In Science, one thing sort of leads to another. So it was with the Parallel Euclidian Eye-space Polarization Experimental Research Station. The theory is generally accepted, now, but in 2035 it was not generally believed that light could be polarized along an axis parallel to the motion of photons. Scientists were divided into two camps: On the one hand, Betterworth-Crippenly at Cambridge thought the theory “utter balderdash.” On the other hand, Cambell-Simpleford-Smythe at Oxford considered it “unadulterated tripe.” [Suggins and Boggs at Texas A & M said “That-there theory is a load o’ fertilizer,” but few paid attention to this revisionist position.]
At any rate, the Parallel Euclidian Eye-space Polarization Experimental Research Station, or PEEPERS, was funded by accident. A secretary to a Congressional committee accidentally put part of a grant request for the PEEPERS experiment on her clipboard and, hours later, accidentally hit the insert key, dropping the request into a bill forbidding people from thinking about selling cigarettes to minors. In the rush to pass this law, which no right-thinking person could oppose, no one noticed the fine print that provided a hundred million dollars for PEEPERS.
The rest is history. For reasons too complex to relate here, the PEEPERS project was underwritten despite a public furor. The senior senator from Utah, Morris Smith-Smith, defended the project in his now-famous “The Anti-Science Philistine Luddites Are Upon Us” speech. The administration claimed the device would have military applications or replace the sigmoidoscope. Construction soon commenced under the direction of the proponents of PEEPERS, Dr. Billy-Joe Stein and Dr. Francis Andipanda, of the University of Utah’s Melvin Dumar Institute. Ninety million dollars were spent to construct a magnetic bottle in a deep excavation near Garden City, Utah. No one is sure exactly where the other ten million dollars went.
At precisely 2:34 a.m., on March 1st, 2038, two thousand volts of electric power were turned on, energizing the magnetic bottle. Pumps circulated liquid nitrogen to cool the contraptions. Rotating thingies went round and round, as is their wont, sending sparks everywhere. The press, who were there in droves, were quite excited by this and asked what function these latter devices served. They never received a satisfactory answer.
The tension built. Journalists bit the erasers off their pencils. Government civilian and military observers muttered imprecations or mumbled something about “a hundred friggin’ million dollars down the drain.”
Drs. Stein and Andipanda tweaked knobs and gizmos, took readings, and bustled around in white coats, looking like custodians of something worth $100 Mil. Finally, at 3:07, Dr. Andipanda, who won the coin toss, put his eye to the optics of the viewing chamber.
Despite the fact that no scientist thought the device would do anything, a large number of outcomes had been postulated and wagered upon, contingent on it working at all. Some theorists (or journalists) said the lucky winner of the coin toss would lose his eyesight to a burst of radiation. Others leaned toward “peculiar light phenomena and stuff.” Others said “moonshine.”
“What do you see, Frank?” asked Smith-Smith.
“Vhat am I seeing? I am seeing…”
“Yes…?” No one breathed.
“Vell, not much. I am forgetting to take off the lens cap. Vun moment. Sorry-sorry.”
As the lens cap was removed, the tension continued. Journalists swallowed the erasers they had bitten off earlier. Observers gritted their teeth and rolled their eyes. At 3: 09, Dr. Andipanda again put his eye to the viewing scope.
“Good graciousness!” he exclaimed. “Good graciousness!”
“What do you see?” Dr. Stein pleaded.
Dr. Andipanda took his eye from the optics and said, “I am seeing fairies!”
Yes, Doctors Stein and Andipanda had discovered a way to observe fairies. Fairies, long thought to be imaginary, had been found genuine. Under ordinary lighting, they were invisible. They could only be seen in the presence of the magnetic field and enhanced polarization. Previous sightings of fairies must have coincided with natural occurrence of similar conditions.
Financially, PEEPERS was a failure. Nothing valuable was learned. And, although many people wanted to see fairies, the magnetic bottle made video recording almost impossible, rendering images indistinct. Film records were impossible, as a result of the “Toxic Chemical Elimination Act” of 2022. If you wanted to see fairies, you had to take an elevator down into the earth below Garden City and press your eye to Drs. Andipanda and Stein’s optics. The researchers announced that their apparatus could be used gratis by US taxpayers, who, after all, had paid for it. The elevator ride down was also free, since gravity assisted it. The ride back up, however, was priced at $5 a pop.
When government representatives objected strenuously to this charge, Drs. Andipanda and Stein merely smiled and pointed out the fact that they owned the elevator and the property on which it was built. The scientists continued to rake in a healthy daily income, even after the government instituted a $5 per head tax for the use of the apparatus.
Not that all was rosy in the fairy department. In fact, a problem arose less than an hour after the first visitors arrived. One such visitor, Mrs. Hortensia Underblum, put her eye to the lens, gasped, and shouted in horror, “They’re…they’re…naked!”
Dr. Andipanda merely shrugged and said, “Vell, of course, they are being naked. They are fairies. Fairies are always totally naked in their bare-bottomness.”
Mrs. Underblum’s anger was not assuaged. She gathered up her righteous dudgeon and stalked back to the elevator, exclaiming, “Shameful, nasty creatures! There should be a law.”
After much research, it was discovered that there was a law. The State of Utah Attorney General found not one, but twenty-nine laws that could be applied to fairies cavorting in the nude. Mrs. Underblum returned in triumph, restraining orders at the ready. Imagine her shock and disappointment when she was informed that the entire facility was Federal property, and that the State had no jurisdiction.
Have you ever seen fairies?