For All Nails #110b: Yes, Minister
(with apologies to Antony Jay and Jonathon Lynn)
Oldfields, Georgia, NC, CNA
26 August 1974
William Knight took a breath and prepared to read the script.
"So here comes the colight , from the beamer here to the
half-silvered mirror. Part of it goes straight through and
on to bounce off the spinning mirror and make _this_ spot on
the wall. The other part goes off the half-silvered mirror,
out the window, all the way over to a little mirror in that
church tower way over there, back here and off the spinning
mirror. And it makes this _other_ spot on the wall. See, I
block this beam, and the second spot goes away. Now why are
there two spots? Because in the _time_ it takes for the beam
to go to the church and back, the spinning mirror has turned
_a little bit_. And because we know how fast the mirror is
spinning and what angle it's turned through, we can tell _how
long_ the beam took to get to the church and back -- about _one
one-hundred thousandth_ of a second. And since the church is
a mile away, _that_ means the beam is going at about _two hundred
thousand miles per second_! "
The director's voice came over the outspeaker. "That's great,
Will. We can take it from here. Let's take five, though, you've
got a phone call?"
"In the middle of taping? Can't they call back?"
"I think you want to take this one, Will."
Knight shrugged and went across the room to the studio's phone.
"Will Knight here."
"Will! Ah'm sorry to interrupt your work -- this is Lennart
"Governor? I mean Governor-General, why--"
"Ah want you to pop up to Burgoyne tonight and meet with me
tomorrow mornin' about a _job_. My secretary Betty's made all
the arrangements, you can talk to her soon's we're done."
"But, Governor-General, I don't understand, I'm not a politician--"
"Ah don't need a politician, Will, Ah need a man who can _explain
science_. Ah don't think Ah'd never have gotten the Clean Water
bill through without _your_ help, Will. _You_ were the one who
showed me what was goin' on with the pigshit in the ponds, the
"That's it. But you didn't call it yoo-tro-fy-cation, you called
it fertilizer. You said that the pigshit in the ponds was fertilizer,
and it made the plants grow too much, and took all the _air_ away
from the fish and killed the pond. And that was simple enough for a
country boy like me to understand, and simple enough for my legislators
and my voters. You've got a _gift_, son, for explainin' this stuff.
And Ah need that gift up heah in Burgoyne."
"Well, Governor-General, I'm flattered, I don't know what to say--"
"Say you'll be up heah tomorrow, and say you'll take the job."
"Well of course I want to help out however I can--"
"Good, it's settled then, here's Betty."
"But Governor-General, I don't even know _what_ job we're talking
T. A. Edison Science Ministry Building
Burgoyne, PA, NC, CNA
27 August 2002
Joshua Abramowitz was normally a supremely confident man, but
he awaited his new superior with some trepidation. The choice
of an entertainer as Science Minister was certainly unusual for the
Confederation, though such things were par for the course in Mexico,
he supposed. And the new man's background was certainly _broad_,
even if its _depth_ consisted only of a master's degree in mechanical
engineering and several years working for Confav Aviation. Here he
was now, an energetic, youthful-looking man, if not quite as youthful
in person as on the vita.
"Dr. Abramowitz, a pleasure to meet you at last, I'm looking
forward to working with you."
"Thank you, Minister, and congratulations on your appointment.
I've seen your program, and I think it's very well done, a real
social benefit. It must be quite a complicated thing to produce."
"Well, it's not rocket science, or building an atomic bomb." A
slight graceful nod seemed to be the right response to that last
reference, Josh thought. Building an atomic bomb _had_ been easier
than running a ministry, he reflected -- at least in Fort McKenzie
everyone had been working toward the same goal and he could draw
on any reasonable amount of funding he needed.
"Still, all those special effects and jumping around between different
pictures. Far more interesting than old Dr. Science  for the kids.
And you know, we gave a grant two years ago for a study that _showed_
that your program worked as a complement to regular classroom
instruction. You do good work, Minister."
