The Experiment of Naum Manivilov

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The Experiment of Naum Manivilov

That night the bed would not receive Isaac for rest. It rejected him from under the covers, and the next moment the great scientist stood barefoot in his night shirt holding a half-full oil lamp in his hand. He searched for something in the pocket of his neatly folded clothes by the bed and then, murmuring, started for the lab in the basement of the cold castle.
He was trembling with cold; however, his intention was to test an intuition that would not let him rest at ease. He could imagine the envious, flushed face of General Moren, crying: “Impossible! Black magic! A devilish device! The devil itself!” The light of the lamp descended with him, dancing with the shadows on the stone walls and stairs; then Isaac, still murmuring to himself, stopped before a wooden door with a heavy padlock and rummaged in the pocket of his night shirt for the keys. He unlocked the door and entered, slamming it behind him as if fearing that the miracle would fly out, like a bird, taking with it the wager to the pompous physicist, a toady with the rank of a general.
The next morning, the air in Isaac Newton’s guest room was suffocating. The guests, nobles and lovers of science and the arts, created a din in the parlour while dipping snuff. They talked vividly in small groups, eagerly anticipating what was to be revealed – the latest discovery of the great Isaac. At any moment they expected the appearance of their host from behind the curtain that divided the hallway from the parlor.
And surely, soon a servant came to announce the genius, who appeared, followed by two assistants. He entered with dignity and ease, wearing a well-groomed wig and a festive costume, beaming. In one of his hands he held a long glass tube closed with a metal lid on one end. He proceeded to the middle of the room, laid carefully the glass tube in the outstretched hands of one of his assistants, and ceremoniously clapped his hands several times in the air. The din ceased.
“Gentlemen,” he said. “We are gathered here to witness the fact that the stone and the bird are not at all different as is commonly assumed. Some time ago, General Moren and I were discussing poetry wherein a stone can become a bird and a bird a stone. We wagered that this fact can be scientifically established. I then stated that science is also poetry, that it can fashion a device in which objects of different weight will fall at the same rate. General Moren declared it impossible. Well, gentlemen, here is that device!” cried Isaac, pointing at the tube in the hands of his assistant.
A spirit of excitement spread through the guests. They whispered, murmured and chattered. Some of them put on their monocles and looked at the glass object, shaking their heads doubtfully. They were taken by the simplicity of this supposedly miraculous device. However, Isaac would not permit any doubt. He approached the tube, placed it upright on a small table and produced from his pocket a feather and a rather large black stone. He then dropped them simultaneously into the upper end of the glass tube. An instant later the stone landed at the bottom, whereas the feather hovered in circles for a long time before resting by the stone.
“That’s the law,” said Isaac. “And now the miracle!”
Then, at his signal, the other assistant brought in another glass tube. It was closed on both ends and contained a stone and a feather. Isaac took it in one of his hands and calmly announced: “Here, the stone and the feather are within, but the air has been removed.”
He inverted the tube. Inside, in that miraculous space of complete emptiness the stone and the feather fell, slowly, equally. After the objects came to rest, Isaac reversed the tube several times, repeating the experiment.
Applause broke the silence. Isaac could say no more, for the crowd flowed towards him yelling congratulations and flattery. In a moment he noticed the reddened, jealous face of General Moren, who was trying to compose himself while approaching. “Congratulations, colleague,” he said. “You have won the wager. You have managed to remove the weight from the stone. However, I fear that much blood will be shed because of this. Poetry has lost its sense, as have the birds.”

AuthorVenko Andonovski
2018-08-21T17:24:04+00:00 June 1st, 1998|Categories: Prose, Literature, Blesok no. 03|0 Comments