Copyright 2016 Mario V. Farina
Shakespir Edition, License Notes
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Mario V. Farina
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The captain’s voice sounded anxious, nervous. We’ve lost power in our engines. We are attempting to restart them. There is no immediate danger. In the meantime, do exactly as the cabin attendants instruct you.”
Startled, Michael Larson, Professor of Mathematics at Gordon College, looked up from his laptop computer. He understood the announcement better than most of the passengers on the huge plane. Unless the engines were restarted, the forward momentum of the aircraft would be maintained for several miles, but that the plane would also begin plummeting to earth. Flight 722 with smash into the ground in about two minutes.
Two flight attendants were on their feet looking confused. Some passengers were starting to rise from their seats. Others appeared bewildered, fearfully glancing at each other. There were gasps from several persons.
The plane was full. There were in excess of two hundred persons on board. Michael glanced out the window. The captain had told them ten minutes earlier that they were at 39,000 feet traveling at almost six hundred miles per hour. The were over a mottled area. The ground consisted of a combination of wooded patches intermingled with small streams and rocky crags.
The flight attendants began scurrying up and down the aisles. “Emergency,” one shouted. “Buckle up!” Another cried out, “Don’t panic! Sit in your seats!”
Michael knew that the forward momentum of the plane had little to do with the length of time required for it to reach the ground. This fact was determined almost entirely by the force of gravity and air resistance. Mentally, Michael made a quick calculation. Dividing 40,000, the approximate altitude of the airplane at the time that it had lost power, by sixteen, then taking the square root of the result, and factoring in air resistance, he found that there were less than 120 seconds during which something had to be done. It had already been ten or twelve seconds since the pilot’s voice had crackled over the intercom. The aircraft had dropped at least two thousand feet.
Michael reviewed the distance formula in his mind. In a vacuum, the distance that an object descends from a height is determined from the equation: D = 16 times t squared.
Since t stands for seconds, the formula mutely testified that an object descends slowly at first, then begins to fall faster and faster. The resistance of the air limits the speed. Still, from a height of seven miles an object’s final velocity is over four hundred miles per hour. If the object were an airplane,… Michael Larson elected not to pursue that line of thought further. There was a great deal of thinking to be done in other directions.
A voice was screaming in his ear. “Buckle up sir! Bend over, put your head between your knees!” The young woman tossed a pillow at him and hurried on. Michael obeyed mechanically. He knew that the attendants were courageously performing their duties despite the fact that whether he placed his head on a pillow or not, would not matter one whit to the final outcome. He heard screaming at the back of the plane from someone. Another was cursing. A babble of confusion was rising which bordered on hysteria.
How long had it been?? The plane had lost a little over a mile of altitude. It was still six miles up. There was an empty feeling in the pit of Michael's stomach as if he were dropping at tremendous speed in a fast elevator. From the corners of his eyes he could see bits of paper, small articles of clothing, and other debris floating about in the cabin. The flight attendants were no longer moving about. They had found seats, but were still calling for everyone to remain calm.
The pandemonium continued. A shout came from the seat immediately behind Michael. “Jesus save me!” The sound of the impassioned plea reverberated in his brain. The seed of an idea was implanted and began to germinate.
“The formula!” He thought. “The formula depends to a large extent upon the power applied to t. When the power is two, and object drops sixteen feet during the first second, an additional forty-eight during the second, eighty more during the third and so on. With each passing second, the object drops thirty-two feet more during the second than it did during the previous one. If only the power of t were not two but something less.
It was now a minute since the aircraft had lost power. It had gone down over three miles and was now dropping at the rate of one mile every fifteen seconds. This rate would keep increasing. In another minute, it would all be over. The din was deafening. There were soul-chilling screams, hoarse cries for help, unbridled sobs, shrill appeals to God for salvation. Several men and women who had not buckled themselves to their seats were pressed against the ceiling of the plane. The craft was on an even keel but was hurtling toward the ground at tremendous speed.
“Let the power of t be 1.9!” Michael Larson had willed this number with all the mental force that he could muster within his being. It happened! The plunge slowed slightly. Michael felt the deceleration and knew that his invocation of the new number had been the cause. By sheer willpower, he had changed one of the basic laws of mathematics! All over the world, the formula that governs how an object falls had changed. Michael did not know the full ramifications of this change, but he knew that it was the only way that the plane could be saved.
The plane continued to loose altitude. A few more seconds passed. “Let the power be 1.8!” he mentally intoned. The plane slowed a little more in its descent.
