Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: ALL TALK, NO ACTION (01/10/19)
TITLE: Funding Frenzy
By David Butler
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Most of us gathered there were top scientists, but there were a few invited that we considered beneath our notice. They were highly qualified, and had gained considerable respect from the general communities at large. Unfortunately, they stubbornly adhered to the Intelligent Design world-view. It was even rumoured that some were Biblical Christians!
Upon the raised dais was none other than the chairman of IFAH (Industry for the Advancement of Humanity). He was a financial genius and a multi-billionaire. Seeing him up there like a grim high court judge, with his panel of executives flanking him, I could readily believe the influential, intimidating reputation IFAH had. I straightened my tie as he addressed the gathering.
After the opening remarks (I didn’t feel welcome) he got straight down to business.
‘…..You are aware of the reason we are here. We are willing to take funding beyond your present resources, if you can convince us that your project will be of considerable benefit for Humanity.’
He ignored the excited whispers.
‘From all submissions, we have chosen five, up to three of which we will approve today for further consideration. We offer up to five billion dollars – possibly more, if justified.’
Gasps and exclamations.
‘Remember that your case must be convincing enough to justify the grant. We are looking for results, not wordy scientific-sounding dissertations. Each project shall be examined and supervised by my colleagues here, who are both scientists and business people. Be prepared for searching questions from us, after your presentation. Proceed, Dr Mansfield.’
He nodded to the tall lady on his right, who came straight to the point.
‘First project: Space Travel to Habitable Exoplanets. Dr. Reamer, you may speak.’
Reamer jumped to his feet, aiming his hand control at the data screen. It burst into life showing a simulated spacecraft gaining light-speed momentum toward distant stars.
‘It’s Stephen Hawking’s vision!’ he announced radiantly, going onto describe the most exciting features of space travel, followed by colonization.
We were wowed, but the panel listened stony-faced.
Then the volley of questions began.
‘How do you overcome the effects of lightspeed on the human body, Dr Reamer?’
‘Our models show that no physical craft will survive collisions by space junk at that speed.’
‘Have you found an exoplanet suitable for colonization?’
He blustered and spluttered a lot of vague, general answers, but finally sat down, deflated.
Mansfield metaphorically brushed him aside.
‘Second project: Time Travel and its Possibilities. Dr Bardswell, you may speak.’
That was my cue! Grabbing my controls, I launched into the vision that had obsessed me for years. Transporting folks into a more favourable time-period! Undoing past mistakes! My simulated time-machine even looked like the Tardis.
Then the dreaded questions came.
‘In a few words, what is the physical principle by which you can achieve this?’
‘Er…we are working on the Doppler Effect of super-accelerated particles, when we find them…’
‘Have you succeeded in actually travelling to a different time?’
‘Well, we believe we sent some particles back a few milliseconds.’
‘Any measurable results?’
‘According to our calculations, even if something disappeared from our own timeframe and reappeared, it will be amalgamated with its new environment.’
‘We ....hope to calculate it so this entity, eventually even human beings, are encapsulated in space….’
In the ensuing silence, I knew I had failed. I sat down, crestfallen.
The next project was Global Warming Gas Absorption.
This team enthused about monstrous machines stationed around the globe, sucking masses of CO2, splitting it into Carbon products and Oxygen. It sounded good, but there was admittedly more hysteria than science attached to the whole affair.
The panel brushed aside the political paradigm and asked why their alarmist predictions had failed. And where would sustainable energy come from to process at such a scale?
No coherent answer.
After disposing of the fourth team’s project: Mining Metals from Asteroids, the panel finally scrutinized the last project: Integrated Technologies for Outlying Communities.
Under-resourced, this team of Christian missionaries simply presented the plight of remote indigenous communities globally. Using alternative technologies, they could provide water, power and other resources, together with “education” (Read “Bible classes”). They had already succeeded in many places.
Outrageous! Pushing their precious practical gospel!
Despite derogatory mutterings from the rest of us, the IFAH panel actually approved!
‘Finally, we have a project that matches our vision,’ said the chairman. ‘Detailed discussions shall follow. Meeting adjourned.’
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