Thursday, January 13, 2022

"He Let Go of the Dead Thing and Pulled His Hand Back Swiftly"

"Time Locker."
By Lewis Padgett (Henry Kuttner, 1914-58; HERE and HERE).
Illustrations by M. Isip (1904-87; HERE).
First appearance: Astounding Science Fiction, January 1943.
Reprints page (HERE and HERE).
Short story.
Online at Fadedpage (HERE; 15 pages as a PDF), The Luminist Archives (HERE; go down to text page 100; original text: 12 pages), and (HERE; original text: 12 pages).
     "A useful little gadget. Stick anything in and it shrank, shrank to a point where it was invisible and totally concealed—but it would also shrink other things and permit curious sorts of crime—"

Is it really possible to be too smart for your own good? Vanning is about to find out . . . .

Main characters:
~ Galloway:
  "I put things in the locker and they get small. Take ’em out, and they get big again. I suppose I could sell it to a stage magician."
~ Horace Vanning:
  "You mean it’s bigger inside than it is outside?"
~ Counsel Hatton:
  "I don’t know where you’ve hid that suitcase, but we’ll find it."
~ The judge:
  "Indeed! If such a piece of evidence could be produced, the defendant would be jailed as fast as I could pronounce sentence."
~ MacIlson:
  "Oh, damn! I’m sitting on the edge of a volcano with termites under me. I can’t stay here and wait till they find the bonds. They can’t extradite me from South America—where I’m going, anyway."

