Tuesday, December 23, 2003

'How The Schmirk Stole Nanotechnology'


By popular demand, enjoy:
    'How The Schmirk Stole Nanotechnology'
    (A Fantasy of Science)

    With abject apologies to Dr. Suess

    By J. Storrs Hall

    Every Nerd down in Shopton
    Was a Future-o-phile...

    But the Schmirk
    Thought the future they wanted
    Was VILE!

    The Schmirk hated the future! Hated nanotechnology!
    Rejected the vision, no hint of apology!
    Wanted people to age without cell repair,
    and never have cars that could fly through the air.
    (It is not understood, what could cast this great pall,
    Tho t'was rumored his brain was two sizes too small.)

    Nobody knows why, but consider the following:
    The Schmirk had a penchant for public-trough wallowing.
    If the Nerds got the grant money, surely, he figured,
    his own cut of the take was quite sure to be jiggered.
    For the stuff that he claimed he could do in his lab
    Looked, beside nanotech, just a bit drab.

    So he stood in his lab with his anger fermenting,
    for surely in Shopton the Nerds were inventing.
    Molecular gadgets! Atomically true!
    Tips that did chemistry! Undid it too!
    Assemblers to build us a bridge to the stars;
    Programmable matter; and yes, flying cars!

    Whatever his motives, the Schmirk, on the eve,
    of a great science breakthrough, could only feel peeve.
    He hated the Nerds and their whole future vision,
    And sneered at their plans with no little derision.
    "They're playing with molecules," muttered the Schmirk.
    "They're building machines, and they're making them work!"

    "They've designed nanofactories!" Snarling and scoffing,
    "Home synthesizers are soon in the offing!"
    Then he growled, with his schmirk fingers nervously drumming,
    "I MUST find a way to keep nano from coming!"

    It was quite bad enough they would have flying cars,
    and personal spaceships, and houses on Mars;
    But the thing that most greatly disgruntled the Schmirk,
    Was the prospect of people not having to work.
    They would chatter and travel and party and play,
    Oh, they'd play, and they'd play, and they'd play EVERYDAY!

    That was something the Schmirk couldn't stomach -- No way!

    So he sneered with a scowl and a frown on his brow,
    "I MUST keep this Breakthrough from coming!
    ...But HOW?"

    Then he got an idea!
    An awful idea!

    "Here is what must be done," said the Schmirk with a sneer,
    And he called in his minions from far, wide, and near.
    "We'll discredit the science, spread doubt and derision,
    Politically swaying the funders' decision!"
    And he quickly distributed papers and articles,
    Detailing troubles with moving small particles.

    Then the Schmirk told his minions -- they, scientists all,
    All grasping for funding for labs large and small,
    "That isn't physics, materials science,
    Not even chemistry; join my alliance --
    It doesn't matter what you used to do;
    We're ALL doing NANOTECHNOLOGY too!"

    So they went, hat in hand, down to old Foggy Bottom,
    And they dickered for grants -- and by cracky, they got 'em!
    "See? WE're nanotech now," said the Schmirk in a huff.
    "You Nerds down in Shopton, you're pretty small stuff."
    We've got the funding, and we've got the labs,
    And all the ideas you had, they're up for grabs."

    But the Schmirk didn't stop at that -- "No," he averred,
    "I'll stop any funding for even one Nerd!"
    So he called in his minions again, did the Schmirk,
    And said "Find me proof that THEIR nano WON'T WORK!"

    So his minions at once hurried back to their labs,
    And prodded and poked what they had on their slabs,
    And dickered and whined till their voices were shrill,
    And returned to the Schmirk and said, "Sorry... IT WILL!"

    But the Schmirk wasn't flustered. "No problem," he said.
    If I can't find the proof, I'll invent it, instead!
    So he stuffed up a strawman or two, very fat,
    and blustered importantly, right through his hat.
    He baited and switched! He insulted and slurred!
    He postured and pandered -- but spoke not a word
    Of a technical nature; the crafty Schmirk knew
    How to stay off the subject of what's really true.

    So he jawboned and backbit and spread innuendo,
    And claimed the Nerds were just playing Nintendo;
    It was just science fiction, religion, and games;
    While calling them "dreamers" and other bad names.

    So the Schmirk got the funding -- he got ALL the money.
    No bureaucrat noticed that something was funny:
    He'd promised them nanotech wonders and fun,
    telling everyone else that it couldn't be done!

    Then the Schmirk took the money, with morals quite stinky,
    back to do yesterday's science ... how dinky!

    Then a funny thing happened -- in labs the world over,
    People saw that TRUE nano could put them in clover.
    So in spite of the ridicule, quashing their fears,
    They soon started building molecular gears,
    Also bearings and shafts -- with no help from the voters,
    The next thing you saw was molecular motors.

    Then came the announcement, with no warning tremblor,
    Someone had successfully built an assembler!

    The Schmirk was astounded, as if by a blast;
    He hadn't stopped nano -- just made US come last.

    And then, for what may be the first time that year,
    A new thought occured -- and it wiped out his sneer:
    For while, as the Schmirk stood and wrestled the thought,
    He learned what for years he'd pretended he'd taught:
    What if knowledge and science were not just a game?
    Maybe truth -- for its own sake -- was better than fame?

    And then the true meaning of science burst through,
    And the Schmirk realized something the Nerds always knew:
    Nature's book never closes. The knowledge is there
    For any who'll read it -- if only we dare.

    T'isn't quite clear what happened; but some people say
    That the Schmirk's tiny brain grew three sizes that day.
    So he hurriedly went to the lab, it appears,
    To work on molecular motors and gears.

    So he now helps humanity reach for the stars,
    And he himself -- the Schmirk --
    built the first house on Mars.

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