"Well, thank you, but it's a different kind of work that we've got
to start doing together now. And you're a lot more familiar with
that work than I am."
"Yes, Minister, I've been handling the administrative side of the
department since 1968, under three different ministers from the People's
Coalition. I should think that now that another party is in power,
there will be some changes of direction, but much of the work of the
ministry will go on as it has. I _hope_ that's why I was retained as
"Well, you're right. Part of my charge from the Governor-General is
to keep up the good work. Part is to begin some new initiatives,
particularly to do with the environment. And the third part, you'll
be glad to know, is to avoid being 'hornswoggled by any high-falutin'
scientific gobblydegook from that fellow Abramowitz'."
"Oh, dear, my reputation as a hornswoggler has preceded me, I fear."
The new Governor-General's odd vocabulary was quickly infecting all
manner of discussions between the rivers, Josh thought. "Well, let
me at least make my loyalties clear from the beginning. I started work
with the People's Coalition because ten years ago they were willing to
build an atomic bomb and the Liberals weren't. I stayed with them
because they wanted to use this Ministry to strengthen the scientific
and technological base of the Confederation. My understanding is that
the new government also wants to do that. I work for the nation first,
but for you and your boss second. If those loyalties come into conflict,
I'll tell you about it, and if we can't work out the conflict I'll resign.
But you'll get the truth about what I want and why I want it."
"Fair enough. And I can promise you the truth about what the government
wants, at least in so far as they tell _me_. The Governor-General keeps
his cards pretty close to the vest, I understand."
"Yes, Minister. There's bound to be a certain amount of infighting in
the Cabinet, I'm afraid. Of course, you realize that Defence is going
to be trying to take the Space Agency back from us right away?"
"Even though they have their own space program, and work so closely with
"Yes, Minister. The demilitarization of the Space Service was a political
decision right after the 1973 election -- Monaghan's people wanted to
dissociate the Sweet Six from the military after Moca . In administrative
terms, though, that meant the transfer of billions of pounds from Defence's
ledger to ours. They'll want that money back, and they might get it --
the pilots and all the people around them are military people with military
"But if we're going to get any science done in space, we have to _expand_
the kind of personnel we have up there, beyond just pilots. That's going
to be a lot easier with the agency under us, isn't it?"
"Yes, Minister." In fact, Abramowitz thought, it would be sort of a wash.
If the Space Service was military, then the space scientists would just
come out of a different organization even if the pilots were from the Air
Force. It was a turf battle, the sort of problem to occupy a political
appointee. Which was, he admitted to himself, why he had brought it up.
"Well, that's a topic for the first Cabinet meeting."
"Indeed, Minister. Apropos of that meeting, as well, I've done some
preliminary work on the new initiatives you mentioned earlier."
"But I didn't tell you what they are yet."
"I think it was clear through the campaign where the Liberal party wants
more science spending, wasn't it? Here's a summary of three new grant
programs we can start right away, on industrial chemicals, on the relations
between various living things in the same habitat, and on cleaner
technologies in manufacturing. And here's the preliminary proposal for
a new national laboratory facility, which I'm sure would go nicely in
some marginal riding in Indiana . Take them home, I'm sure you'll
have some more ideas."
"Sounds good for a start. But these programs won't bring any results for
months or years, will they?"
"True, but we've not exactly been idle in these areas even under a PC
administration. For example, I've had two of my best men in the Antarctic
 for the last few months, firing off sounding rockets to get samples
of the upper atmosphere there. It seems the amount of triox  above
the Antarctic is highly variable, and may be affected by industrial
chemicals released in the lower atmosphere."
"But the triox provides radiative shielding for the whole planet!"
"Yes, Minister. If this effect in the Antarctic is more general, it
could pose a risk of more ionizing radiation from the sun reaching the
surface. We don't know yet, of course."
"Isn't there too _much_ triox down here, from locomobile exhaust?"
"That's my understanding, Minister, but it seems that moving it up to where
we want it is just not on, no feasible way to do it. The best hope would
probably be some sort of international treaty to limit production of the
chemicals in question."
