By Professor Harvey Wangenstein, Electrodyne Engineer
February 15, 1883
Electricity. No other discovery has the ramifications for Science that comes with electricity. It has been described as the "spark of life", an elemental force as capable of taking life (in the form of lightning) as it is of granting it (as in the case of Professor Waldman's experiments). From its humblest beginnings with Otto von Guericke's sulfur ball electrostatic generator and Francis Hauksbee's Influence Machine to our present dynamo-electric generators, the study and manipulation of electricity has been an enterprise fraught with hazards. The eighteenth century saw no fewer than 103 French bell-ringers electrocuted by lightning strikes on church steeples as the stroke passed down through the wet bell-rope. In 1769, an Italian arsenal containing over eighty-seven tons of gunpowder was struck by lightning. The resulting explosion leveled almost two hundred homes in a 639-foot radius from the blast site. These and other events so influenced the thinking of the time that lightning conductors were incorporated into the fashions of Paris in the 1770s, with ladies and gentlemen of the day carrying umbrellas and wearing hats with metal conductors trailing on the ground behind them. That the great statesman and inventor Benjamin Franklin was not himself killed when a bolt of lightning struck the iron wire attached to his kite in no way implies that his modern counterparts should not take the appropriate precautions when conducting Research. Scientific enthusiasm is no substitute for Common Sense.
The above examples all share one detail in common: the problems made possible by the conductivity of electricity through the metallic elements. That metal conducts electricity at all is, of course, an immense boon to any Scientist wishing to measure and examine electrically related phenomena. It is at least as useful for the practical benefits that resulted from the telegraph, telephone and the electric light. However, metal's usefulness as a conductor comes to an end when accidental or unintended exposure to large amounts of electricity occurs. I learned this rather painful lesson myself while performing experiments upon my latest invention, Wangenstein's Electrical ShockThrower. While testing the Device, several arcs of electricity destined for a metal target across the room instead curved about, striking the metal objects I carried. When I regained consciousness, I found that the bolts of electricity had ruined my gold pocketwatch, a gift from Her Majesty, Queen Victoria of England. It was a costly lesson, but it made me realize the need for a method whereby ordinarily conductive metals are rendered non-conductive, transforming them into electrical insulators. Through months of Scientific Inquiry, I have arrived at an answer to the problem.
Electricity travels through a material because of the elementary particles that make up the material. Some of the particles are positively charged, electrically speaking, while others are negatively charged. The positively charged particles attract the negative, just as the opposite poles of a magnet attract one another. In the metallic elements the positive particles hold the negative particles only loosely, so that if a source of electricity is applied, the negative particles in the metal will be dislodged and replaced by the incoming negative particles. This process is repeated countless times over again, down the line of metal atoms, and so we get electrical current. In electrical insulators, the positive particles maintain a tight hold upon the negative, so that no amount of additional energy will dislodge them. Electricity simply does not flow through the insular material. And therein lies the answer. By increasing the positive charge of a metal, it will hold onto its negative particles more tightly, and thereby become an insulator, at least for the duration of the increased positive charge.
The key to this Theory is an elementary particle that I myself discovered some time ago. Temporons are particles that accumulate on all matter at a relatively constant rate and cause the physical effects of the passage of time. By manipulating the temporons that a metal object gains, we can transfer a positive charge to it, temporarily suspending its electrical conductivity. Temporons are, by nature, neutral particles. However, if exposed to a field of positively charged ether, they can hold an equivalently positive charge for a short time. Because temporons accumulate constantly on all matter, we do not need to isolate specific temporons in order to apply a positive charge. Simply exposing the target metal to a properly calibrated Etheric Modulation Field (E.M.F.) is sufficient to ensure that all temporons accumulated on the object during the period of exposure will possess a positive charge. The additional positive charge, along with the natural charge of the metal's positive particles, will prevent negatively charged particles (and thus electrical current) from flowing freely through the metal. Due to Nature's desire for equilibrium, the effects of this Theory are purely temporary. Because the increased positive charge is not inherent to the metal, it will dissipate over time, gradually returning the affected metal to its former state of electrical conductivity. The duration of the Effect will depend largely upon the length of the metal's exposure to the calibrated E.M.F. A longer E.M.F. exposure means that more positively charged temporons will have accumulated, requiring more time for the excess positive charge to disperse. During this time, no electrical current will flow through the affected metal.
Electricity is and will likely continue to be an extremely useful energy source for Science and Mankind. I believe that at its base, its potential benefits far outweigh its inherent risks. This Theory comes similarly parceled. While its usefulness is hopefully evident, it is not without its own dangers. One should not, for instance, assume that a wet piece of insulated metal is safe to hold in the presence of electricity, as the electricity will of course travel through the water and into oneself. It cannot be restated too often that Scientific enthusiasm is no substitute for Common Sense. It is my hope that with the careful, measured application of this Theory, the use of electricity will be made safer for Scientist and civilian alike.
(Second Edition.) By utilizing Forces •• (or ••••) and Matter ••, the acting Scientist causes the target metal object (or objects) to lose the ability to conduct electricity. The maximum potential duration for the Effect is one step on the Duration Chart per round spent treating the target metal. The actual Duration is determined normally by the number of successes rolled, not to exceed the maximum potential duration. This means that if you want the Effect to last, you have to spend the time to treat the target. A man-sized piece of metal (or all the metal objects on a single person) can be treated with a single roll. Larger masses of metal require an extended number of rolls, proportionate to the size of the object and amount of metal (a covered wagon: 3-4 rolls; an antique car: 10-15; a modern car: 8-10; a locomotive engine or tank: 15-20; an Eiffel Tower... well, you get the idea...). The treated metal displays no unusual characteristics (apart from its insular properties), so unless the Player tests the conductivity of the treated metal, he'll have to trust in his character's Scientific genius. The Storyteller should not tell the Player if he was successful or not.
This little Effect can have huge consequences when used against electronic technology. While it cannot penetrate other matter to reach metal under the surface, if even a tiny amount of conducting metal (a neural jack behind the ear, for instance, or a single wire) is exposed, the Effect can travel along it to reach a larger connected mass (such as a cybernetic implant). Keep in mind the limitations of Forces •• though, and limit its effects accordingly. Other possibilities for this Effect include the opposite effect of making insulators conduct electricity, or using Life •• or ••• with the Effect to stop a living being from conducting electricity. What effect that would have upon the body's nervous system and its bio-electrical signals must surely await another paper on the subject...
1999 Derek D. Bass
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