The Chemist’s Fairy Tale- Installment 4 of 5- Marisa’s Orbital

“What the heck is this?” I asked, pointing at what looked like a makeshift pendulum clock constructed from yarn, a marble, and a piece of plywood.

Typical pendulum clock
Source: http://3.bp.blogspot.com/

“Heh,” replied Heisenberg, gazing fondly at the object. “This is a replica of the model that Max Born and I used to study anharmonic motion and perturbation theory seventy-five years ago. I made it using the supplies I found down here.”

“Ah, yes. You and your matrices, haha.” I couldn’t help but chuckle.

“You’ve read my papers?!” Heisenberg was wide-eyed.

“Eh, more like skimmed. I had my German exchange student friend translate them for me.” I grinned, proudly.

“Friends.” Heisenberg looked down solemnly.

Faking one’s death and then pursuing research in solitary confinement definitely makes networking, let alone befriending others difficult. “Dr. Heisenberg, we’re friends! I’m fond of anyone who enjoys iced caramel macchiatos.”

Anyone who enjoys iced caramel macchiatos is a friend of Helen’s.
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He looked up and smiled.

“So, what’s down here in this lair of yours?” I asked.

Heisenberg showed me around. He transformed the entire chemistry building basement into a laboratory. Test tubes, desiccators, liquid nitrogen tanks, beakers, flasks, he had everything!

“Did you obtain all of this from the chemical stockroom?”

“No, that was locked. I pretty much just grabbed items from the labs upstairs when the professors weren’t looking. I think I did pretty well!”

“Indeed, you did,” I said, looking around. “Do we have enough supplies to, you know, get to the other side?”

“Oh, you mean to quantum tunnel? Well, first we have to transform ourselves. We’re currently way too macroscopic to undergo any sort of quantum phenomena.”

“Excuse me?” I was baffled.

“Have a cookie, m’dear.” Dr. Heisenberg held out a plate of “psi-shaped” baked treats. “These are Schrödinger’s shortbread cookies. They work like a charm.”

Schrödinger’s shortbread cookies
Source: http://www.bakegreek.com

“What will happen to me if I eat this?” I asked, recalling Alice’s cookie-consuming escapades in Alice in Wonderland.

“Take a bite and see. Schrödinger used these babies to study standing waves first-hand.” He winked at me.

“You’ll have to do it with me,” I retorted. “And, hold on. Is there a reverse cookie, just in case anything goes awry?”

“How much do you detest background noise, Helen?”

“I loathe it!”

“Then let’s just do it! Eat!” Heisenberg demanded. I could tell that his caffeine high was slowly abating.

I bit into the cookie and savored the taste. “Oh, wow, these are delicious. Did you bake them using authentic Swiss ingredients?”

“If by that you mean walked to the local grocery store, bought Nestlé cookie dough, and then baked the cookies in a TCNJ lab drying oven, yes.” Heisenberg tasted a cookie. “Wow, so moist, rich, and delectable. Well, if research fails, I’ll definitely consider a career in baking.”

“You’d be the star of Cupcake Wars I said, facetiously.

“Nah, I’ve always been more of a brownie type of guy.”

I was suddenly taken aback by what felt like an earthquake. Everything became blurry as the ground shook and fragmented into a thousand pieces. A monotonous, droning hum filled the room and canceled out all ambient noise. I closed my eyes and wished for it all to be over.

Minutes passed. I looked around. “Eek! I’m tiny! Heisenberg, Heisenberg! Help!”

“We’re approximately 9.10938188 x 10-31 kilograms each, Helen.”

“We’re the size of an electron?”

“Extended waves of probability,” he said, nodding.

“Sweeeet!” I exclaimed, feeling an imminent mini panic attack. “So, what’s next?”

“I take it you’ve never quantum tunneled before?” Heisenberg asked dryly.

“It’s honestly not something I’ve considered pursuing on a Friday night.”

“That’s alright. It’s not very complicated. I actually prepared our experimental setup prior to our transformation.”

“Oh, really? Care to explain?”

“There are graphene sheets on both sides of the quantum tunnel mural; one facing the mural inside the chemistry building basement, and one outside. Below each graphene sheet is a silver plate. What we’re going to do is apply an electrical voltage, which will create a sort of energy barrier between the two graphene nets. If we decrease the energy of the system by cooling the graphene sheets using liquid helium and jump on the nets like a trampoline, we may be able to cross the energy barrier into the quantum tunnel.” He laughed maniacally for effect.

“I understand your methodology, Dr. Heisenberg, but what if this fails? What if we surpass the energy barrier and end up on the outside of the chemistry building? Or what if we simply break our skulls jumping into the concrete wall of the quantum tunnel mural? I’d rather not embark on the fall semester with a concussion…”

“We know nothing until we try, Helen.”

“Sigh, I suppose you’re right.” My heart was racing.

“Helen, do you trust me?”

“I do, Dr. Heisenberg.”

“We can do this. We can reach perfection. It’s just behind the energy barrier. Are you ready?”

“Ready,” I stammered.

“I’m right behind you. Jump, now!”

Marisa Sanders is a rising senior at The College of New Jersey, where she is studying chemistry and English. She is also the president of the ACS student chapter at TCNJ. Marisa’s hobbies include cooking zany foods, painting, birdwatching, coloring, the Beat Generation, and photoshopping. Her favorite animal is the Emperor Penguin.

I leaped from the graphene net into the mural. The stench of wet acrylic paint filled my nostrils and made me nauseous. I placed my hands out front and gasped at the sight of my body penetrating the wall. Colors swirled as I somersaulted through space, the sound of cicadas singing and Kelly Clarkson playing in a lab somewhere in the distance. I continued flipping for what felt like five hours, until I landed in front of a hot pink monolith. I looked around and spotted beautiful azure skies, and NMR and EPR instruments growing from thriving trees.

I basked in the warmth of my dreamland, until I realized that Heisenberg was gone. “Dr. Heisenberg!” I shouted. “Werner? Where are you? Hello?”

He was nowhere to be seen. I was completely alone in my own perfect domain.

One thought on “The Chemist’s Fairy Tale- Installment 4 of 5- Marisa’s Orbital

  1. Pingback: The Chemist’s Fairy Tale- Installment 5 of 5- Marisa’s Orbital |

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