posted on Jul, 23 2005 @ 06:49 PM
You have got to be effing kidding me. Dr. Alex Decker couldn’t believe what he was hearing and fought to maintain his composure. With great
effort, actually thinking the word “effing” rather than the much more vulgar word it was intended to replace, he turned his mind back to the
conversation at hand.
“Alex, did you hear what I just said?”
Alex heard him just fine- thanks to the fact that the jackass had turned off his air conditioner when he had arrived. Probably to make me
uncomfortable and to keep the meeting short, Alex thought. The air was stagnating and the temperature was beginning to climb. Despite the
discomfort, Alex stalled for time. “Yes sir, I’m just a little stunned – could you say that again?”
“From the beginning please – I’m not sure I heard you correctly” Translation: I’m still not sure I can believe my effing ears.
Alex struggled with desire to explode in the middle of his latest encounter with his supervisor, Lt. Col. Franklin Edward Rotole. It helped to think
about the nickname he had invented – Lt. Col. Effing Eeediot Rat Hole – spelling 'idiot' with an ‘E’ instead of an ‘I’ because the
effing idiot was too stupid to spell his own effing name.
“Look Decker, it’s simple. This group is going to embrace the director’s new vision ‘Transition Matters More Than Innovation’. As such, I
am sending you to Minot, North Dakota for government acquisitions training.” Col. Rotole was enjoying himself – he loved the fact that Alex had
been rendered speechless and that he was sending him to the armpit of the earth in the middle of the unbearable Midwestern summer. If I push him
just a bit more, maybe he’ll lose his temper again, and I can finally fire the pompous ass. Franklin Edward Rotole was bitter that his final
assignment before retirement was to be the branch chief of the Advanced Nuclear Physics branch of the All-Service Defense Research Laboratory. He
hated his job, hated the arrogant scientists, and methodically set out to spend every waking moment making every one else as miserable as he was. It
had taken Rotole only a few days in the job to realize that his only pleasure in this job would be to torture, browbeat, and if he could get away with
it, fire every single one of the eggheads in his department and replace them with proper military officers who would obey his orders without question
“But sir, my research into nuclear isomers is technology transition!” Alex’s world was reeling. He had to act fast if he was going to save his
“Decker, I don’t know what a nuclear isomer is, and frankly I don’t care. The Technology Transition Office has established the list of approved
research programs and approved transition programs. Your program is in the lowest 20% of the research programs. The head of TTO said that it isn’t
even close to technology transition”
“But sir, I haven't briefed my program to the TTO yet! How could they evaluate the program unless they heard from me?”
“I presented your program to them for you while you were on vacation last week." and thank God for that, thought Rotole. Rotole had
briefed the programmatic details – budgets, milestones, and schedule. At his insistence, and consistent with ACQ 101 training, all of the required
documents had been neatly filed in the case file folder over the last six months. The briefing had been quick and painless.
“How is that possible, sir? I, I, I thought they were going to wait until I got back! I mean, did you explain what we have accomplished with
nuclear isomers last month?” Alex sputtered.
“If you had wanted me to present your data, you should have updated the case file with some quad-charts and milestone accomplishment summaries”
Rotole replied calmly.
Oh dear God no… He can’t be serious…
“Sir, two months ago I conclusively demonstrated a controlled de-excitation of hafnium 178m!!” Decker shouted, “Doesn’t that mean anything to
you?!!? I wrote it up in the ‘Weekly Activity Report’, submitted a ‘Significant Event’ write-up, and even wrote a journal article!”
“Calm down. I read the WAR every week and summarized your other write-up at the weekly division staff meeting. As for your journal paper, it is
still being reviewed by the Public Affairs Office. They’re running about four months behind right now.” Rotole smiled, knowing that this was
only half the story. “To be honest, I didn’t understand any of it.” As if it matters…
Lt. Col. Rotole had heard Decker’s routine enough times that he knew that nuclear isomers were the ‘metastable isomeric state of an atom’ and
that they could be used to ‘generate gamma ray radiation’, but he neither understood nor cared what those words meant.
“Sir, nuclear isomers are similar to chemical isomers except that instead of changing the configuration of atoms in a molecule we change the state
of the protons and neutrons in the atom. Some people confuse them with isotopes where the number of neutrons in an atom is changed. An isomer has
the same number of sub-atomic particles but they are arranged in a way that gives them a tremendous amount of energy and…” but that’s not
important for the effing branch chief of the effing nuclear physics department to know now, is it? Alex’s blood pressure continued to rise.
“Yes, yes, yes, I know,” Franklin said absently, “but why should I care about some bizarre atomic anomaly? This is the Advanced Nuclear Physics
Branch, atomic physics is down the hall.”
