Stories from a Dublin Scientist

Month: December, 2012

Picture it and write: The Balance

Hi there! Here is my offering for this week’s Picture it and write competition from Ermilia’s blog, here. Once again the picture is not mine I only use it for inspiration. Anyway, Enjoy!

The Balance

It isn’t what you’d think it would be, the immortality, the infinite power, they all don’t give as much freedom as you would expect. In fact I am so constrained in what I do that I might as well be in a prison, a cage of my own construction. All the worse because I know that I am in it, knowing that it is there for a purpose.

I am a god. I maintain the balance.

The old gods did not see as we did. They were arrogant in their power and tried to mould the world in their image. They failed. Creation struck back and the universe rebelled in upheaval. The world shifted constantly from stifling order to terrifying anarchy. No life was possible. In desperation we rebelled. The heavens filled with flame and we managed to drive the old gods out into the darkness. From then on we have stood watch, in case the old gods return, and to keep the world in equilibrium.

We gods maintain the balance.

The world is filled with injustice. We hear it in your prayers. Why is there war? Why disease? Why did that child have to die? Why did that evil man triumph? Why don’t you do anything? The answer is we do what we can. No more. We could banish all the evil in the world in a heartbeat, without even breaking a sweat. But it wouldn’t be finished there. The whole of creation, everything in the universe is built with two sides, good and evil, ying and yang. For there to be good in the universe there must be evil too in equal measure. Removing it now will only in bring it back  ten-fold, in ways too horrible to mention.

For the sake of the world, we maintain the balance.

Some of you think we are uncaring. You cannot be more wrong. With omniscience we see everything that goes on in the world, from infinite angles and down to the scale of tiniest parts imaginable. We see all the tears, hear all the cries and feel all the pain. We remember everything, in the finest detail and with absolute recall. Our hearts were used as a mould for yours but yours were imperfect in comparison. Our grief at the death of a single bird is a billion times greater than your mere mortal minds would ever be able to fathom. The total sum of our grief is beyond reckoning. This is why we also watch each other. In case one of us is tempted to give one more miracle, save one more person in need. For the temptation is there, always, kept in check only barely by the certain knowledge that a future far worse would come into being is we did what we wished.

We gods keep watch. To maintain the balance.

Often even I am overwhelmed, such is the vast mountains of sorrow that sweeps the world. On days like that I come to a mountain top, or a plain, or some deserted rock in the ocean, as far from man and his works as I can go and I let fly. I open a rent in the fabric of reality and summon all the energy I can. I twist it, shape it, and then throw it about in wild abandon. Into each thrust of infinite fury I vent all of my frustrations. Why do I let things happen? Why did they all die? How can it be that anything more than a token of good on our behalf will summon an evil greater than can be imagined? As my blazing bolts of divine power approach something in the real, be it rocks, stones, or the simplest blades of grass, I retrieve them back, sending them from whence they came, returning them to the abstract. Nothing is harmed, or even disturbed, for even that may tip things over. And then, my thirst for anger quenched, I return to my station, to continue the vigil.

The curse of the gods, the tyranny of the balance.

Another world

Chesterfield Avenue, running through the Phoenix Park, is one of the better places in Dublin to go to on a cold winter’s evening when you want to look at the stars. The only a few meters from the road it gets nice and dark and when the sky is clear a great many stars and planets are visible.

I have recently started going there with Joseph, a friend of mine who works in the astrophysics section on the floor above us. He checks the grapevine so always knows the best things to look at any given day.

One evening we had set up and were starting to observe Jupiter, which was quite bright that night. I heard something from behind us and turned to see what it was. It was a man and small boy, out walking their dog.

“Whatchya looking at?” the boy , he must have been about five, asked me. “A planet!” I replied “do you want to take a look?”

The boy had an eagerness in his eyes I sadly find lacking in the current generation of college students. I kicked Joseph off the telescope and directed the boy, his name was John, to look through the eye-piece. The telescope isn’t very good but you can make out the bands of the cloud deck and If you’re lucky, the Great Red Spot. This was a lucky day.

“Whoa!” John said, filled with wonder “That’s a whole planet?” Joseph answered “Yup! It is! A big one! And can you see two bright stars to the left side of it?” John barely took his eyes away from the eye-piece to nod “They are Ganymede and Callisto; worlds bigger than our own moon.”

We spent another half an hour talking about what we had just looked at and of all the space missions that were going in that direction. It was a wonderful experience, both for us grizzled scientists, and for that young boy.

Maybe a future astronomer?

We can only hope.


Written for Trifecta week Fifty Seven

Picture it and write: Practice

Hello there! This is my offering for this weeks picture it and write for Ermilia’s Blog here. Once again the picture is not mine I only use it for inspiration. Anyway,  Enjoy!


