That was embarrassing. His face felt hot.

“So, were there a lot of people out there?” a voice said. The MC turned around. It was Dr. Frederick.

He rushed forward to shake the doctor’s hand.   “Hi, my name is John, and I’m the MC today. I am a huge fan of your work,” he said.

“Thank you,” Dr. Frederick said. “I can see that you are nervous. Are you not used to speaking in front of large crowds?”

“Not really,” John said. “Usually not very many people come to these lectures.”

“It helps to think about something else,” Dr. Frederick said. “If you are thinking more about something else than the crowd, then it isn’t as scary.”

“How can you forget about a crowd that big? When they were all staring at me, I felt like I could barely move,” John said.

“I have an idea,” Dr. Frederick said. “I have a new scientific theory I’ve been working on.   I’ll announce it today for the very first time as part of my lecture.”

“Really?” John forgot all about the crowd. A new theory from Dr. Frederick? “What an honor,” John said. “Thank you, sir.”

John rushed out, a few minutes early. The room was silent, once again. “Dr. Frederick is going to announce a new theory today,” he blurted out. “Isn’t that amazing?”

He pulled out his notes, and read through them at double speed. Everyone knew who Dr. Frederick was anyway. Why waste time? Everyone wanted to hear Dr. Frederick speak, the sooner the better.

The applause was thunderous as Dr. Frederick walked up to the podium and there was a burst of camera flashes that went off like fireworks. Then he set his papers down and the room was silent. John stood at the edge of the stage, not willing to go back behind the curtain and miss this historic moment.

“Thank you for coming to hear me speak,” Dr. Frederick said. “I am delighted to share with you today my newest scientific theory.” He paused, and the audience waited expectantly, leaning forward in their seats.

“The galaxy is actually a giant game of marbles.   Right now, the kids are inside eating dinner, but when they’re done and return, expect many more big bangs to occur in rapid succession.”

John almost laughed. How clever of Dr. Frederick to prepare a joke as an icebreaker. Then he looked around. Everyone was nodding and taking notes. There was a low murmur of voices. No one was laughing. Was he serious?

“Now on to my prepared lecture on the resting state of antimatter.” The murmurs stopped and Dr. Frederick continued his lecture. It was highly technical and didn’t sound at all like a joke. At the end, the crowd gave him a standing ovation that went on and on. Dr. Frederick waved and crossed the stage to duck behind the curtain.

John thanked the audience for coming, read out a few announcements and reminders and then hurried behind the curtain to find the doctor. Dr. Frederick was buttoning his coat when John found him.

“Were you serious about the game of marbles?” he asked.

“Of course not,” Dr. Frederick said.

“So it was a joke?”

“Yes. Were you nervous?” Dr. Frederick asked.

John had forgotten all about being nervous. “I guess not,” he said. “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome,” Dr. Frederick said.

The next day, Dr. Frederick’s new theory was in all the newspapers.   Scientists debated it for the next decade. Eventually, it led to new discoveries and a rather strange Broadway musical. John never told anybody it was just a joke. Neither did Dr. Frederick.

 

Fixing Slippers

Bert returned from his shopping trip clutching a shopping bag and grinning madly. Who knew that department stores could be so inspirational? He was going to recommend a visit to all his other mad scientist friends.

“John,” he said. “I know what we’re going to do today.”

John the intern came running in. “Are we finally going to take over the world?”

Bert rolled his eyes. “What have I told you about trying to take over the world?”

John’s shoulders slumped. “You don’t want to.”

“Of course not. Real mad scientists would always choose science over politics. That’s why you’re still an intern.” Bert set his shopping bags down. “Would you like to see what we’ll be doing instead?”

John leaned forward. “Mind control? Cloning? A zombie army?”

Bert pulled a pair of slippers out of his bag. “Nope. We’ll be fixing this faulty sports equipment.”

“That’s not sports equipment,” John said.

“Well, not when it doesn’t work right,” Bert said. “But I’ll fix that.”

“But there’s nothing wrong with them,” John said. “Slippers are supposed to be like that.”

Bert took his shoes off and tossed them over his shoulder. The shoe rack by the front door caught them and arranged them neatly side by side. Bert put the slippers on and shuffled across the floor. “Look,” he said. “They don’t slip at all.”

John laughed. “I think they’re called slippers because you slip them on.”

Bert shook his head. “John, John, John. You slip on many different kinds of shoes. Shoes are named for function. You loaf around in loafers and ice skate in ice skates and flip in flippers.”

“That’s not what flippers are for,” John said. “And loafers are for dressing up.”

“Now I understand why you are still so loud when you’re wearing sneakers,” Bert said. “But that’s all right, you’re an intern. You’re supposed to still be learning.”

“I’m not loud.”

“John said loudly,” Bert said.

John frowned. “But what sport would need slippery shoes?”