Alex involuntarily gasped and then attempted to continue, covering the gasp with a cough. This cannot be happening to me. “Excuse me. In
some cases it may be possible to stimulate gamma ray radiation – some people in the field have even talked about using this concept as a clean
energy source or even as a gamma ray laser source…”
“Alex, I told you over six months ago – we are NOT in the laser business!” Rotole was angry now. He hated it when the civilians ignored his
orders. “How many times do we have to go through this?”
Alex stopped mid-sentence and just stared at Rotole. I don’t know sir, how many times do I have to explain what an effing nuclear isomer is to
“Look Decker, this is all academic now anyway.” Rotole was tired of the game and decided it was time to head to the gym. “Go back to your
office and get ready for the training course next week.” Rotole had enrolled Alex in the second of a series of newly mandated Defense Technology
Development and Acquisitions training courses. The first, ‘ACQ 101,’ was a computer driven course written by a group of military officers. The
subsequent courses were all very similar but required travel to obscure locations like Minot, ND. To his delight, every single military employee,
including the scientists had been ordered to become government acquisitions experts. Decker had finished the online course under protest and was now
ready for the next stage.
“Make sure your desk is clean before you leave and I will expect a full report when you return from your training. You are dismissed.” Rotole
picked up the phone and began to dial. “Please close the door on your way out, Alex.”
Stunned beyond words, Alex looked around the room for a moment. Then, resigned to his fate, he stood up and left without another word.
As he made his way back to his office, Alex recalled the thrill he had experienced two months earlier when he had received the halfnium 178m sample.
He had taken the sample and impregnated the atoms into a batch of carefully synthesized nanocrystals. The undoped nanocrystals acted like light traps
for a very specific range of wavelengths of light – working like the quantum mechanical particle in box structures studied by every quantum
physicist student since the 1930’s. Decker had engineered the nanocrystals to perfectly fit the size of the halfnium isomer while simultaneously
resonate with the precise wavelength that was thought to be the most effective at inducing the decay of the halfnium isomer. According to the
available literature, the overall absorption / decay / energy release process was horribly inefficient. Only 1 in 100 trillion photon plus isomer
encounters resulted in light absorption. Even then, only 1 in 10 trillion absorptions led to isomer decay. All of the rest of the absorptions
resulted in an immediate re-release of the absorbed photon after a few nanoseconds.
But in Alex’s isomer – nanocrystal complex, nearly every encounter with a photon resulted in an absorption. Because the nanocrystal trapped the
light so efficiently, it rattled around inside the structure until the isomer absorbed it. Then, even if the atom re-emitted the photon, it would
remain inside the atomic size cavity until decay was induced. Alex estimated that he could improve on the reported induced decay rate by at least a
factor of one hundred million.
Decker had had visions of Stockholm the first time he had irradiated the newly impregnated nanocrystals with his laboratory’s one and only, barely
operable, gamma ray source. The sub-microgram sample had exploded into flames and the nearby gamma ray detector had pegged off-scale.
Now that it was over, Alex knew what he had to do. He would take the remaining sample with him to his training course. He had already contacted the
closest university in North Dakota with a working gamma ray source and had arranged to meet them one day instead of going to the worthless
acquisitions course. Once it was out in the open, his work would continue. It might even lead to a prestigious faculty appointment that would
finally get him out from under the thumb of yet another mindless, unimaginative supervisor.
Alex didn’t notice the note on the laboratory door until after he had failed to open it with his badge and key-code. A newly installed sign stated
that the laboratory was off limits pending a Defense Intelligence Agency investigation and the express written consent of the base commander. A
padlock and security tape further secured the room.
Numbly, Alex stumbled down the corridor to his office. He knew what he would see before he even opened the door. His desk was empty, save the
telephone that had been placed directly in the center of the dust-free square where his monitor had formerly stood. Along with his computer, his
notebooks were also absent as were all the backup disks he stored in his desk. The message light on his phone was blinking. Alex lifted the receiver
slowly and hit the voice mail speed-dial button. He was greeted by the calm, smug voice of Lt Col Rotole. He must have been dialing Alex's number
as he was leaving the office. Uneffingbelievable
“Alex, forgot to tell you before you left about the new security on your lab. I got a call this morning from the laboratory’s security office.
They feel your work needs to be protected and classified. All of the data and samples have been confiscated and placed in the secure storage
container in my office. Unfortunately, your PC wasn’t authorized for classified storage, so it has been sanitized. It should be waiting for you
when you get back. The emails you sent with the WAR reports and Significant Event write-ups have been classified too. Thanks to you, almost everyone
in the department has had to have their computer sanitized too. Don’t worry, we’ll work this all out when you get back. In the meantime, your
security clearance is suspended. Have a nice trip.”