Bates-Gerson Effect, The
The Bates-Gerson Effect
The Gerson-Bates Effect: Teleportation involves the exchange of equal volumes.
Martin Gerson was satisfied with his statement. Yes, that seemed about right, he thought to himself as he typed the line. It fitted all the observed data.
He glanced at the clock. Almost time for Catherine to come back from the gym. Catherine and he had collaborated on this project for two years now, since they were both fresh from receiving their doctorates. He’d never forget the day they’d detected traces of rubidium in a tank of liquid helium they’d left at a certain distance from an atom laser, which led to the discovery of teleportation. It involved cooling matter to within a hairsbreadth of absolute zero and transferring it, and apparently the same volume of stuff was always transferred. They’d managed to scale it up, bought in some cloned mice and teleported those successfully, but they’d never tried to teleport a person before.
The door slammed, and Catherine Bates came in breathless and sweaty. She took off her overcoat and hung it on the coatstand, revealing sweatpants and an open grey hoodie over the top half of a lilac unitard. She hadn’t had time to change.
She glanced at the ornament she’d been bought for her birthday on the lab windowsill, a traditional pair of scales.
“How are you doing with that then?” she said, glancing at the monitor. “Hmm” she said. “I don’t think that’s quite right but I can’t put my finger on what’s wrong with it. There’s certainly an equal exchange of something - just not sure it’s volume. Ha!”
“So it’s the Gerson-Bates Effect is it? Why not the Bates-Gerson Effect?”
“Um, well I just thought...”
“Yes, I’m sure you did, Martin. Oh, never mind, I’m quite used to the casual unthinking sexism in the physics department. I suppose I should be grateful that I’m in there at all.”
As if he hadn’t heard her, Martin said, “Are you ready to make history then? The first teleportation experiment involving a human?”
“Well, that’s a bit of a glorified way of putting it. Yes, I suppose I am.”
“Right, well here’s the drink.” He handed her a glass of fluorescent blue liquid. It was just sugar, water, blueberry flavour and a harmless bright blue dye which was there to ensure even a single droplet would be clearly visible to the eye and, a little disturbingly, completely distinct from any bits of Cath which might be accidentally transported with it. They’d had to take care with the precise colour in order to prevent it from interfering with the lasers and went over to the corner of the room.
Martin turned on the liquid helium and cold steam started to billow around the tubing of the casket-like chamber in the opposite corner. The cryogenic system had really taken the edge of Catherine’s overheating from exercise. Shivering, she zipped herself up.
“Look, let me do it!” she said impatiently as Martin tried and failed repeatedly to align the lasers. The beams had to cross in the middle in order to create the node where the matter would swap. In a few deft moves, she was able to get the red, green and violet light to meet perfectly in the middle. She turned the focussing knobs to create a blurry sphere with a volume of exactly forty cubic centimetres, in other words about the size of a golfball, then booted the supercomputer which processed the data for the transfer. Even at the rate of processing the machine could manage, it would take around two minutes for the exchange to take place. They were edging with great caution towards the holy grail of human teleportation. The computer emitted a beep. It was too mission-critical for a fancy interface, so it just showed a blank text screen with a blinking cursor.
Martin had lined up the lasers rather better on the casket into which Catherine was going to have to climb in a minute or so. One way in which it did differ from a coffin was the fact that it opened at the end rather than the top.
“You think we should have given it a more reassuring form?” asked Catherine. “They’re never going to be able to publicise it looking like that.”
“Dunno, we’re scientists, not marketing experts. We just get on with the boring old miracles of modern technology. Anyway, want to climb in? I’ll get the imaging working.” He sat himself at the medical imager they’d bought to ensure the teleportation would take place from the inside of Catherine’s stomach.
She opened the door and pulled the floor of the internal part of the chamber out like a drawer, then climbed onto the cushioned, shelf-like surface. She leant forward, took hold of the open side of the doorway and slid herself back into the chamber. Martin pushed her the rest of the way.
