Scientifiction Playhouse: The Rubber Sheet of Doom
Written 13 October 2003
[Based on the works at <http://www.seanet.com/~sunburn/>]
[Music. Superimpose title on a rotating, saucer-like object with a spiral painted on it, mounted on top of an oscilloscope cabinet: SCIENTIFICTION PLAYHOUSE: A GIX Television Production The image defocuses, then cut to the face of COOLIDGE MERCER, who beams happily into it.] MERCER: Good evening and welcome to Scientifiction Playhouse. I'm your host, Coolidge Mercer, and tonight we'll explore the world of relativness! [PULL BACK to reveal that MERCER is sitting at a desk next to a large trampoline. MERCER walks over to the trampoline.] MERCER: Scientists have recently shown that the entire universe is like a giant trampoline. Large objects, such as trees, elephants, or cathedrals, will distort the fabric of the trampoline ... [Suddenly, from out of frame, a bowling ball drops on the trampoline. It bounces onto the desk, destroying it. MERCER looks a bit nonplussed, but soldiers on.] MERCER: Er, while a SMALL object such as a mouse or a stick of gum or a helium balloon will barely distort it at all. [CUT to an overhead shot of two mice walking around a turntable, then back to MERCER.] MERCER: Tonight's episode explores the consequences of these facts of newly-discovered science. And fiction! [Fade to black screen. Title: THE RUBBER SHEET OF DOOM CUT TO a jungle consisting of some papier-mache trees in front of a painted canvas. Some loud noises, such as hooting chimps and birds, can be heard. A pair of archaeologists, RIDFIRE and BUETTFIRE, enter, wearing pith helmets. They are pushing brand-new bright blue wheelbarrows filled with random junk.] RIDFIRE: This is quite a haul we have here. I would never have guessed that this large, beautiful, mysterious island, which as the inhabitants told us has been deserted for thousands of years, would have such large amounts of ancient artifacts! BUETTFIRE: It is indeed amazing, my friend. The civilization that lived here must have had vast amounts of money, and yet they didn't invent the wheel! I guess that just goes to show you that our Western Civilization will always come out on top! [Both men LAUGH.] BUETTFIRE: But there's something odd. I can't put my finger on it; it's like ... RIDFIRE: I feel it too, but we're scientists! The island is a concrete fact, and until we get more data we have no business thinking that it's creepy! [Suddenly they stop moving. A foley artist belatedly makes a couple of loud THUMPs. The men push at their wheelbarrows but make no progress.] BUETTFIRE: Maybe this is the data you're after. Look! [He points to the wheelbarrow wheels; a closeup shows that the wheel has become hexagonal. The men look at each other in amazement.] ------ ACT II ------ [Title: THE RUBBER SHEET OF DOOM Fade in on a dusty room. An out-of-date table of the elements is on the wall. Two men, JOHANSEN and GORE, enter the room. They are wearing white lab coats and bow ties.] JOHANSEN: Have you read the report about Island X? GORE: Yes, I just saw it. That such a discovery came about because of a wheelbarrow. So much depends on a red wheel barrow, you know. JOHANSEN: I think these wheelbarrows were blue, weren't they? The color doesn't interest me much, though. I have a theory about the wheelbarrows. You've heard of the physicist Alfred Einstein? GORE: Of course. Invented the lightbulb, didn't he? JOHANSEN: That was just one application of his theories. But he's got more to say than that. His latest theory says that under some circumstances geometry can be changed! For instance, look at this triangle. [JOHANSEN takes a large cardboard triangle out of his pocket.] JOHANSEN: Now, if I make a simple change to it ... [He tears one of the corners off the triangle, making a very irregular quadrilateral.] JOHANSEN: ... it's not a triangle anymore but is instead a square! GORE: Astonishing! JOHANSEN: We must go to that island immediately! ------- ACT III ------- [Title: THE RUBBER SHEET OF DOOM The jungle. JOHANSEN and GORE are talking to RIDFIRE and BUETTFIRE as they walk along.] JOHANSEN: ... So my theory is that something about the composition of this island is distorting its geometry. The simple geometrical facts that you learned in grade school, such as that octagons have eight sides, may no longer apply. We must keep very alert to see if anything strange happens that might be the result of a seven- sided pentagon, for instance, or a circle that isn't completely round. Even good old pi, the ratio of a circle's perimeter to its diameter, may change. That's why the wheelbarrows wheels wouldn't turn, by the way -- if that ratio isn't twenty-four to seven exactly then the mechanics of rolling gets wholly disrupted, leading to the hexagonal 'circles' you saw -- RIDFIRE: Look at those trees! They -- they're not -- GORE: Good lord! I've never seen it's like! It is as if this island were free of the usual physical laws of the universe and instead had completely different laws! I'd better take a picture or nobody will ever understand what we've seen here! [GORE take out a cheap Instamatick and takes some photos. Briefly cut to a couple of mice on a turntable.] BUETTFIRE: I think we should get going. The area looks pretty unstable, and I'm not sure how much more time before this all becomes completely unsustainable!! We've already stayed more than I am -- [Weird visual effects incorporating a glowstick and a space baby. A theremin and a steel guitar mournfully play a duet. After thirty seconds or so of this, CUTTO the dusty room from Act II. JOHANSEN, GORE, RIDFIRE, and BUETTFIRE are all there.]
Whew, that was close. I'm glad I remembered to bring some rope!
Yes, that rope saved our bacon. I thought we were goners for sure!
I've given you all commendations for your bravery in saving us all, and I think that you can expect the Nobel Committee to take notice of your scientific sacrifice.
I'm just glad the photos came out. I keep putting my thumb over the lens -- my wife never lets me hear the end of it!
[The others laugh. GORE looks slightly hurt.]
Yes, well. I can't help but feel, though, that even though we seem to have escaped from that island unscathed, something has changed. It's like the universe isn't as regular and predictable as it used to be.
Yes, I've noticed it too. I wonder what it is?
[heartily] Well, whatever it is, I'm sure that Science will soon tell us all we need to know about it!
[All look straight into the camera, solemn looks on their faces. Swelling music. Title: THE END.]
Circles that aren't circles. Pictures taken in exotic locale. That was an entertaining story, wasn't it? But that's all it was. A story. Fiction. It did not really happen. But could it?
To answer these questions, we have brought in the famous scientist and inventor of the lightbulb Dr. Alfred Einstein himself. Dr. Einstein?
[in another room and speaking with a thick German accent] Ja?
In tonight's story, we saw an entire island collapse. Do such things happen in reality?
[with twinkling eyes] Ja! Islands go bye-bye all the time!
Has science found a use for these disappearing islands yet?
[seriously] Nein, not yet. However, we have every hope that the intense physical energy released by these islands may one day be used to power manned flights to Saturn, where the plentiful food and inexpensive real estate will bring about a new golden age in the history of mankind.
Well, that's certainly an exciting prospect. Thank you, Dr. Einstein!
Sank you, Coolidge, if I may address you so intimately!
[MERCER blushes and turns to the camera.]
Well, that's it for tonight. Join me again next week for another exciting evening of science -- and fiction.
[Music. End credits.]