Now I’m sure you know what a sunspot is. It’s a big roiling hole going right down to the centre of the Sun. The Sun often gets sunspots, but I bet you didn’t know the Earth once had an earthspot.
And it was all Spookie’s fault!
It began one day when Dyspepsia was doing her homework. She took the pencil out of her mouth to ask “Where does energy come from?” She was writing her term’s dissertation and it had to be in by the next day. That meant no television, so she wasn’t in the mood for fussy answers.
Spookie took off her earphones, plugged into the TV set so as not to disturb Dyspepsia. She was all set to give the fussiest answer you can imagine.
“Well, from all over the place. Once upon a time, people used to say that all energy came from the sun. But then someone discovered vents pumping out energy at the bottom of the ocean, where sunlight can’t get through. So that didn’t seem to be true any more.”
“Then what do you think is true? That’ll do for my dissertation.”
In case you haven’t heard the previous stories, or you’ve forgotten them, let me tell you something about Dyspepsia and Spookie.
Dyspepsia is an ordinary little girl your age, with nothing special about her, except a gorgeous curl in the middle of her forehead. Oh, and her funny name. She used to ask Mummy why she was called Dyspepsia instead of a sensible name like Juliette. Or Mary, or Ann. Mummy said that Mary and Ann were far too ordinary—and she hadn’t thought of Juliette.
Now if you think that’s funny, wait until you’ve heard Spookie’s story.
Once she was an ordinary cat called Pookie, who belonged to an extraordinary man called Professor Schrodinger. But he did a cruel experiment on her, after which she wasn’t alive, and she wasn’t dead, but somewhere in-between. Not just anywhere in-between, but at a precisely calculated point. She was an undead quantum cat, so now everyone calls her Spookie. That’s as unfair as being called Dyspepsia, which is why the two are such firm friends.
Spookie had to think hard about Dyspepsia’s question. If you know practically nothing (and we all know people like that) it isn’t hard to answer. But Spookie is so frightfully clever she knows practically everything. Once upon a time she was a professor’s cat, and professors have no time for silly cats. But clever cats have no time for silly professors either, which is why Spookie said goodbye.
When you know nothing, you’re only certain of what you think—and you think it’s perfectly true. But when you know everything, you know what everyone else thinks, but you’re not so sure about what you think yourself.
So Spookie said “There was a man called Albert Einstein who thought that everything was energy and you could calculate it by E=mc².”
Dyspepsia took the pencil out of her mouth again. “Are you sure it’s ‘Albert’? It doesn’t sound the sort of name for anyone that talks sense.”
That made Spookie a bit cross. “Well, Einstein-whatever. Trouble is, it’s hard to tell where energy comes from, because it’s being recycled all the time. So you can’t tell whether it’s coming from the sun, or from chopping down a rain-forest and burning the logs. The label’s come off by then.”
“That’s silly,” said Dyspepsia. “Electricity is energy, isn’t it? You don’t see any labels when you plug in your electric fire.”
“Quite right,” said Spookie. “So write it down.”
Dyspepsia did. And very soon she’d finished her dissertation and they could play Scrabble. She knew her teacher wouldn’t mind her saying she didn’t know. Some teachers did. They thought you had no business not to know, especially after you’d sat through their yawny lesson. But the energy teacher said it was all right not to know. But she wanted a jolly good story from you about exactly why you didn’t.
Dyspepsia had the perfect story. By the time you get to use energy, the labels have all come off.
Now if you haven’t read the previous books, you might think that the next chapter is going to be Chapter 1. But it isn’t. We’re never going to reach Chapter 1. Instead of the numbers going up and up, they’re going to go down and down. And they’re going to go down a very long way.
So the next chapter is…
…to be continued.