The Work of a Magician

The aliens stared in amusement as the man in the fancy coat prepared his materials.

On the table lay some odd instruments – long wires in red and black, a strange and translucent bulb and a large coil, brown in color. There was also a small, rectangular device that had wires coming out of it, something that would have been called a refrigerator had one been back on Earth. In the man’s hand was a large, rectangular shaped piece of metal, also labeled red and black for unknown reasons.

The aliens murmured, partly in confusion and partly in excitement, not knowing what to expect from the man in the fancy coat. Most of these objects seemed foreign to them – in their short existence, they had invented metal but had not examined its properties. It wasn’t that these solids didn’t fascinate the scientifically-minded individuals of their species, but it was just that uses of the said material seemed limited in their case – they possessed cumbersome bodies that resembled human toothpaste, a phenotype that would have difficulty holding up metal without accidentally chopping off a part of one’s torso.

The man in the fancy coat stepped forth to his audience. He showed the audience that in his hand there be a clunk of metal. He proceeded to put the red end of the piece of metal against the surface of the mysterious black box with the door and the handle. He let go and the entire audience expected the object to fall to the table.

Until it didn’t.

Murmurs erupted in the audience. What was this heresy? How could this oddly dressed man manage to levitate a clunk of metal above ground without exerting any force? The toothpaste-like aliens discussed their theories quietly as the man removed the metal from the surface of the box.

The man in the fancy, white coat then moved what would have been called a refrigerator back on his blue-green planet of origin onto the floor. He took the long, brown coil and connected it to the translucent bulb on the other side of the table using red and black wires. He made one full revolution around the table, inspecting his set up and seemingly making sure that he had done everything correctly.

He then showed the crowd the magic clunk of metal, and proceeded to move the metal through the coil.

The crowd gasped.

Murmurs had turned into audible words of disbelief – with every passing of the metal through the coil, the man in the fancy coat had created light in the unknown translucent bulb. Light that didn’t burn like fire. Light that was warm and did not burn one’s eyes like their twin suns. Light that mesmerized every time one looked at it.

The man in the fancy, white coat then stopped his cycling of the clunk of metal through the coil, much to many of the toothpaste-beings’ disappointment. He took out a notebook, jotted down a few notes and put it away again. He engaged his crowd one last time, gestured his two hands in the direction of the contraption he had just made, as if he was a car salesman showing off his store’s brand new vehicle. He then exited stage right.

Back on his base, the man took off his fancy, white coat, and sat in front of his communications module. He dialed a number and waited for the dialing to end. He only had to wait a few seconds.

“Houston, it’s a negative on magnetism, negative on electricity and negative on Faraday’s Experiment.” He waited for a response.

“Good work, professor. Tomorrow let’s try something completely different. Let’s see – let’s give them the chemical synthesis of Lead Phosphate and see how they react.”

“Got it, commander.”


“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” – Arthur C. Clarke

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