Cath found the interior to be quite roomy. It was about the size of a two-person tent and well-lit. She’d balanced the glass of blue liquid on the threshold, and manoeuvred herself carefully around it. Didn’t want to spill it at this crucial moment. Images of slices through her body began to appear on Martin’s screen: first her foot bones, then various bacon-like cuts of her legs, followed by a womb and a couple of loops of intestine between a couple of lumps of hip bone, then finally the middle of her body. The metal of her zip teeth was also neatly outlined in white at the top of the picture.
“How’s it going?” she called out, picking up the glass.
“Can’t tell until you hold still. Whatever you do, don’t move after the teleportation starts.”
“Yeah, yeah, I know, it’ll cut through me like a cheesewire. I have been working on this just as much as you have, you know.”
“Sorry, just trying to look after you. I’ll have to take the flack if you come to any harm you know.”
Martin focussed the lasers. A bright green blur marked the site of teleportation between Cath’s insides and the place across the room. She wriggled around and shifted herself as he calibrated the position of the globe with the Y-axis lasers above and below the chamber. Finally, her currently empty stomach was imaged in the centre of the screen with a flickering circle where the teleportation sphere was centred.
“Breathe in Cath.”
She inhaled, and the organs shifted slightly but the circle stayed well inside her stomach.
Same again. So that at least was safe.
“We’ll go for over three minutes - don’t want any glitches due to processing deficits. I have to close the door now.”
“OK, I’ll drink it now.” She picked up the glowing sky-juice as he slammed the door and propped herself up on her elbow before drinking it down. There were actually three hundred mls of the stuff. It was sweetish and blueberry-flavoured as it went down.
A countdown display lit up just her head:
The locks behind her head clunked into place and a hiss told her the chamber was now completely sealed from the outside for the next three minutes. The internal chamber had to be magnetically suspended in a vacuum to isolate it causally from its surroundings. Now she was Schrodinger’s Woman. Nothing could be allowed to disturb the chamber and she must not move an inch until the process was complete. If she did, the teleport would start to swap bits of her organs for the air in the opposite corner of the lab, making it effectively an infinitely sharp knife. The plan was to swap a mere three tablespoons of the blue liquid for the same volume of air inside her stomach, in accordance with the current formulation of the Gerson-Bates Effect. This should produce a little bubble of air in her stomach and shift the small quantity of liquid into the bowl on the table across the room. An equal volume of each should be shifted, leaving her with a golfball-sized bubble of air in her stomach.
5 SECONDS. After counting down, the display would switch to counting down the 200 seconds of the procedure. When she emerged from the chamber, she planned to produce a tiny little burp to announce their triumph. After that, who knew? Fame, fortune and a whole career of fascinating hard work lay ahead of them.
3 SECONDS. She was still annoyed that Martin had put his name first. She also still had a nagging suspicion that she was missing something obvious. Ah well, sort it out later, she said to herself. In three seconds, the forty cubic centimetres of blue liquid would start to be transmitted over to the bowl. Better than vomiting, she supposed. Funny how it transmitted volume rather than mass. Anyone would think that instead of swapping forty mil of water for forty mil of air, it’d exchange forty grammes of matter each way. In fact-
Hold on a sec! What if it wasn’t volume that was conserved but -
Martin saw that the section of Cath’s abdomen was clearly stable. The display blinked off, ensuring the causal isolation of the phenomenon inside the chamber. Observing it would prevent the teleportation. There was a faint “plink” behind him. Since he was part of this causal world, he could safely look at that. He walked over to the other corner to see a faint mist of droplets emerging from nowhere and falling into the glass container underneath. He switched on a diagonal UV lamp and the stream started to glow brightly. A light meter started to count the blue photons emitted, a makeshift way of monitoring the rate of arrival. There was currently no fact of the matter about what was going on inside the casket.
