By Lawrence I. Charters
Kenko Shimbun, January 1986, p. 12.
If you hear an unexpected thump, followed by a long, contemplative silence, it may well be another gravity tester. Gravity testers are marvelous devices; available in almost every shape, size, and color imaginable, they help make the universe real. Dropped from a walker or a high chair (or a lap, if a lap happens to be handy), gravity testers answer profound questions about reality.
Sometimes the thump is followed by a pause, then a whimper. Quantum mechanics suggests that, this time, it might fall upward – and disappointment is always, well, disappointing. Fortunately there are lots of gravity testers (almost anything will do), and lots of places to test gravity. So, maybe some day…
Christmas and New Year’s are great times for testing gravity. With six months of experience under her belt (“tucked in her jumper?”), the junior physicist was delighted with all the brand new gravity testers in their bright packages. Pausing only to compare the nutritional merits of Japanese, American, and German wrapping paper, she teleported around the room (she’d been much too busy to investigate walking or crawling), dropping testers along the way and carefully scrutinizing the results.
One gravity tester, a knitted goose from Grandma, served extra duty. After discovering how to open the magnetic latches on the glass stereo cabinet, the junior scientist inserted the goose’s neck and closed the door – on the neck. Three important discoveries came from this: 1) geese from Grandma are well made; 2) tempered glass has high tensile strength; and 3) the Big Ones apparently don’t like junior scientists to experiment with glass doors. But do they have strong feelings about the TV remote control?
While year’s end may be a splendid time for gravity testers, it is also a time of crisis for American service members. Far from family, and often far from a familiar culture, much time is spent considering the losses. It often marks the start of another year of waiting – waiting for transfer (their own or someone else’s), waiting for retirement (their own or someone else’s), waiting to see loved ones. By the end of January, the momentary excitement of the holidays has completely faded, the weather is dreary, and there is still that Long Wait.
For the junior scientist, Christmas was a time for discovery. To her, it isn’t just a job, but an adventure, and you could search a long time trying to find a better way of looking at life. She isn’t merely putting in her time, waiting for change, but putting all her sixteen pounds of energy and experience into discovering the world.
Adopting a very Japanese philosophy, the new year is not a time for waiting, but an opportunity for renewal and discovery. New Year’s Eve was not spent on song, dance, drink and fireworks, but on learning if oatmeal can be absorbed directly through the skin. (She also discovered oatmeal finger painting, oatmeal makeup on the Big Ones, and oatmeal snuff. She indicated, however, that shoving oatmeal up your nose with a spoon is one experiment she probably won’t repeat. Science has its limits.)
She shares these discoveries with others, as a good junior scientist should. Her Japanese babysitter, diligently, learning English, was delighted to see one Christmas present was a copy of Winnie the Pooh. Together they explored the mysteries of the classic tale, made all the more mysterious by the scientist’s aunt and uncle, who had sent a copy written in Latin. (Discovery and irony are often close companions.)
You might say she has an infantile approach. You might harbor a more cynical view. You might agree with those who say that health is merely the slowest possible rate at which one can die. But can you call the junior scientist wrong?
Ka-THUMP. “Location G-34. Gravity holding steady. Looking forward to tomorrow’s test.”