Since I had last seen the black hole, it had grown, bursting out of the confines of the former Piggly Wiggly and sprawling across the parking lot. The neighboring ex-church, once a separate singularity, now has been absorbed by the sprawl. Outside the ex-church is a sign proclaiming it to be the World Peace Institute, or something like that.
The Black Hole is located in Los Alamos, New Mexico, birthplace of the atomic bomb and still big in the devastating explosion business. And that’s how many of the folks see it up there – as a business. That pisses off Ed. He has been working long and hard protesting the activities at the Los Alamos Lab and the cavalier attitude that many of the employees take there. He has also been profiting off the Lab at the same time. Ed is a junk dealer, but oh, the junk.
Ed has a point – the scientific community (it’s more about the biotech than big physics now, but the principle still applies) has not taken a leadership role in helping society come to terms with new technologies that can transform it or sweep it away. “That’s for the government,” they say, but that’s a copout. The government is a bunch of idiots elected by the rest of us idiots. Just as Universities have awakened to the ugly truth that businessmen need training in ethics, people designing weapons of mass destruction need to understand the meaning of the device beyond the megatons, and they need to help the rest of us understand. A much more coherent expression of this idea is in the novel A Canticle for Liebowitz by Walter M. Miller. The book also has the best explanation of the Catholic position on the sanctity of life I have ever read.
But I digress.
Ed would like our movie. When he and his crew like a movie, sometimes props are loaned for free. My goal was to pitch the movie, get him on board, and get his support. Bonnie was with me, and I’m told the presence of a pretty woman is always helpful.
Alas, this day Ed was not wearing his hearing aid. It’s bad enough trying to talk to him ordinarily, I understand, but in this case it was impossible. He couldn’t hear Bonnie at all, so it fell to me to shout into his ear. There was no way to communicate even slightly complicated ideas. We listened to Ed’s lecture and watched a video he has that was “smuggled” out of the lab, showing a portion of a lecture about the nuclear weapons business at Los Alamos. Ed shows the video because of the cavalier way the lecturer discusses making nations cease to exist. After the video we “discussed” the current situation around the world. I put the quotes around the word discussed because he couldn’t hear my comments.
After that we went poking around the place, gathering up an assortment of electronics, a geiger counter, and some bits that might be good for making a nuclear warhead mockup. We had gone there because we heard that Ed had his own mockups, but they sucked. Ah, the stuff, the stuff. Strange things, sinister things, mysterious things, and lots and lots of pure worthless junk. Most of it was older stuff, so if you ever need the retro look for a film, you can’t go wrong there. Near some really expensive vacuum pumps in the back there was the semi-dessicated poop of a small animal on the floor.
Then it came down to time to pay for the stuff, and this is where the gravity well of the Black Hole distorted mathematics beyond all reason. We needed the stuff for three weeks, but the rental cost was as much as (if not more than) the purchase price. At this point I think Ed thought we were doing a feature film with a big budget. Haggling ensued, and putting things back, and numbers spontaneously appeared out of nowhere, connected to nothing, and then disappeared again with a faint popping sound.
I am now the proud owner of a geiger counter.