Superstition is rampant in the arts, no one can really question that. Writers often have a favourite pen or place to summon their muse, Painters often will only put brush to canvas at certain times of the day and it has been said there is a musician who will play a gig only when he is wearing a certain pair of underwear.

As with the rest so are dancers.

Marilyn O’Rourke was such a dancer. She was in Ballet Ireland’s cast for an upcoming edition of the Nutcracker, she was the star, to play the beautiful Marie and was working her legs off in order to prepare for the role. Practice involved both physical training and constant rehearsals, it was very demanding. Marilyn found that even with the regular breaks that Gunther, the choreographer would insist on she would still find herself more and more tired as the hours of practice went on. By the time she got home both her limbs and her spirit was exhausted.

Marilyn didn’t know what to do about it. If she went to get help that could be seen as a sign of weakness, weakness sufficient to mean that she might lose the role of Marie. The role meant everything to her, she couldn’t abide the thought of losing it. So she kept quiet, silent as a lamb, while the work gradually ate her away from the inside.

The toll was really starting to tell on Marilyn. After only a week of this heavy training her family and friends started to comment on how her youthful looks were starting to look increasingly gaunt. Marilyn started to make the extra effort of wearing more make up which seemed to put most people off the scent. Everyone except Gunther.

One morning, during the first break session of the day, Gunther called Marilyn over to him “Ah! My beautiful Miss Monroe!” he cooed at her, Gunther was a camp as Christmas but that did not prevent him from remarking on his dancer’s beauty or from giving them nicknames, handing Marilyn the Monroe moniker had taken him about five minutes. “You should come with me. I have something to show you.”

Gunther wasn’t known to play practical jokes against his dancers but others were and Marilyn had been party to enough pranks to be wary. But the thing is, Gunther was the boss and what he said goes so she followed him.

The rehearsals were held in a ramshackle old Georgian building on Mountjoy Square. The studio occupied most of the second floor and there were some changing rooms and a toilet beside the dirty stairs. It was down these stairs that Gunther lead Marilyn.

“I have just the thing for you down here!” Gunther called back as he hurried down two flights of stairs, past the level they used to enter from the street and down to the basement. Only half of the lightbulbs worked down here and the collection of closed doors had a dark feel. Most of the light in the room came through the glass of a door for which Gunther was searching his pockets for the key. With a giggle of triumph he drew the key from his pocket, turned the latch and called to Marilyn, “Follow me”

In most inner cities, back gardens are something of a rarity. Even more rare are ones that still posses something close to greenery and are not a bare slab of poured concrete. When Marilyn walked to the door it was as if she was suddenly transported miles out into the countryside. If this tangle of weeds, towering trees and ivy had ever see a gardener it would have been nothing but a long-gone memory. It reminded Marilyn of the forests of her native Wicklow.

Gunther jumped here and there pointing at the plants in the garden and remarking how he had only just secured a key to the back door. “Look here Monroe!” he pointed. The ivy and trees had conspired to make a hollow. There was a thick mat of vegetation of the ground and it yielded softly to her feet. “Go ahead!” Gunther remarked conspiratorially “Sit down! It is quite comfortable.”

Marilyn gingerly settled down on the carpet of ivy. She found it more familiar and much more comfortable than the hard floor and harder benches. She found herself stretching out better than she had ever done at a conventional break.

“It is good yes?” asked Gunther. Marilyn nodded with a grin “It gets better!” Gunther grinned back and with a lighting motion he thumped one of the trunks behind him. The whole canopy shook above Marilyn and a shower of red blooms fell down around her. “One of the trees has beautiful flowers” Gunther remarked “They are there all summer”

It was a magical scene and Marilyn felt her heart sing with it. Gunther though had to stoop down beside her and remind her that the break was over. Though reluctant, Marilyn found that she was able to rise more readily than she had before. Her surprise must have shown on her face. Gunther smiled his deep smile “It seems that coming here has done you some good!” he said. He clasped her hand, passing over a key to Marilyn “You are a woman of nature” he said, “I can see this. Your heart belongs here. Take this key and come here whenever you need.” Marilyn’s face said more than any thank you could.

From that day on Marilyn visited that little sanctum every chance she could. It was a ritual as important to her as mastering the techniques that Gunther thought to her. Even when on tour she made it her business to find somewhere green to lie in and let the stress flow away.

Her new regime did Marilyn a world of good. Her unwound body and mind delivered a better performance than she had ever been able to give before. The critics loved her and she became one of Ireland’s most loved and respected dancers.

This just goes to show. Superstitions and rituals may make no sense, they may be discredited but more often than not, they work.

