An Anti-Friction Hamster
Co-written with Eric "The" Baird '94
Invisionism (the Company for Inventionism) never dreamed that their Frictionless Coating for Household pets would prove to be so popular...
Originally, the Frictionless spray was intended for human use. However in the beta tests, it was revealed that there was too much potential for cruel practical jokes (There was one case of someone adding anti-friction to someone's showergel. The victim quickly found out that their clothes wouldn't stay on, and they could only go down flights of stairs...very quickly. It was murder trying to wash off an anti-friction coating. There was another case of an Irate husband, after a domestic tiff, sprayed his wife and left her in the bath. She was discovered three months later, emaciated and hysterical and it took 7 firemen and 3 large plungers to eventually get her out.). It was therefore decided that the spray's marketing should be limited to non-human use (and we built in a precautionary product half-life of some 2 weeks, just in case).
All in all, though, we were extrodinarily happy with the beta testing stage. For instance, it was demonstrated that one squirt and a man could slide from Manchester to Cornwall with one push. Of course he couldn't actually grab hold of anything when it got there and usually ended up in the sea....however, we were working on that.
The product was released in a flurry of advertising to selected petshops.
Some of the first fun uses to be reported back to Invisionism was that of people who wanted to own a hamster but didn't approve of cages. They just sprayed the beastie and put it in the bottom of a wok. World sales in those funny treadmill wheel thingies suddenly plummetted... and the more enterprising individuals noticed that side to side agitation of the Wok could allow the hamster to build up quite impressive speeds, sometimes even producing sonic booms.
The Ole' Hamster in the WOK experiment
After hearing this, our local lab physicist reasoned thus:-
"If the hamster was mathematically literate, would it consider the wok surface to be a complex finite unbounded surface? Would the hamster then be able to postulate the existence of a wok edge, or would the fact that there are no possible hamster curvilinear motion vectors that intersect the edge make the edge disappear mathematically? If the wok surface was remapped as a sphere, would the edge simply be a closed region with an hamster-repulsive field? A particle exclusion radius?"
We had to admit we didn't know. In fact we didn't really have a clue what he was on about actually....
He took a deep breath and looked patient.
"To elaborate further.. some interesting effects could probably be observed studying anti-friction hamsters in and around a black hole environment (or analogosly speaking, a tuba bell)."
"If you put a population of anti-friction hamsters onto the upturned bell of a tuba, then they could ice-skate around the edge quite happily, but given a certain maximum hamster speed and coefficient of friction, there would be a particular radius in the middle where any hamster that crossed that line would always disappear, never to be seen again except by other hamsters that followed it in."
We all still looked a little confused. So he marched off with a Nilfisk and a determined expression, and we didn't hear from him for another few days. Then quite suddenly, he lept out and beckoned us all into a hitherto disused lab.
We were facinated. Frightened, but facinated.
To illustrate his postulations, he had built a large chamber in our free-fall simulator, with the input nozzle of an industrial vacuum cleaner positioned in the centre. Anti-friction Hamsters were fed into the chamber at random postions and intervals.
He looked at us triumphantly and we just sort of..looked..back.
"Most of the free-falling hamsters can happily launch themselves off the walls," he explained, "and only experience a slight path deviation due to the suction toward the centre of the room, but some can end up in orbit around the air intake. Any hamster that ventured closer than a particular distance will definitely be a goner. If you mark that distance out in space around the air intake, you will have the point-of-no-return Schwarzchild surface."
"Actually, that isn't quite accurate.", he continues, "A proper black-hole simulation would have to replace the vacuum cleaner inlet with a tube that leads out into total vacuum, give each hamster a propeller-pack, and switch the lights out so you could only tell the position of each hamster by propeller noises or by shouting "Food!" and waiting for the excited squeaks. Of course, once a hamster gets so close to the air intake that the outrushing air around it is travelling at Mach1, you'd never hear it, and it would effectively cease to exist on sonar, even while it was still supposedly in the room."
We were getting into the swing of it now.
"Maybe bats would be a better example for the experiment!", quipped one of us.
"Hey! This would make a great virtual reality game for blind people!" suggested a lab junior.
"Maybe I should just shut up." suggested the lab physist