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Null Rocket
by Brian Ames


Fraü Planck bellows up the stairwell. Max’s eyes roll--he is too busy for supper! Doesn’t she realize that energy is radiated in discrete, tiny units--quanta?

He rises from folios, universe unbound thereon. This concatenation of theories--arithmetic, ephemeral, rhythmic, sensual--may sum risk for Max Planck of Berlin. Not yet.


A supper for party elite. Mostly Planck will remain cerebral. Odd planets--clinking table-service, ointmented saber-rattling, trousers-hoisting over Lebensraum--will spin about in parabolas.

Max will watch politics across linen. In time, he will raise crystal, sip champagne. The room will slip away. There will be only moist forest, hominids forming a holy circle. Striking deerskinned tableaux: shapeshifters, radioactive decay, human cloning, the disintegration of nuclei, weird scenes inside the gold mine, paint, bone, recombination of history, chimera, fiery abduction, hydrogen gone motherfucking unstable. Non-linear. Lachrymal ducts feeding a final tear.

“Quanta transcend all of this!” he will blurt.

Egghead heretic: Der Führer will have bent his mind on Austria and the Sudetenland, unused to having this passion rivaled.

See the diminutive terror speak a half-Aryan hex!

See the Reichstag strip Planck’s duties!

Hitler! Whoreson!


Class began. Weird-haired Albert lectured that lightspeed in vacuum is the same to all observers, no matter their relative motion. C--the speed of light--is C no matter what. Furthermore, C is the cosmic speed limit for articles of mass. Only mass-less, near-hypothetical luxonic constructs such as gravitons and photons--perhaps neutrinos as well--may travel at C. And a delicious ideation: the speculative tachyon, swifter than C, the anti-datum zygote of time-travel--that thing particulate, but carrying no information, a null rocket, that could not violate causality and bring all of metaphysics crashing down in an all-altering paradox. In which an assassin might travel backward in time...


Planck toys with a new law that improves on its previous expression, describing blackbody radiation more comprehensively based on the presumption that electromagnetic radiation is quantized. Thus resolving the ultraviolet catastrophe.

In other words:

R = 2hv^3/{c[exp(hv/kT)--1]}.

This glyph, to Planck, is as elegant as a single drumbeat.




About the Author

Brian Ames writes from the Puget Sound area of Washington State. His work appears in Snow Monkey, Glimmer Train Stories, The Massachusetts Review, Sweet Fancy Moses, Weber Studies and Monkeybicycle. Pocol Press of Virginia published his story collection, "Smoke Follows Beauty," in February.