Christmas Horoscopes

Capricorn (22 December-20 January): Your consumption of Christmas dinner will reach such records levels that doctors will eventually find your blood contains more than 30% gravy.

Aquarius (21 January-19 February): Elf technicians are working around the clock on the problem but unfortunately your Christmas wish for a robotic Jessica Alba is looking bleak!

Pisces (20 February – 20 March): Though your camera may be broken you will still be able to remember all the fun times you had when the massive credit card bills arrive throughout the new year.

Aries (21 March – 20 April): The fondue set that you and the Johnstons down the street have been exchanging as gifts for the last ten years will finally break. This will not prevent you from trying to pass it on again next year.

Taurus (21 April – 21 May): A new star in your sign will be the harbinger of good luck for you. I hope your happy with that! That was a supernova you know! Destroyed a whole planetary system! Billions of inhabitants! Jerk!

Gemini (22 May – 21 June): Readings of your sign will summon three travellers from the East. Though in your case they will not be wise kings but rather clueless double glazing salesmen.

Cancer (22 June – 23 July): Rapid increases in the price of energy will mean you will benefit in a surprising way from your continuing presence on the naughty list.

Leo (24 July – 23 August): You will decide to cast off many of the recent traditions of Christmas and embrace the ancients rites of Yule. In the end however Police will be called when you try to sacrifice your Cousin Geoff.

Virgo (24 August – 23 September): When the loud snap of Christmas Crackers wakes up and confuses Great-Uncle Phil you will all find it very amusing. You will not find it amusing when he starts to return fire.

Libra (24 September – 23 October): Packing yourself naked into a parcel as a gift for the person you love can be a shot-in-the-arm for the love life of consenting adults. But a word to the wise; air-holes.

Scorpio (24 October – 22 November): Your family Christmas board-game session will take an ironic turn when your Cluedo match ends with one dead body and four likely suspects

Sagittarius (23 November – 21 December): Both the stars and Santa Claus want you to know that they have been watching you your whole life and neither can explain your fascination with hot-pants.

Christmas Visitors

The house is a mess. Leftovers filling the dog. Children running amok in wild, sugar-filled pandemonium. A knock on the door. We know who’s there.

The Three Wise guys from the East Wall.


Written for Trifextra Week Forty Seven

P.S. If any of my cousins were ever to read this. They are in reality nice, intelligent people.

Picture it and write: Requisition

Hi there! This is my offering for this weeks picture it and write on Ermilia’s blog here. Once again, the picture is not mine, I only use it for inspiration. Anyway, Enjoy!


It was nearly two hours into the working day before anyone noticed that Professor Clyde Williams had not shown at the base. Five hours had passed before someone had checked if he was ill at home. After that it only took fifteen seconds for word to get back to Colonel John Delancy, formerly of Military Intelligence, and for him to raise a shit-storm the likes of which many had never seen. The project was still going ahead, it was much too big to stop, but Williams was important and he had to be found, dead or alive.

Captain Samuel Jones opened the modest seeming door of Colonel Delancy’s office. For the look on his face, he might as well have been walking into the mouth of hell. “Please!” The Colonel said in sickly sweet tones, “Take a seat”

The poor young officer hadn’t a clue why he was there, Delancy had made sure that there had been no general leaks around the base, but the colonel’s reputation was enough to frighten the tar out of him. Delancy liked that just fine.

“So! Did you acquire an unusual shipment for one of the scientific staff in the last two months?” The captain looked confused for a moment and then the gears seemed to start turning in his head “Oh! Clyde! I mean Professor Williams! Yes! I requisitioned some special items for him!”

“You didn’t think there was anything unusual about the order, did you?” The captain had a confused look on his face “Uh! Sir! In what way?”

“Consider what else they needed. Wire, magnets, high-grade explosives. Did you think there was anything unusual about a request for half a million dollar’s worth of gem diamonds? Did it strike you as odd?”

The officer was struck by the question “But sir! Standing orders were to provide whatever the slide-rulers wanted. No questions!  No matter what!”

Delancy coughed back a short laugh, classic misdirect. “So you did think there was a problem with the order? It did strike you as odd, didn’t it?”

Captain Jones looked like a school boy who had just been caught cheating “I did question Professor Williams. He started talking about Moh’s numbers and refractive indices. I just switched off, figured he knew it better than I did, and signed it off. Who knows what they need? Or what they can do with it?”

Delancy had to agree with the Captain there. It was too easy for the egg-heads to claim they needed anything and everything. Especially now that their work was high priority. It wasn’t like you can check a manual for what they needed and you certainly could call other experts, they worked for the other guys, this was a war!