Back inside the chamber, Cath felt nothing at first. Maybe she was wrong after all. There was no apparent feeling or change at all. Then, after a second or so, she heard a faint gurgle and felt a slight vibration about her middle. She felt a mixture of excitement and fear of how it might go wrong, though not really knowing what she had in mind. It was working! She did a quick bit of mental arithmetic about molar mass and realised she had no idea how big forty grammes of air would be. Well, she’d find out shortly. There was more gurgling and bubbling but so far she’d felt no change and it had now been ten seconds. Maybe she was wrong. Perhaps it was just a swap of volumes like Martin had claimed. She smiled to herself ruefully, quietly relieved that she seemed to have made a mistake. Better than - hold on, she was feeling really full now. What was happening?
She glanced down at her middle to see the left side of her stomach bulging out somewhat and felt a belch squelch its way up her throat. She produced a little quack of a burp, but it wasn’t enough. A wet crackle passed through her and she felt air starting to leak into her sides, firm hollow lumps forming along them as the pressure began to build. Thirty seconds had passed.
Martin watched enthralled as a thin layer of liquid began to collect at the bottom of the bowl. Were it not for its sapphire glow, it would almost have been invisible. A thin trickle added to it, causing little ripples to pass out from the centre. He leaned over carefully. A cool breeze seemed to be blowing into the target region. Interesting. Presumably that air was currently entering where Cath’s stomach would be at the end of the two hundred seconds. He was surprised there was enough to feel it at all.
Careful not to move, Cath lifted her hands and rubbed her uncomfortably stretched sides through the fabric of her hoodie and unitard. There was a strain under the drawstring of her sweatpants, so she reached over and untied them, then rested her hands on opposite sides of her zip. After a second or so, she saw they were gradually moving apart. The pressure inside her began to build. This was getting quite uncomfortable now. She felt a need to fart, which was impaired by the fact she was lying on her back. A little “poot” made itself heard, but that was it. In the meantime, she was starting to feel cramps and the air was still coming in. Cautiously, she inhaled slightly and slowly, making her stomach bulge out a bit further. On exhaling, her abdomen didn’t shrink down to its previous position at all.
Think expandy thoughts, she said to herself, wondering when it would stop. It was getting to be quite a struggle to contain all the gas. It was pushing relentlessly at her internal organs. Even so, she knew that even budging a centimetre would be too great a risk, particularly considering the mounting tension and inflation she could feel going on inside her. Any movement and the teleport location would simply pop her stomach like a needle jabbing a balloon. She looked fully pregnant now, but it doubtless felt very different. The countdown display overhead only read 150. She was only a quarter of the way there. She also knew there was no way of stopping the process before the end. Banging on the sides of the chamber would be futile due to the vacuum between her and the outside world. There would be no way to communicate - that was the whole point of the box in the first place.
Still she swelled. It was getting quite painful and she felt really stretched and full. Hard though it was to concentrate, she managed to do a swift calculation in her head and realised that ultimately, a further forty litres of air would be transmitted into her stomach from the atmosphere in the lab. And this was just ten! Her eyes widened in fear. She just hoped her farting and burping would be enough, or that she would somehow be able to contain the gas being displaced into her body. One thing was for sure though: if she moved at all, she’d rupture her stomach, and judging by how it looked and felt that would not be a good idea at all. Her only chance was to break wind like crazy and just hope against hope that the elasticity of her body wall would prove sufficient to prevent her from popping like an overinflated balloon.
She was really crowded inside now and still the air came in. She felt she sort of needed to find somewhere to put it all but was running out of space. Her belly was rising towards the ceiling of the chamber and bulging out towards the size. There was a stinging, prickling sensation along her flanks. She strained to push the air out at both ends, but had at the same time to take great care not to move. It proved impossible. The occasional tiny belch emerged from her mouth but her unitard was doing a wedgie at the other end, trapping wind inside her.
