Control room at CERN.
A while back I was fortunate enough to visit CERN, home of the Large Hadron Collider on the border of France and Switzerland. It is the largest and most powerful particle accelerator ever built, capable of creating conditions present at the beginning of the universe. Amazing!
LaCost author in front of an older, (antique by today's standards), particle accelerator at CERN.
Now, on to chapter 16.
“The brain physiology is imaged using Politron Emission Tomography, or P.E.T. and Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy or M.R.S. The brain structure is imaged using Magnetic Resonance Imaging. Combining these procedures gives us quite a comprehensive view of what’s happening in the brain during different periods of activity. What we’ve found so far is quite extraordinary. The subject seems to...”
“Her name is Sarah.”
“Excuse me?” It was obvious this man was not used to being interrupted.
“She has a name. We don’t call her subject, we call her Sarah.” It was obvious her mother didn’t care what this man was used to. Five long seconds of silence passed.
“I’m sorry. I meant no disrespect.” Surely another scientist would understand his interest. He looked to Jason for help. Getting none, he continued.
“What we’ve found is that, Sarah, seems to be able to conduct enormous amounts of brain activity concurrently. We’ve all heard that most of us use only about ten percent of our brains in normal situations. That is of course not true. Normal activity can be much higher than that, depending upon the task being done. The actual figures are not entirely known, but they are much higher than ten percent, with a large percentage being devoted to sub conscience activity.”
As the man paused and flipped through his clipboard, Alison shifted uncomfortably in her seat. She couldn’t accept all these tests undercutting the humanity of her daughter. Jason felt her becoming impatient. The man looked up from the clipboard and continued.
“What seems to be significant, is what percentage can be used concurrently. Sarah, as close as we can tell so far, uses close to one hundred per cent of her brain during vigorous mental periods. That would be interesting enough on its own, but the last two tests seem to indicate something even more remarkable.”
At this point the man stopped again and flipped through several pages of his notes. He was obviously more interested in his data than anything else. Alison was about to ask him to get on with it, but Jason squeezed her hand gently. She kept quiet. The man finally arrived at the page he wanted.
“While it is a comparatively new field, we have been compiling information for several years now, on the amount of interaction between different sections of the human brain. For purposes of quantification, we set the average exchange rate between the different sections of the brain at 1.
During rigorous brain activity, such as taking a college entrance exam, or competing at a world class chess match, we have observed activity at the 2.0 level.
Our research indicates that during times of mental taxation combined with elevated stress levels, when a fighter pilot engages the enemy in aerial combat for example, we estimate we could find levels as high as 3.0 or more.”
Jason began smiling ever so slightly now. He knew where this was going. Alison listened carefully.
“The sub, Sarah’s exchange rate is, well, we can’t even estimate with any real accuracy. We just don’t seem to be able to quantify it, at this point.”
Or at any point, Jason thought.
“Which is why I’m sure you can see how important it is to continue the testing as quickly as possible. Every day that goes by equates to lost data. The implications for brain research are enormous here.”
The whole time he had spoken, the man in the lab coat had addressed himself to Jason, basically ignoring Alison. It was Alison who spoke.
“Every day that goes by, Mr. Johnson, equates to a lost childhood, not lost data. Sarah lost both her parents at a very young age. She is having a birthday on Friday. She will be eight years old. This is going to be the first real birthday for her in a long time.”
“I know those things seem important,” he said. “But if we can just look at the bigger picture.”
Alison responded, firmer and louder.
“She’s just a little girl. A little girl, who’s missed far too much of her childhood already. She will not spend her birthday being tested. She will spend it blowing out candles on her cake, and opening presents.”
Alison’s voice softened as she continued.
“Surely you can understand that. She needs to be able to have a childhood. There will certainly be time enough for testing as she grows up. We aren’t proposing to pull her out of the program. She just needs to be...to be a little girl, that’s all.”
Lab coat man remained unsympathetic. He continued, getting more and more demanding. Jason could feel Alison becoming increasingly distressed.
“I don’t mean to sound insensitive to the girl’s needs, but you must recognize the significance of this research,” he said, holding up the clipboard as if it were some kind of holy grail. “Now, give us the girl for two or three hours in the morning on Friday. That would still leave time for a birthday par…”
Jason had had enough. He barged in, his voice sounding like a growl.
“You were told once that she has a name. It isn’t girl, or subject, it’s Sarah!”
Standing up suddenly, Jason grabbed the clipboard from the man’s hand. Staring menacingly into a pair of wide opened, and very surprised eyes, he squeezed its clip releasing the contents. Papers began gently floating down in all directions. Jason continued, his tone quiet and threatening.
“You really should have listened to that.”
Taking a deep breath, Jason tossed the empty clipboard into the waste basket, then turned, and held his hand out to Alison. Her eyes were almost as wide as lab coat man’s, but they were beginning to soften. She accepted his hand, rose from her chair, and the two of them exited. They walked all the way to Jason’s car in silence. As he opened her door for her, she looked up at him and tightened her grip on his hand.
“I love you,” she said softly.
The guy at the end of the bar was drunk. Just as he had been the night before, and the night before that, and the night before that. He had always drunk a little too much, but this was different. This was serious. He was on a free fall now, and there seemed no stopping it. He motioned to the bartender, who slowly walked over.
“Look Fred, I already told you, finish your drink and leave. No more tonight. I’m not getting in trouble for serving drinks to someone already drunk. Now finish your, you know what, forget that last drink, no charge, just leave now.”
“What’s the matter?” Listerman asked with slurred speech, “My money’s not good enough for ya?”
“It’s not the money Fred, it’s you. What are you trying to do to lately, kill yourself? Come on, just go home, will you?”
“I don’t wanna go home goddamn it.”
He was getting loud, and several people were beginning to stare. The bartender didn’t want to get mean, but he had little choice.
“Fred, Fred listen to me,” he said, grabbing Listerman by the shoulders. “Go now. Go home, or wherever, just go.”
“But I don’t wanna go.”
“Don’t make me call the cops Fred, alright?”
Mumbling something under his breath, Listerman stumbled towards the door. Staggering across the parking lot, he cursed the bartender, he cursed his wife, he cursed his life. He especially cursed the man who had fired him. That bastard was to blame for everything. He really hated Bob Schimmel.
Reaching his car, he clicked the button twice to unlock the door, grabbed the handle and pulled, leaning back slightly. Because he had clicked the lock button instead of the unlock button, the door didn’t budge, and he proceeded to fall directly on his butt. More cursing followed, and when he finally managed to get behind the wheel, his mind was more on the stain on his pants than on his driving.
He never even made it out of the parking lot. The driver of the car he rear-ended was not amused. When he offered to pay cash for the damages, in exchange for not calling the cops, the other driver agreed there would be no need to call the police, and then proceeded to show Mr. Listerman his badge.
Jason and Alison had decided to keep Sarah in the science and math academy, on the same four day a week schedule she was already on, but the evaluations at the University would stop. Their tests, evaluations, and feeble attempts to understand Sarah’s intellect, were simply not needed.
Upon hearing the news, Sarah smiled. All children can tell when they’re loved, and when they’re not, and she was no exception. Between that, and her upcoming birthday party, she felt happier than ever. She had been alone for so long in her short life, but that was over now. She was no longer alone and she was loved, secure in the knowledge that she was being taken care of.
This allowed her to relax enough to begin to look forward to things that other eight-year-old’s look forward to. Things like making friends, and birthday parties. And although Sarah didn’t realize it, the nurturing she was receiving was gradually eliminating the stress she had grown accustomed to. This freed her intellect to advance at its natural pace. And Sarah’s natural pace was nothing short of amazing.