Saga of Soul
"<Well,>" said Eriko as she popped the DVD out, "<three seasons down, two more to go.>"
My name is Junko, and... this is nice. Watching anime with Eriko almost feels normal, and while it's playing, I can almost forget about the crushing sense of debt and just be a friend. "<So, um...did you like it?>" Junko probed.
"<Well...actually, yeah.>" Eriko paused to consider. "<I'm not sure why I like this show. I mean, the plot is highly repetitive with a high concentration of filler episodes, the characters are annoyingly ditzy, there is no sense of tactics... but for some reason, there's something about 'Sailor Moon' that just works for me.>" She then grinned. "<Mind you, I know exactly what the biggest flaw of the first two seasons was.>"
"<What was that?>"
"<They didn't have Professor Tomoe in them.>"
Junko blinked. "<Uh, Professor Tomoe was a bad guy from the third season.>"
"<Exactly! They should have had him in the entire show! Heck, they should have him outside the show! You know 'Star Wars', 'Death Note', 'Azumanga Daioh' and 'Chi's Sweet Home'? Well, their common flaw is a regrettable absence of Professor Tomoe!>"
That prompted a genuine chuckle from Junko. "<You really enjoyed that guy, huh?>"
"<Well...Yeah! What can I say? I like mad scientists!>" She held up a fist. "<Give me the miraculous machinery! Give me the incredible creations! Give me the fantastic adventures that inevitably must follow!>" She paused. "<...I guess a mad scientist is basically the urban version of a fantasy wizard, but with the added implication that it's good old science behind it all. So… Yeah. Pour the mad science on me!>"
"<Aren't you doing all sorts of nuclear research?>" Junko said teasingly, then caught herself, feeling slightly awkward again.
"<What, you mean the unbihexium? I guess that's kinda mad science...>" Eriko looked around conspiratorially, then grinned and leaned forward. "<But there's also... the other thing.>"
"<What other thing?>" Junko raised an eyebrow.
"<Well...I was talking to Maxcorp the other day. And we talked about how using magic to solve the world's energy problem would be a great way to help people.>" She sat down on the couch beside Junko. "<I mean, think about it: We burn over 7 gigatons of coal for electricity every year, and that's without getting into oil and gas. If we stopped using petroleum in our cars, and switched completely to electric and hydrogen-powered vehicles, we'd still need an energy source to power them up in the first place, and...>" realizing she was starting to lose her audience, she cut short: "<OK, cliff notes: There are big problems with how we currently get our electricity.>
"<And... you think you could use magic to make energy?>" Well, why not? You can do pretty much anything with your magic.
Junko paused to think. "<So...What? You'll go to a power station and make electricity?>"
"<Naaah. That wouldn't work. I can create energy, sure, but not on the orders of magnitude required to power up an entire city.>" She paused. "<Which still makes it weird that I can create several tons of matter, since that should take even more energy, but I'll figure that bit out later. Anyway, I figured if I wanted to create a magitech power plant, I'd have to get clever about it.
So, I thought about using portals. I thought about taking that planetary rotation trick and harnessing it for energy, but... it would get really complicated pretty quick. Then, I thought instead about using portals to create a hydroelectric perpetual motion machine.>"
Junko blinked. "<A what?>" This is going to be one of those conversations, isn't it? Being Eriko's friend and confidante inevitably involved getting somewhat ahead of the eighth grade's scientific curriculum.
"<It's like this,>" said Eriko. "<If you make a machine, any machine, sooner or later it's going to need to refuel, or it will run out of power. A machine that could keep running forever would... Well, it would be unlike anything we've seen before magic showed up.