"But to get that, we need to have more solid results on what's going on.
Yes, I think the Cabinet _will_ want to hear about this."
"If they're excited about it, Minister, it may be a good time to bring
up _this_ proposal." He unrolled a set of plans.
"The Earthwatch Global Environmental Monitoring Platform. What, you want
to put eight or ten scientists up there at one time, eh?"
"Yes, Minister, along with the support staff. The Space Agency thinks it
can be built, assuming the Geminae missions  successfully demonstrate the
docking and spacewalking technologies we'll need. To stay on track, we'll
need most of a billion in next year's budget."
"Hmm... you know, Doctor, these plans look a lot like the International
Orbital Platform that the Cabinet shot down last year. You wouldn't be
planning any _hornswoggling_ here now, would you?"
"You might think that, Minister, I couldn't possibly comment."
 The CNA and Kramer have had lasers, called "colight" for
"coherent light", since about 1960. They are widely used in
office machinery such as printers, and cheap enough to be used
in lab demonstrations.
 This experiment is a variant of one I did as an undergraduate
physics major in the late 1970's OTL. We got the speed of light
within a few percent.
 NABC's Dr. Science is far more like OTL's Mr. Wizard, or the hosts of
those Bell System-sponsored science films my generation fondly
remembers from 1960's grade school, than like OTL's Dr. Science.
The latter of course is a creation of
Duck's Breath Mystery Theatre
and famously holds "a master's degree in science". Almost as old
and stuffy as the CNA's "Tiffany network" (NUBS), NABC was the
first vita network to create a lineup of "responsible children's
programming" in the 1950's. Over the decades the anchor of this
lineup has been Dr. Science, illustrating basic principles with
the help of a succession of boys, all named "Jimmy". OTL viewers
might find Dr. Science uncomfortably reminiscent of Peter Graves
in _Airplane!_, but let's not go there. In any case, upstart
NCCC was happy to give a national audience to a far livelier
program developed at its Oldfields affiliate by a teaching fellow
at the University of Georgia. (Recall from FAN #92 that Oldfields,
on the site of OTL's Tallahassee, is the site of UG, listed by
Sobel as one of the CNA's great universities. Oldfields is also
a medium-sized city and one focus of a rather extensive metropolitan
area along the "Redneck Riviera" of the Gulf Coast.)
 See FAN #60, "The Spaced Service".
 Somewhere in the _Yes, Minister_ canon, "special economic opportunity
zones" are defined to be the same as "marginal constituencies", i.e.,
districts likely to be closely contested in the next election. As
pointed out in FAN #110a and elsewhere, Indiana is the key battleground
now and for the foreseeable future.
 Constable Dudley and Dr. Huggins, the Science Ministry covert
operatives we met in FAN #5 and #52. Abramowitz is originally
from Montreal, and quite familiar with Ste. Danielle's maxim
about "from each according to her abilities". (No one in Montreal
credits the claim that she stole this line from some German
sociologist.) Huggins also suffered from a failure of imagination
when he requested a new assignment "as far from Manitoba as
 Ozone, but you knew that.
 So far the CNA space program is tracking the OTL USA's fairly closely,
though there has not yet been much talk of a moon landing as a
benchmark goal. Funding has already been approved for a series of
two-woman flights that will validate techniques necessary to build
infrastructure in low earth orbit, and a second class of fourteen
female space pilots has been selected. (Men may be allowed to apply
for the third pilot class, though by now the craft designs are
presupposing that the pilots will be relatively small people.)
Geminae 1 is scheduled to go up in November or December of 1974,
with Patricia Shaeffer commanding and Katie Simpson becoming the
seventh woman in space. In early 1975 Christine Lillehammer will
command Geminae 2 as Mary Lou Rigby attempts the first space walk.
Ev Gilmore is scheduled to command Geminae 3 or 4 sometime in 1975,
and will start training when she returns from her current trip to
Mexico. Meanwhile, Germany is expected to put the first man into earth
orbit by the end of 1974, though their August elections might affect
the level of funding for their space program.