After the obviously relieved captain was marched out of his office, Colonel Delancy sat back on his desk and thought a while. The captain just seemed to be over his head, thought Delancy, no real need to punish him, maybe just transfer him, to the front, get him out of his hair. There was going to need to be some changes too on how things were done at the base. More oversight would be necessary as well, maybe a scientific panel. But he would get back to that.

He opened a drawer on the side of his desk and took out the cloth bag inside. He opened it and spilled the contents onto the felt of his desk. There was the blazing sparkle from the pile of diamonds that scattered beneath him. Only about fifty thousand worth, most were missing.

The professor had a ‘companion’ in the local town. That was a safe word for prostitute. He would see her regularly. She seemed clean but you never could know. Delancy had tried to set him up with a friend of his from back in the ‘firm’ a honey trap who could be guaranteed to make him sing for her. Unfortunately the fucker stayed loyal, well not to the home side. It seems that she had gone missing too, how suspicious was that?

He had his men going through Williams’ office with a fine tooth comb. They had to bring on of his students along with them. Try and figure out if anything was missing. That was where they found the diamonds. It so far seemed like everything was there only what was in the professor’s head was missing, that was a serious security risk.

It was a risk that had to be contained. The thing is, he could be anywhere in the country, travelling with a fortune in untraceable diamonds and a possible enemy agent.

He had up to a twelve-hour head-start. The chase was on.

Horoscopes 2

Capricorn (22 December-20 January): You will make legal history next week when you are successfully prosecuted for crimes against fashion.

Aquarius (21 January-19 February): Your father was right when he said you should face adversity straight on with your head held high, though he probably didn’t mean runaway freight trains.

Pisces (20 February – 20 March): The stars have no objection to you fulfilling your objectives over the next week. Unfortunately six security guards and a court order may have other ideas.

Aries (21 March – 20 April): The sight of your demise will bring the whole world to a sudden silence, followed by light tittering, and finally, loud, mocking, laughter

Taurus (21 April – 21 May): No matter how far in the future you go or what else is gone, from tomorrow you will forever be known as “That idiot with the badger”.

Gemini (22 May – 21 June): Craving excitement, you will expand your horizons to never before reached heights of experience by spreading Jam on your toast this afternoon.

Cancer (22 June – 23 July): A clerical error will bring you unexpected success this week when you win best in show at the county fair.

Leo (24 July – 23 August): Your emotions will go through a roller coaster of dizzying highs and deep, deep, lows. We are talking really deep here. Bring a shovel.

Virgo (24 August – 23 September): Your much maligned dyslexia will bring you the last laugh when the insurance company pays out on Acts of Dog.

Libra (24 September – 23 October): A word of advice. Cancel your reservation for Luigi’s on Sunday. Other people may want that table and after what is coming you certainly won’t be able to use it.

Scorpio (24 October – 22 November): Medical science has come in leaps and bounds over the last few years, cures unheard of only a short time ago are now commonplace. Unfortunately, it can’t do a thing about you being a dick.

Sagittarius (23 November – 21 December): After next week you will have found out that while a superman suit does not enable you to fly, if you set things up right, you can glide a fair distance before you hit the ground.

Let Us Build

Dear Friends! We have been through great strife. The gods have thrown all manner of hardship at us. War, disease, floods, and famine. After all that we have been through I am not surprised that many of you have forlorn faces, I cannot blame you for it but remember this; we are still here, still standing.

After all that has been thrown against us we stand tall, we remain. We have shown ourselves to be resolute and enduring. A testament to the grit and determination that has made us the great nation that we are. Every man, woman, and child amongst you has survived a trial by fire and is stronger as a result. Nothing has brought us down and nothing can stop us.

Look with me, my people, and see a vision of the future. A vision filled with anticipation of what we can accomplish, the heights that we can achieve, if we work, together.

I know that some of you may have been disheartened over our trials, some of you may think it is best to quit, of end as a nation. But I tell you that our best days are not behind us but in front of us. A future waiting to rise, phoenix-like, from the ashes of our struggle. A future for all us if we can just put in the work to achieve it.

So! My friends, my fellow citizens, my people. Let us build!


Written for trifeta writing challenge: week fifty five.

The Summit

I walked the trail, occasionally looking back at the car, sandwiched in between two others.

I was baking in the summer heat coupled with  my own exertion.

Yet had to reach.

The summit


Written for trifextra writing challenge forty five.



Six Word Stories 4

Went to ballet. Fell asleep quickly.


Handled loaded gun. Forgot the safety.


Made budget, gave speech, packed bags.


Looked out window. Saw wing cracking.


Used 3D glasses. Ran from cinema.


It was like a storybook. Frankenstein.