Now, imagine a hydroelectric dam. It gets its energy from a river's water being pulled down by gravity, right? Now imagine that instead of a river, it was using a huge water tank... and every time the water reached the bottom, there was a portal taking it all the way back to the top.>"
Junko nodded. So... it would keep going forever. "<Would that be a... perpetual motion machine?>"
"<Well...I think so. Which shouldn't be possible according to classical physics, but magic messes classical physics up something fierce. And then it gets even weirder!>" She took a few seconds trying to decide on the best way to phrase it. "<I tried to calculate how much energy this machine could make, and the results freaked me out a bit.>"
"<Because... Well, according to physics, the energy generated - the 'work' - is equal to the force (that's gravity times the water's mass) multiplied by the distance it pushes stuff. So that means the 'power' - the energy per second - is the force of gravity on the water, multiplied by the speed at which the water is going. But then, that means that the faster the water is going, the more power we get from the machine.>"
"<What's so weird about that?>"
"<The water is going in a closed circle with the portal! It's gonna keep being accelerated by gravity, and decelerated by the hydroelectric turbines. But this means that, if we start the machine off by taking the turbines out of the way, and letting the water accelerate for a minute or two until it reaches supersonic speeds, and then put the turbines in place, we'll get a more efficient power plant than if we start with the turbines on - and that's just plain weird.>"
"<Yyyyyeah, that's the weird part.>"
Eriko chuckled. "<OK, yeah, portals make everything complicated. Still, I thought it was an interesting solution.>" She paused. "<Of course, it would be complicated to implement.>"
Junko considered for a moment. "<Because... it needs a portal that's always on. So you'd need to make it a permanent enchantment?>"
"<Oh, it's worse. Remember, portals don't rotate with the Earth. A permanent portal wouldn't stay in place. So I'd need to make a permanent enchantment that created a new portal every minute or so. And since the water would be going really fast and it would be dangerous to let it hit the bottom while the new portal was forming, I'd probably need not one, but two flickering portals, one above the other, so there's always one catching the water and sending it back to the top.>" She paused. "<Still, it would make for a decent power plant. Not a bad solution, if it works... but I think I have a better idea.>"
Crap. Lecture's not done. "<Which...would be?>"
Eriko grinned. "<Let me tell you about nuclear fusion.>"
"<So.>" Several minutes and a growing feeling of dizziness later, still struggling with the information, Junko tried to summarize the crash course. "<Protons and neutrons are being held together inside atoms by the 'strong nuclear force', which is really really strong and powerful.>"
"<But has a very short range,>" said Eriko.
"<And usually, the atoms don't get that close to each other, because of electrical forces pushing them away from each other.>"
"<It's 'electrostatic', but yes.>"
"<But in the Sun, there's so much pressure that hydrogen atoms get pushed close enough anyway, and then the nuclear force snaps them together into bigger helium atoms, and that releases tons of energy, and that's nuclear fusion.>"
"<OK. OK.>" The weird part is? I hang out with Eriko all the time, and I'm still barely scraping by in science class. At least my English grades are great now. "<So, what's your idea exactly?>"
"<Well, getting a fusion plant to work on Earth is a pain,>" said Eriko. "<You need to create some huge pressure to start the fusion reaction, and then it heats up to millions of degrees and it takes even more power to contain it. In the end, you spend more energy getting fusion to happen than you actually get from the whole thing.
But!>" she raised her finger dramatically. "<What if you contained the fuel in a pocket dimension?>"
Junko blinked. "<You mean...like Castle Nexus?>"
"<Sort of. I was thinking smaller. Just a few litres. Then... you use wormholes to fill it with refrigerated, liquid hydrogen, or liquid helium-3, or whatever. Then, you magically create and add a pellet of something that's gonna break down in a minute and release a lot of heat, like nobelium or something - you know, one of those unstable elements that decay into radioactivity real quick. You close off the portals, give it a few minutes. There's nowhere to go inside the pocket dimension, and once there's enough heat, fusion gets going, and gigantic amounts of energy get released! Then, you open a pinprick portal going from the pocket dimension to a big water container, heat it up until it turns to steam, and... well, free energy!>"
Junko blinked. "<Would... Wouldn't that be dangerous?>" Isn't anything with the word 'nuclear' in it dangerous?
"<Well...Possibly. I'm not even sure it'd work, to be honest,>" Eriko admitted. "<Might need some testing. Might need some talking to people who know science better than me. But hey - it's a fun thing to think up!>"
"<So...>" Junko attempted a final summary, "<Your idea is to use a pocket dimension and radioactive stuff to create a mini-sun, and then use that mini-sun to make electricity.>"
"<That's the short of it.>"
"<...Who needs Professor Tomoe? We've got Watanabe Eriko.>"
"<And don't you forget it!>"
"<No, seriously,>" said Monsoon. "<Whaddaya mean, 'the Messiah'?>"
Author's Notes: I'm currently experimenting with the website (with some help). Older chapters are being revised, changes in layout attempted... If you have comments or suggestions, feel free to drop by the forum!