A Physics Carol (Scene 1)

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A play written by: Folkert Koetsveld


(Prologue + Scene 1)
A Summer Student (Mileva) will be visited by the ghosts of physics past, present and future: Maxwell will tell of the arrogance of the "classical physicists", Physic's past tells of the happy early days of QM, full of excitement and new discoveries, Physic's present tells of the dull state we are in now, Physic's Future tells of the horror that is to come, when the scientific era has ended.
Mileva is sitting at her desk, she has some big scary books, which she is feverently reading. There could be a screen behind her, showing what she is doing on her laptop.
Enter Maxwell…

Maxwell    : (shouts) Don't fall asleep!
Mileva    : I wasn't, I wasn't sleeping, I was thinking, really.
Maxwell    : Terrible, terrible!
Mileva    : Who are you?
Maxwell    : The horror, the horror!
Mileva    : What the hell is going on?
Maxwell    : Ghosts!
Mileva    : (cannot believe what she is hearing) What?!
Maxwell    : The three ghosts of physics will come to visit you!
Mileva    : Oh my god, you've gone crazy!
Maxwell    : The ghost of physic's past will show you the arrogance of your way...
Mileva    : That's enough, who are you?
Maxwell    : (thrown off course) Who am I? I am James Clerk Maxwell!
Mileva    : Right, so you're the first ghost?
Maxwell    : What? No, I've come to warn you of the three ghosts of physics!
Mileva    : So how do I avoid them?
Maxwell    : Don't fall asleep!
Mileva    : Yeah, but that would be too late now.
Maxwell    : I beg your pardon?
Mileva    : I'm already sleeping, aren't I?
Maxwell    : I'm sorry, you lost me!
Mileva    : Right, Maxwell. Now I remember you. You're the guy that was mucking about that ether stuff.
Maxwell    : Mucking about? Me? I am one of the greatest physicists of my time!
Mileva    : Yeah, I know, you were from just before the great revolution that turned our view of the world around. Stuck between Newton and Einstein. Not a clue. Poor guy.
Maxwell    : Well, this is quite enough, you silly girl. I am this close of handing you over to the big scary ghosts, you know!
Mileva    : So what are you then? You're the nice little ghost?
Maxwell    : Right! That's it! Now you've done it young lady! There's three ghosts coming, one from the past (Mileva tries to interrupt) NO NOT ME ANOTHER ONE, one from the present (Mileva tries to interrupt) YES YOUR PRESENT NOT MINE and one from the future, and there's nothing you can do about it. There you have it. (Muttering) Stupid arrogant physicist. Well, she'll learn. (louder) Oh yes you'll learn. Mark My words! You will learn all right!
    (Maxwell off. Mileva is standing a bit dazzled on stage, not quite sure what to make of this strange man.)