He looked out the window. He could make out trees, streams, and logging trails. He estimated that they were at 10 to 15,000 feet. Without having changed the formula, the plane would be striking the ground at this very moment. Michael knew that there was further work to do. The power had to be changed again. “Let the power be 1.7!” The plunge slowed. “Let the power be 1.6!” There was further slowing.
Michael estimated that they were now at about 8000 feet and that the plane had been without power for about three minutes. It was going down at about two hundred feet per second, still much too fast for a safe landing.
The screams and sounds of confusion in the plane were abating. Those person who had been pinned to the ceiling were slowly floating back to their seats.
Michael knew that he was holding the fate of the plane by the force of his will. He must not weaken now. “Let the power be 1.5!” A few seconds later, let the power be 1.4!”
He looked out again. The ground appeared very close, only about 4000 feet. Gradually, he willed the power to be 1.3, then 1.2, then 1.1. He held the plane at this rate for thirty seconds. It had now been over four minutes since the aircraft that lost power. Its altitude was about 2000 feet and the plane was descending at the rate of about twenty feet per second. The pilot announced that the plane seemed to be regaining control. There was heavy applause from the passengers.
The pilot made a second announcement. “This is Captain Wilcox,” he said. “We have lowered the landing gear and are preparing to land.” The captain’s voice had sounded professionally calm, but Michael thought he detected a note of disbelief.
At this rate of fall, there would still be a crash, but most of the people would probably survive. To complete the landing, Michael changed the power of t to 1.0 and the plane’s rate of fall slowed to twelve feet per second. Michael held this rate for 50 seconds. It had now been a little over five minutes since the dive had begun.
For some time, the plane had ceased moving forward as it was falling. This meant that if the wheels touched the ground at a very slow speed, it would not matter much what the surface of the ground was like. Michael changed the power to 0.9 and held it there for a full minute. The plane settled to earth as if it had been a helicopter, Contact with the ground was with so little force that the passengers barely felt the jolt in their seats. They had landed in a rocky glade. Looking out, Michael could see some confounded loggers running the aircraft.
Michael relaxed his mind and released the formula. He understood that without his will distorting it, the formula would instantly revert to its original meaning.
Michael proclaimed himself to be the savior of the plane, and since no one came forward to dispute him, his claim was accepted. He readily acknowledged the acclaim and adulation of the populace and accepted the nickname, Mathman. Members of the news media asked him to appear on Meet the Press the following Sunday and he consented to do so.
There were stories in the papers the next day that covered, not only the miraculous salvation of flight 722, but also of other events that had come to light. There were stories about waterfalls that had slowed to a trickle for almost 6 minutes, of persons who had leaped from diving boards and had glided slowly to the water, of a person who had attempted to commit suicide by jumping from the roof of a tall building and had been thwarted in this endeavor by drifting to earth as gently as a feather.
“Tell us, Dr. Larson,” asked one of the interviewers, “Do you really expect us to believe that you changed the law of gravity for six minutes yesterday?”
“Yes, I do because it actually happened. It was the only way to save the plane and the people in it.”
Another asked, “Where did you get the idea that you could do this? How did you know that you would succeed?”
“I called upon the power of the mind,” Michael replied. “Jesus Christ knew about this and disclosed it to us 2000 years ago. I don’t know whether Jesus was divine, but one teaching turned out to be absolutely true.”
“Which one was that, Dr. Larson?”
“He said, ‘I say unto you if ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, remove hence to yonder place, and it shall be removed, and nothing shall be impossible unto you!’”
There was silence among the reporters. They seemed lost in contemplation.
Michael added, “I believe that the power of the mind has not been fully explored. It is within all of us the power to perform miracles.”
“Dr. Larson, millions of people are watching. How do you explain to them that mountains have never been known to move throughout history?” asked one of the reporters. “How do you explain that the law of gravity has never been changed before?”
“Because people didn’t believe they had the power to do these things,” Michael responded. “In the plane, I believed I had the power because I had to believe! There was no other way!”
The story of flight 722 had to take a minor place in the morning papers the following day. The headlines were so busy that it was impossible to tell which was the most important story. One headline told of the Eiffel tower having been uprooted from Paris and found standing next to the Statue of Liberty. Another told of Mount Everest having been relocated during the night to a horse ranch near San Antonio. Still another …
Suddenly the huge airliner lost power in its engines. Dr. Michael Larson, mathematician, knew, that unless the engines were restarted, the plane would crash in about two minutes. A chance prayer for salvation overheard by Michael suggested what he might be able to do to save the doomed plane. You won't believe how he did it, but Dr. Larson insisted it was the only way the aircraft could be saved.