120 seconds to go. Not even half way there yet and she was almost bursting. She couldn’t contain herself much longer, surely? Her zip was wrinkling under the strain of the fabric of her tracksuit, which might as well have been skintight by now for all the room it had left inside it to contain her bloating form. Would she be able to sustain this for much longer. Only eighty seconds to go, but would she still be left at the end of it? Would Martin open the chamber to find a few torn rags left over from her inflation? Did he even realise this would be happening?
There was now very little space between her abdomen and the sides and top of the chamber. The air just wouldn’t shift. Tingling and numbness replaced the stinging feeling, but the stretching and pressure continued. It was constantly building but her expansion was slowing. She realised this was because the same rate of influx meant a gradually reducing increase in girth, but she would still end up with something like five times the volume of a full-term pregnancy inside her. She could only pant weakly now, and was feeling faint and dizzy. A swirling mist of colours made it harder to see her hugely bloated form and she was starting to zone out under the weird transformations going on inside her body. She vaguely realised that the blood which would have been in her trunk was being pushed out into her limbs and head, making them swollen and puffy. Maybe a blood vessel inside her brain would give out. Nothing she could do about that though: she just had to lie there and let the air blow her up bigger and bigger. Who knows where it would end?
The next few seconds were mercifully distant and disconnected from Cath’s consciousness. Outside the box, Martin could see from the display that around three-quarters of the total liquid to be shifted had been, and presumably that the same quantity of air had entered Catherine’s stomach. A thought then occurred to him: If it wasn’t volume, what would it be? Space was a relationship, not a container for objects after all. What if he was wrong? What would be a better way of stating the principle?
Cath was unable to think clearly at all now. Her mind was as full as her body was of the incredible experience of blowing up bigger and bigger with air until she was just a vast human blimp. Something had happened inside her stomach and the air was elbowing its way under her skin. I’m a big bloated blimp, she thought to herself, not really knowing why she was or having a clear impression of how she got into that state. She could feel her pulse throbbing through her cavernously distended skin, rocking and bobbing her back and forth. She vaguely remembered something about movement not being a good idea, but she had long since lost control over her huge, round torso now. Her whole body was still expanding, making creaking and squeaking sounds under the strain. As she looked, not really understanding what she saw, her rounded body began to ride up on the air cushion forming inside her back and what used to be her waist but was now her equator finally came into contact with the sides and top of the chamber.
The computer beeped again as it switched off the exchange device. The lasers faded and died, The bowl now contained a pool of blue fluid about a centimetre deep and about the diameter of a beermat.
Rather alarmingly, he noticed that the last drop of fluid, still diffusing into the blue, was not the same colour. It was in fact bright red! Shit. Had Cath not managed to keep still? His own blood ran cold. What was he going to find when he opened the door. Then a thought occurred to him: right now, there was literally no answer to the question of whether Cath was injured, uninjured, alive or dead, and that would continue to be the case until he renewed the contact between her and the rest of the Universe. So in a sense, he hadn’t killed her until he did that.
He hesitated before pressing the button which would establish a connection between the inside of what he now thought of as the casket and the outside world. Would he be killing her by operating the control? On the other hand, maybe she needed his help.
Cath was confusingly aware of her vast rounded bulk. She seemed to be the wrong size and shape. There was strain everywhere she could feel it. She had a distant visual impression of a grey globe filling her field of view. Rumbling filled her ears, accompanied by an echoing and fading hammering throb. She was remotely conscious that if the sound stopped completely, it wouldn’t be good. A series of clunks and a jarring motion wobbled her body as the box she was in seemed to fall a few millimetres onto solidity.
Martin had finally pressed the button. He reached over to the recessed handle and turned it with trepidation about what he might find. Still, if she needed help he’d have to get in there as quickly as possible. He opened the door with his eyes shut, grabbed the shelf and began to slide it out. Surprisingly, he met with some resistance and heard the slight echoing rustle of some kind of material scraping against a hard surface. Something bulky and rubbery seemed to be stuck in the chamber. He opened his eyes.