Scene 1: The Past
Mileva is not completely sure what just happened. She returns to her books, but as soon as she looks at them she falls asleep. Einstein enters. He is dressed like a nerd, ribbed pants, sandals, the works. Very childishly, he sneaks up behind her, and yells.
Einstein    : Booh!!
    Mileva jumps up, Einstein is rolling on the floor laughing.
Mileva    : Who the hell are you?
Einstein    : I am so, so sorry. Let me introduce myself: I am the greatest scientist of the last century. However, I never lost touch with my inner child! (Sticks his tongue out to the audience, Einstein style)
Mileva    : Ah, Albert Einstein. You're the second ghost. The first, I mean.
Einstein    : Very good, I am impressed. Yes, I am the first ghost. You're a smart girl. What is your name, young lady?
Mileva    : Mileva.
Einstein    : Mileva… I knew a girl called Mileva once...
Mileva    : Right, excuse me for rushing this, but have you got something to tell me?
Einstein    : What? Yes! Of course. I forgot. (austere voice) Yes, you arrogant physicists! Gotta show you the error of your ways! Yes, so you think you know it all by now, do you?
Mileva    : Well, no, not all, obviously, I mean there's the Higgs, or rather there isn't, there's dark matter….
Einstein    : (interrupting, animated)Not all?! Not all? Not all she says! Stupid little girl! (Godfather-style:) You know nothing. Nothing! You got it all wrong!
Mileva    : What do you mean, we got it wrong, the theories are tested to the highest precision!
Einstein    : Right, not so smart after all, are you. Well, let me show you: In the beginning of the last century, a great discovery was made, that would forever change the way physicists think about nature.
Mileva    : (Trying to show she knows what he is talking about, she is a bit hurt by the 'not so smart' remark) I know, Thompson's discovery of the electron (an electron walks on stage)
Electron    : Tsding, I'm electron!
Einstein    : (Coldly) Special Relativity. Followed shortly after by the second great revolution.
    (Electron disappears with the speed of light)
Mileva    : (Obviously trying to make up for the first big insult) The photo-electric effect? That one is yours, isn't it?
    (electron reappears, photon from the other side, heading for a collision)
Einstein    : General Relativity. (electron and photon break, just in time, and walk of stage disappointed) A completely new concept of how we view space and time! (Space and time walk on, proudly?)
Mileva    : Only applicable when looking at objects a million billion miles away from our planet. Oh, and mercury, of course.(S&T look puzzled at Einstein)
Einstein    : But of great philosophical significance!
Mileva    : And of no practical use.
    (S&T give up, go off)
Einstein    : (excited): Ah, yes, you're right. No practical use whatsoever. No, thinking all day about some particles that NOBODY ordered, THAT's useful, is it? Don't you talk to me about useful!
Mileva    : So, what do you want to talk about then?
Einstein    : You.
Mileva    : (Drones the standard Summer student introduction) Well, I am Mileva, I'm a Summer Student here at CERN, I work for the LHCb experiment, on the calibration of the muon chambers…..
Einstein    : (halfway through) Boring, boring, boring! No, I mean you modern Particle Physisicists (spitting, actually saying pysisisicists).
Mileva    : What about us?
Einstein    : (Dryly)You got it wrong.
Mileva    : What do you mean?
Einstein    : (singing, like Gollum, makes Mileva sit down) Wrong, wrong wrong, all wrong! (teaches) Quarks? Don't exist. Electrons? Not a wave, not elementary, oh and by the way, positrons? Don't exist. The Higgs doesn't exist either, but you must have realized that, right? No? Ah, and here's me thinking you're smart. No, it's all wrong, based on theories that should not have started in the first place!
Mileva    : So, you know better I guess?
Einstein    : (embarrassed) Uuuhhmmm. No, sorry. No, that's the ghost of physics future, I'm afraid. (suddenly shouting) Bastard! Wouldn't tell me anything. Oh, how I begged him for the (crescendo) Ultimate Knowledge. The Final Answer. The Benefit of Hindsight! And do you know what he said? (mimics Vulcan greeting) "Live long and ignorant". BASTARD!
Mileva    : (Enjoying some joke) So this ghost denied the great Einstein the ultimate Knowledge?
Einstein    : (Oblivious of her joke at his expense) Yes! I even offered him all my wisdom, the result of a lifetime of thinking and questioning everything. Do you know what he said? "Aahhh, you made it all up anyway."
Mileva    : Well, that's really funny!
Einstein    : What? Why is that funny?
Mileva    : (Arrogant)Because, if I am getting this ghost business right, he WILL tell me.
Einstein    : Is that so?
Mileva    : Well it's kinda obvious, isn't it? I mean, I know my English literature, I know how this is supposed to go right: The ghost of physics future will show me where all this will end. (this remark is kinda painful for Einstein). The ghost of physics present will show me the consequences of my actions, and the ghost of physics past, that is (turns to Einstein, pokes him in the chest) YOU, will show me where it all went wrong!
Einstein    : Riiighhtt…
Mileva    : So?
Einstein    : What?
Mileva    : When did things start to go wrong?
Einstein    : Aahhh, that I know. Don't you get it yet?
Mileva    : Get what?
Einstein    : Ts ts ts, not so smart at all, nono. Well let me show you how things are supposed to be:
Einstein    : In the right corner we have: Sir... Isaac... Newton!!!!!
    (Newton on, eating an apple, of course)
Einstein    : And in the left corner: Socrates!!!!!
    (Socrates on, drinking his cup, triumphantly showing the empty cup to the audience.)
Einstein    : Welcome, gentlemen. Places….(Both men take their place at the black board) GO!
Socrates    : (Writing) αλλ ι κνωυ ισ θατ ι κνωυ νοθινγ
Newton    : (Writing) dv/dt ~ F
    (Newton starts explaining his law in a loud voice, Socrates the same, through one another, high pace)
Newton    : The second law states that the rate of change of the velocity of any body, be it celestial or otherwise, is proportional to the force acting on the body divided by its mass. If we now apply this theory to celestial objects, we find an inverse square relationship between the gravitational force and the distance between the two bodies, (here Socrates stops!) with a proportionality constant which I will call G, as in Djee, I am smart!
Socrates    : Well as the natural state of the human mind is doubt, the natural way to wisdom is through asking questions. The benefit of this theory is twofold: One: I am an incredible wiseass, and I can get away with asking questions to everyone, thus showing my incredible wisdom, and Two, as there is nothing easier than asking questions, I am basically done with this philosophy thing, all I need now is someone to write this crap down.
Einstein    : Right, gentlemen, thank you very much for your valuable contributions to the advancement of human knowledge. And now, ladies and gentlemen, it's time for the points. First, of course, there is truth. Well, Newton takes the prize there, as was able to explain the orbits of all planets very accurately... Well, except for mercury. Congratulations, Ice. (Newton makes victory motions) Right, second category, Beauty! There is more to a theory than just predictions, you know. It has to be concise, one formula that says it all, really. Socrates, one point! (Socrates' turn to be happy). Third category: Charm. (looks at Newton) Your theory may be good, but if you can't sell it, it's worthless. I am sorry Newton, Socrates again. (idem) And now, the final category. Will Newton draw level, will there be a final round, will we subject these theories to experiment? Noooooo, Socrates wins on strangeness!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Einstein    : (to Mileva) That is how things used to be, Man to man, or mano a mano, as the Spanish say. Mind against mind, an ongoing battle, and may the wisest man win! Now, big collaborations, theories too big for one head, experiments too large for one hand! This is why we'll fail. Everybody is thinking of his own little thing, trying to construct a better whole. But a thousand good bricks don't make a solid building! It is just a matter of time. It's not the final answer that you'll find, but your basic mistake!!! (Einstein disappears, leaving Mileva standing forlorn and desperate on stage)