BVC’s Mad Scientist week begins tomorrow but as mad scientists laugh at convention – bwa-ha-ha-ha – and this IS a story about time bending, I’m starting early with part one of a story that will conclude next week. Or maybe last week depending on the degree of bendiness.
Old Todger is often referred to as the father of time travel. His experiments in the 1650s were revolutionary and, to many, shocking.
Little is known of his early life. His father, The Venerable Todger – a fallen monk famous for The History of the English Courtesan – had the child sent away to Germany where, according to early biographers, he was raised by polar bears. The origin of this bizarre story is believed to originate from a mishearing of the name of the woman, Pola Bayer, who raised the infant Todger in her family home in Magdeburg.
It is believed that, whilst in Magdeburg, Todger may have been tutored by Otto von Guericke, the inventor of the vacuum pump. Certainly it was von Guericke who wrote the letter of introduction to Robert Boyle that gained the young Todger admission to Boyle’s ‘invisible college’ (the forerunner of the Royal Society) in 1646. Soon after, with the assistance of Boyle and other members of the college, he took rooms in Oxford and began the experiments which were to change the Jacobean world’s understanding of the nature of time.
His first experiment was conducted using three identical candle clocks. All were placed on a large table and lit at the same time. Two were then covered by specially prepared bell jars and the join between the table and the jars was sealed with wax. Todger then introduced oxygen (then known as spiritus nitroaereus) into one jar and carbon dioxide (spiritus syvestre) into the other. Time immediately sped up inside the oxygenated jar whilst slowing in the other.
The results were spectacular. The time differential between the three clocks was measured in hours.
Like many early scientists, Todger was not averse to testing his theories on people. He may not have been able to find a bell jar large enough to contain a person, but, with the use of a mask, he was able to observe the effects of spiritus nitroaereus and spiritus syvestre on humans. Todger observed that the gentleman breathing the oxygenated mixture appeared much excited and more animated than usual while his companion appeared to be very sluggish. To Todger, this was further proof of his theory that time was being speeded up and slowed down by breathing the gas.
Not everyone was as excited by this discovery as Todger. The relatives of the man breathing spiritus syvestre accused Todger of murdering him. Todger maintained that the man was far from dead but ‘living very slowly.’
Todger published his findings in the paper New Observations and Experiments upon the Nature of Time.
Then disaster struck. Herr Rolex, the Swiss scientist famous for his invention of the cuckoo clock – a clock entirely powered by small cuckoos – tried to recreate Todger’s experiment. Although initially it appeared to work on the cuckoos, Herr Rolex was devastated when he couldn’t speed up the ‘living very slowly’ cuckoos by placing them in an oxygenated bell jar. Something was very wrong with Todger’s theory.
Herr Rolex went on to repeat Todger’s experiment using three identical water clocks and found no appreciable difference between them.
Todger was much troubled by the news, but from this black despair came his greatest notion. Time could not be a single entity. Perhaps time, like the elements, was split into fire, water, earth and air. Todger’s gases were Air elements. The water clock was unaffected by them because they were ruled by water-time.
This led to Todger’s most productive period. He built his own water clocks and tested them extensively, trying to isolate the water-time element.
After a year, he found it.
(Part Two – next week)
Chris Dolley is a NY Times bestselling author living in France with a frightening number of animals. His novelette, What Ho, Automaton! was a finalist for the 2012 WSFA Small Press Award for short fiction. More information about his other work can be found on his BVC bookshelf .
An Unsafe Pair of Hands – a quirky murder mystery set in rural England charting the descent and rise of a detective on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Which will break first? The case, or DCI Shand?
Medium Dead – a fun urban fantasy chronicling the crime fighting adventures of Brenda – a reluctant medium – and Brian – a Vigilante Demon with an impish sense of humour. Think Stephanie Plum with magic and a dash of Carl Hiaasen.
What Ho, Automaton! – Wodehouse Steampunk. Follow the adventures of Reggie Worcester, consulting detective, and his gentleman’s personal gentle-automaton, Reeves. It’s set in an alternative 1903 where an augmented Queen Victoria is still on the throne and automata are a common sight below stairs. Humour, Mystery, Aunts and Zeppelins!
French Fried – the international bestseller – true crime, animals behaving badly and other people’s misfortunes. Imagine A Year in Provence with Miss Marple and Gerald Durrell.
International Kittens of Mystery. If you like a laugh and looking at cute kitten pictures this is the book for you. It’s a glance inside the International Kittens of Mystery – the only organisation on the planet with a plan to deal with a giant ball of wool on a collision course with Earth?
Resonance – “This is one of the most original new science fiction books I have ever read. If it is as big a hit as it deserves, it may well be this book which becomes the standard by which SF stories about … are judged.”