At first, he didn’t know what to make of what he saw. It looked like a fully-inflated weather balloon inside a zipped-up grey cover too small for it at first. It was lodged firmly in the space at its fullest girth, clearly the source of the difficulty he’d had sliding it out. Where was Cath? She seemed to have been replaced by an inflatable of some kind. Then he heard a quiet but resounding whimper and looked down to see Cath’s face and hand. She had staring eyes and her lips were slightly blue. Then he noticed her arm, also with unnaturally coloured nailbeds, like they were cold, and also quite puffy-looking. She turned her head to look at him.
“Help,” she bleated faintly, “I’m - I’m - big. I’m - too big!”
“What the hell happened?” he shouted.
It gradually dawned on him. This was Cath and somehow she was full to bursting with air.
She was completely bewildered. There was a tiny glimmer of awareness about anything else, utterly dominated by the incredible sensations of being enormously inflated and fighting against a constant onslaught of unsupportable quantities of air under her skin, deeper inside her and seemingly everywhere, malevolently fighting with really unfairly matched force to make her into a blimp of a woman. She could feel nothing at all inside her, but was aware that her sides, front and back were much too far apart. She was also agonisingly stretched all over, and felt like moving would snap something and pop her. It was like her skin was being pricked all over with needles. Breathing was almost impossible because of the crushing pressure against her lungs, from her own body. There was at least as much air inside her as flesh. All these feelings grew to a crescendo and she felt the tiny speck of consciousness inside her that made her a person rather than an overinflated ball of flesh about to pop going out. It was all too much to bear, literally, so she didn’t.
Cath was surprised to find that she seemed to be looking down on herself from the ceiling of the lab. This must be the famous near-death experience, in which she as a sceptic had never believed, though she could sort of appreciate that it might be a psychological coping mechanism of some kind. Her hair formed a halo like the rays of the Sun as it splayed out behind her head onto the padded surface beneath. She could see her hoodie’s zip pull pointing towards her chin. Beyond that, her body seemed to be just a round, grey ball with a gleaming steel zip running down the middle like a line of longitude on a globe until it met the equatorial gap between top and trousers, where an expanse of shiny violet spandex marked her tropical zone. Her navel, now an outie, was delineated by the tautly stretched fabric. The meridian continued in the southern hemisphere as the front seam of her sweatpants.
Her detached scientific observation noted that everything had a dreamlike quality. She seemed to zoom in on the tilted zip pull, which she remembered flopping onto her neck earlier, so no evidence there for a true out of body experience. She wanted to flip it back to its rightful position, but since her hands were down there and she was up here, it wasn’t clear how she’d be able to do that. Then, as she looked, it started to look like the scales on the lab windowsill, teetering between two positions. A green fuzzy sphere appeared at each end. One of them became her own grey bulk, ballooning and straining with unmanageable gallons of gas, and pushed the pan down with a clunk like that of the inner door locking. The other became a tiny ball of livid liquid, which despite its size was able to balance her weight perfectly. Equal masses.
She saw her hand move up to the zip pull and turn it back the right way.
Suddenly, she was back in her body, enormous and encumbered with the bulging flesh of her vastly inflated form, struggling against the gigantic gas pressures inside her. She made eye contact with Martin and pressed her lips together. An all-too-small belch parted them briefly.
She managed to shake her head twice and felt her chin rub against her zip teeth.
He looked quizzically at her.
Cath could hardly stand the frustration. She began to see double and her vision started to fade again. The throbbing in her head, painful though it was, weakened alarmingly. She clenched all her concentration and energy together and tried to form another sound with her lips. Another mouthful of air puffed out her cheeks and forced her mouth open. She tried again. It was a race against time. Things were fading again.
“Nnnot volummme m-m-mmass!”
The smile of realisation that lit Martin’s face up seemed to shrink and disappear down a long dark tunnel as she was overwhelmed by a void of blackness. She was faintly aware of her zip rasping against the roof of the chamber as she was slid back in.