References and resources:
- "Rheostats": They're commonplace but you never see them:
  "The most common way to vary the resistance in a circuit continuously is to use a rheostat" (Wikipedia HERE).
- "he could have told Dr. Crippen": In its day the Crippen case was an international sensation:
  "The American-British crime novelist Raymond Chandler thought it unbelievable that Crippen could be so stupid as to bury his wife's torso under the cellar floor of his home while successfully disposing of her head and limbs" (Wikipedia HERE).
- "with gamma rays": Don't go near them, whatever you do:
  "A gamma ray, also known as gamma radiation (symbol γ), is a penetrating form of electromagnetic radiation arising from the radioactive decay of atomic nuclei. It con-sists of the shortest wavelength electromagnetic waves, typically shorter than those of X-rays" (Wikipedia HERE).
- "sipped his zombie": Not one of the walking dead:
  "The Zombie is a Tiki cocktail made of fruit juices, liqueurs, and various rums. It first appeared in late 1934, invented by Donn Beach at his Hollywood Don the Beachcomber restaurant" (Wikipedia HERE).
- "this space-time continuum": One's enough, don't you think:
  "In physics, spacetime is any mathematical model which fuses the three dimensions of space and the one dimension of time into a single four-dimensional manifold. Spacetime diagrams can be used to visualize relativistic effects, such as why different observers perceive differently where and when events occur" (Wikipedia HERE).
- "scalene pyramid": They're probably not too common:
  "A scalene triangle (Greek: σκαληνὸν, romanized: skalinón, lit. 'unequal') has all its sides of different lengths. Equivalently, it has all angles of different measure" (Wikipedia HERE).
- "thinking about tesseracts": If you find one under the bed let us know:
  "In geometry, the tesseract is the four-dimensional analogue of the cube . . ." (Wikipedia HERE and especially HERE).
- "the Duke of Wellington": "The Iron Duke" they called him:
  "Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, KG, GCB, GCH, PC, FRS (1769–1852) was an Anglo-Irish soldier and Tory statesman who was one of the leading military and political figures of 19th-century Britain, serving twice as prime minister. He is one of the commanders who won and ended the Napoleonic Wars when the coalition defeated Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815" (Wikipedia HERE).
- "Because of Newton": Lucky for the future development of scientific inquiry he just couldn't dodge that falling apple in time:
  "Sir Isaac Newton PRS (1642–1726/27) was an English mathematician, physicist, astronomer, theologian, and author (described in his time as a 'natural philosopher') widely recognised as one of the greatest mathematicians and physicists of all time and among the most influential scientists" (Wikipedia HERE and especially HERE).
- "an empty demijohn": We're not sure how common they are these days:
  "A carboy, also known as a demijohn, is a rigid container with a typical capacity of 4 to 60 litres (1 to 16 US gal)" (Wikipedia HERE).
- "a zoot stoop": A reference to a then current (1943) fad:
  "A zoot suit (occasionally spelled zuit suit) is a men's suit with high-waisted, wide-legged, tight-cuffed, pegged trousers, and a long coat with wide lapels and wide padded shoulders" (Wikipedia HERE).
- "on the Winchell": A sly (and probably not flattering) reference to a well-known gossip columnist, Walter Winchell:
  "He uncovered both hard news and embarrassing stories about famous people by exploiting his exceptionally wide circle of contacts, first in the entertainment world and the Prohibition era underworld, then in law enforcement and politics. He was known for trading gossip, sometimes in return for his silence. His outspoken style made him both feared and admired. Novels and movies were based on his wisecracking gossip columnist persona" (Wikipedia HERE).
- "against scop": Scopolamine, in the mind's eye of the public, was a virtual synonym for "truth serum":
  "While there have been many clinical studies of the efficacy of narcoanalysis in interrogation or lie detection, there is dispute whether any of them qualify as a randomized, controlled study, that would meet scientific standards for determining effectiveness" (Wikipedia HERE).
- "the plat standard": We're guessing "plat" refers to platinum:
  "Platinum is a precious metal commodity; its bullion has the ISO currency code of XPT. Coins, bars, and ingots are traded or collected. Platinum finds use in jewellery, usually as a 90–95% alloy, due to its inertness. It is used for this purpose for its prestige and inherent bullion value. Jewellery trade publications advise jewellers to present minute surface scratches (which they term patina) as a desirable feature in attempt to enhance value of platinum products" (Wikipedia HERE).
- "life in the fourth dimension": It's an elegant notion:
  "Higher-dimensional spaces (i.e., greater than three) have since become one of the foundations for formally expressing modern mathematics and physics. Large parts of these topics could not exist in their current forms without the use of such spaces. Einstein's concept of spacetime uses such a 4D space, though it has a Minkowski structure that is slightly more complicated than Euclidean 4D space" (Wikipedia HERE).
- "fenagled [spelling] 'em out": "to get or achieve (something) by guile, trickery, or manipulation" ( HERE).
- "can't occupy the same place at the same time": That could be fatal:
  "Each object has a unique identity, independent of any other properties. Two objects may be identical, in all properties except position, but still remain distinguishable. In most cases the boundaries of two objects may not overlap at any point in time" (Wikipedia HERE).
- "I reasoned by induction": Sherlock did the same thing more often than he'd be willing to admit:
  "Inductive reasoning is a method of reasoning in which a body of observations is synthesized to come up with a general principle. Inductive reasoning is distinct from deductive reasoning. If the premises are correct, the conclusion of a deductive argument is certain; in contrast, the truth of the conclusion of an inductive argument is probable, based upon the evidence given" (Wikipedia HERE).
- "soak up the entropy": Ordinarily, the physicists tell us, everything's going downhill and they can prove it with measurements:
  "Entropy is a scientific concept as well as a measurable physical property that is most commonly associated with a state of disorder, randomness, or uncertainty" (Wikipedia HERE).
- Another story which briefly touches on tesseracts is S. R. Algernon's "Murder at the Tesseract House" (HERE), while A. J. Deutsch's "A Subway Named Möbius" (HERE) explores the implications of such geometries.
- "Time Locker" was the first story in the Gallegher series (HERE), with the main character undergoing a slight name change starting with the second story:
  (1) "Time Locker," Astounding Science Fiction, January 1943 (above)
  (2) "The World Is Mine," Astounding Science Fiction, June 1943 (online HERE; go to text page 9)
  (3) "The Proud Robot," Astounding Science Fiction, October 1943 (online HERE; go to text page 95).
  (4) "Gallegher Plus," Astounding Science Fiction, November 1943 (online HERE and HERE; go to text page 120)
  (5) "Ex Machina," Astounding Science Fiction, April 1948 (online HERE and HERE; go to text page 7).
These were collected in Robots Have No Tails (1952).

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