“Who knows what new sport the kids have thought up,” Bert said. “I saw kids throwing around plastic plates and calling it Frisbee.”

“That’s not new,” John said.

“You’re so contrary,” Bert said. He picked up his shopping bags. “Just for that, you get to fill out the paperwork today.” He marched off in his slippers.

John groaned. “That’s not fair. You always make me do the paperwork.”

He filled out paperwork all afternoon. Just before it was time to go home, Bert returned, carrying his new slippers in one hand and a stack of papers in the other.   He dumped the stack of papers into the inbox. John sighed.

“Here’s some more paperwork for you to fill out tomorrow,” Bert said. He held up the slippers. “Now guaranteed to slip,” he said.

“It worked?” John asked. “Wow. Maybe you could adapt the technology into some kind of ray that you could shoot at the ground. Your enemies would fall at your feet, literally.” John cackled evilly.

Bert shook his head. “I’m starting to worry about you,” he said.

“I’m just getting into the spirit of being a good mad scientist,” John said.

“Science first, John,” Bert said.

“Right, right. I keep forgetting that,” John said. “So if you made a slipper ray, could I borrow it?”

“I don’t think so,” Bert said.

 

Parking Maze

Jean drove up to the ticket booth.  “That will be eight dollars,” the lady running the booth said with a smile.

“Do you have change for a twenty?” Jean asked, after fishing her wallet out of her purse.

“Of course,” the lady said.  “There you go.  Put the ticket in the front window on the driver’s side, please.  It will be good for one year.”

“That’s quite a deal,” Jean said.  The lady just smiled.

Jean found a parking spot near the stairs and went up to see the dinosaur exhibit.  It was amazing that there was a museum like this in the middle of nowhere.

The guidebook said to plan on spending a lot of time here due to the maze, but Jean planned on skipping that.  She was presenting a paper at the archeology conference two hundred miles away, and the conference was tomorrow.  She just couldn’t resist a chance to see more dinosaurs on her way there, because dinosaurs were amazing.

After an hour or two, Jean went back out to the parking garage.  It was time to leave.  She backed out of the parking space and followed the arrows.  Well, she tried to follow the arrows anyways.  It quickly became confusing.  At one point, the arrows pointing towards the exit were right next to a wrong way do not enter sign.

And then the underground road widened out into a large parking lot again.  But, this was larger than the other levels of the parking garage.  The roof was higher, and the lights were brighter, and there was music coming from the right.  Was that a fair?

Jean parked and got out to ask for directions.  She stopped at the ticket booth at the entrance to the fair.  “Pardon me,” she said.  “How do I get out of the parking garage?”

The ticket seller squinted.  “Are you new here?” he asked.

“Yes, I came to visit the museum, but now I’d like to leave,” Jean said.

The old man chuckled.  “Yep, you’re new.  I bet this is your first day here.”

“Unfortunately, it’s my only day here.  I need to be somewhere else by this evening,” Jean said.

“Oh, you can’t leave that quickly,” the man said.

“I just don’t have time to stay,” Jean said.

“That’s what they all think.  But you really can’t go.  I’m not even sure there’s a way out.  I’ve been here twenty years, and I never found it.  Most people end up settling down here, and getting a nice job from the company.  It’s not such a bad life, you know,” the old man said.  “Are you married yet?  I bet I could find you someone.”

Jean panicked for a moment and then narrowed her eyes.  “That doesn’t make any sense.  You’d have all starved to death by now.”

The old man laughed.  “You got me.  I can’t fool you.  If you’re in a hurry, you can buy a map to the parking garage, but I think it’s cheating.  A smart girl like you could probably figure her own way out in a week or two.”

Jean didn’t want to admit how relieved she was that there was a map.  “I’d like the map, please,” she said.

“Sure, that’ll be ten dollars,” the old man said.

“Are you serious?  That costs more than the year-long parking pass,” she said.

“Well, it’s your choice.  You could stay and enjoy the fair for a bit.  I really like the bumper cars, myself.  There’s cotton candy, too.  Then you could stay in the nice travel lodge two floors up and buy dinner at the café next door.  Tomorrow, you can wake up all ready to spend the morning trying to figure out the maze…”

Jean sighed.  “Here you go, ten dollars,” she said.

“Here’s your map.  I hope to see you here again sometime,” the old man said.

“Don’t count on it,” Jean said, as she started to unfold the map.  Wow.  This was more complicated than she’d guessed.  It was going to take a while.

A few hours later, she was finally driving out of a concealed exit miles away from the museum.  That detour had taken much longer than planned.  It had been worth it to see the dinosaurs, but all that mental work figuring out the map was exhausting.  It was a good thing she wasn’t presenting her paper until after lunch.  She was going to sleep in tomorrow.  And stop at the museum again on the way home.