Martin hadn’t a moment to lose. He rapidly imaged Cath’s enormously rounded abdomen on the screen, noting a tiny gap in a loop of intestine which must be the leak. Most of her internal organs were not only deflated but positively crushed by the pressure - all the air seemd to be outside them, trapped under her skin and in her abdominal cavity. Wasting no time, he switched off the screen, restarted the computer and filled a glass of water from a basin tap, placing it on a tripod at the confluence of the lasers. With a dexterity which surprised even him he completed the fine adjustments at both ends, creating the distinctive luminous golf ball in the dead centre of the water. Then he isolated the chamber - clunk! - and threw the switch. Immediately, the contents of the glass began to choke and splutter, then frothed and bubbled as if boiling vigorously. Water splashed into the bowl as the air inside Cath swapped with it, mass for mass. Martin took out his mobile and dialled 999.
There was a feeling of sagging all over. She opened her eyes again and blinked. Her mind cleared like the feeling returning to a limb which had been slept on. Looking down at herself inside the chamber, she saw the amazing rotundity of the spheroid she had been turned into start to deflate rapidly. She soon found herself burping and farting at will. The tingling and numbness were past, replaced by aching muscles and a gradually increasing piercing pain just below her navel. She winced and her eyes watered. It goe worse as she deflated and a series of belches and oddly odourless farts resounded through the box. By the time she was back to her normal shape and size, the pain was almost unbearable and it took all her attention to hold herself still. As soon as the locks clunked open and the inner casket dropped onto the outer floor, she rolled over and drew up her knees to relieve the agony. Martin slid her out, looking relieved.
“Get me an ambulance Martin. My belly really hurts.”
“Don’t worry Cath, it’s on its way.”
The surgeon said it was the easiest laparoscopy she’d ever done. There was a ready-made gap in the abdominal wall and the insufflation was very quick indeed. All that needed to be done was for a small split in her small intestine to be glued together and an umbilical hernia repair. Her muscle tone had saved her, apparently. If she’d exercised less, the chances were she would’ve exploded.
It was her first day back. She’d made such a swift and complete recovery that she was able to return to work after just a few weeks, though the unusual nature of her case meant it was hard to judge. She could’ve done without the nightmares though. Once she’d even dreamt she’d swallowed her pillow whole.
The printer was churning out Martin’s paper. She glanced at the top:
The Gerson-Bates Effect
No point in reading further. She went to the vending machine and punched up two cups of coffee. Taking a sip, she made her way back into the lab to find Martin engrossed in reading his paper. She cleared her throat twice and he looked up.
“Oh, hello. Good to see you back again. Thanks.”
He took the coffee. They spent the next few minutes criticising the University admin while she kept a careful eye on his drink. Finally, he tipped up the paper cup and it was gone. Right.
She walked over to the chamber.
“While I was in hospital, I had a lot of time to think about what happened, and I’d like to bring something up about the Effect. Could you come over here a second please?”
“OK, fine.” He walked over to join her.
“I don’t think you’ll be able to appreciate the problem exactly unless you observe it from inside. You’re going to have to get in, Martin.”
“Um, I see.”
He climbed onto the stretcher-like surface and she slid it in and slammed the door.
“Hang on! What are you doing?”
She called up an image of his stomach on the screen where the coffee seemed to be settling nicely, and arranged both sets of lasers. Off went the screen.
“Don’t move,” she shouted, “I want to point out the importance of a particular stylistic point in the paper."
The thumping from the inside forced her to raise her voice to be heard.
“AND THAT’S ALPHABETICAL ORDER!” she shouted.
The noises behind her faded as she isolated the interior. Ten grammes ought to do it. After all, he was a bit of a slob and she didn’t want to risk actual injury. She tapped in the number and pressed return. Droplets of coffee started to fall into the bowl.
She picked up the first piece of paper, scribbled it out in irritation and wrote a corrected version in its stead:
“The Bates-Gerson Effect: Teleportation involves the exchange of equal masses.”