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  #1  
Old 10-13-1999, 09:19 AM
Atrael Atrael is offline
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This was inspired by the GQ thread "Does the US own the moon"

Soneone in that thread mentioned that as soon as an inexpensive method of space travel was found, space would degenerate into a Wild Wild West sort of place.

My question is more down to earth..(pun intended) What would happen if someone invented a truly cheap method of transport...something along the lines of the matter transporter thingy from the movie "The Fly"...the 80's one. Would it be widly distributed, or supressed by the Govt?

I'm not suggesting a consiprecy or anything, but think about what something like that would do to our economy?....What are your thoughts on this?..And are there other things you can think of that may benifite are race/planet, but would disrupte our economic systems?

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  #2  
Old 10-13-1999, 09:56 AM
Undead Dude Undead Dude is offline
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I'm not sure if I follow why this would hurt our economy. Generally, when a faster mode of transport has come along in the past, it has been a great economic boon.
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  #3  
Old 10-13-1999, 09:59 AM
David B David B is offline
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These days, even if the government wanted to suppress it (for whatever reason), they really couldn't. The specs would be posted on the Internet within days.
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  #4  
Old 10-14-1999, 12:00 AM
Atrael Atrael is offline
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Think about it a little more.....if you could go from say New York to L.A. in the blink of an eye....what would happen to the auto industry?..Tire makers?...Airlines?...People that work for Highway Depts....stuff like that.....If all those people found themselves out of a job all at once.....

Ok you're right about the specs on the internet, but if you were the inventor, and you had thought about all the above, would you release them?....

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  #5  
Old 10-14-1999, 12:13 AM
Polycarp Polycarp is offline
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Larry Niven did a bunch of stories, including at least one murder mystery, in a world in which a firm called JumpStart, Inc., had invented a matter transporter. He worked out a fairly convincing socioeconomic basis for the world this happened in.
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  #6  
Old 10-14-1999, 12:19 AM
Glitch Glitch is offline
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Probably there would be net 0 effect.

All the tiremakers, auto makers, etc would soon find themselves in jobs producing the products that would be transported, and with that kind of transportation possible there would certainly be a surge in demand as products that were usually too expensive or rare found themselves available and cheap!

Also, even if such a technology were very cheap it would take some time for it to catch on. It isn't like very business everywhere is going to suddenly be installing transporters in their offices. In this case, the natural human tendency towards resisting change is probably a good thing.

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  #7  
Old 10-14-1999, 12:24 AM
RTA RTA is offline
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"Star Trek" style transporters?
Why not dwell on more feasible technologies that we can't quite seem to get ahold of?
Advanced solar power generation technology, for example. Or maybe those infamous "high-MPG carbs".
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  #8  
Old 10-14-1999, 12:39 AM
tomndebb tomndebb is offline
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If a transporter were invented, it would initially start out as a high-priced toy for the wealthy. As production became cheaper (and the bugs that sent you to L.A. while your luggage and left arm went to Houston) were worked out, it would slowly trickle down to the masses. Unless the transporter, itself, could be folded up and carried around (and expanded to handle 50,000 tons of ore), there would be specific transport sites that would need the existing transportation methods to get stuff to the transport points. These obstacles could probably be overcome and the car manufacturers reduced to building hot rods and golf carts, (some people still want to go fast and others don't want to walk while taking their exercise), but this would take time. This would give the big manufacturing firms time to diversify. Some would fail, others would thrive.

I don't think that even a cultural-overthrowing invention would be suppressed, because the people who can see the revolution coming and the people who want to control our daily lives are generally not the same people.

(If the invention worked like a Star Trek transporter that only needed a single terminus, then the military might want to restrict it so that they could hypermail their bombs to Tehran without fearing a special delivery to the Pentagon from Saddam Hussein.)

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  #9  
Old 10-14-1999, 12:50 AM
WallyM7 WallyM7 is offline
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History shows that we have always embraced new technology, regardless of the consequences. As an example, the Jaquard loom put hand weavers out of business. Throwing their wooden shoes at the machinery didn't change anything. Numerous other examples abound, from steam engines to E-Mail. Jobs are lost, new jobs are created.

Where are the steno pools of yesteryear? The cobblers? The blacksmiths?

There is no mechanism in place to suppress technology. Never has been, in my opinion.

Now if only the oil companies released the drawings for that 200mpg carburator....



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  #10  
Old 10-13-1999, 01:24 PM
Atrael Atrael is offline
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Oh really?...So there are no industrial jobs that are still being performed in a less than effective manner?...I don't want to get into a huge debate about Union's, but I personally believe that the auto union's are what keep the prices of cars so high....I can't belive that it cost me about 1/3 the amount to buy a new car as it does to buy a house....My point is that saying that we have always embraced new technology no matter what the cost is just not true.



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  #11  
Old 10-13-1999, 01:29 PM
tracer tracer is offline
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WallyM7 wrote:

Quote:
Where are the steno pools of yesteryear?
That just makes me want to burst out into a rousing chorus from Camelot! :

<BLOCKQUOTE>Where are the steno pools of yesteryear?
Where are all the adoring, daring girls?
Where's the shorthand that stole my heart,
The legal pads shaped like a pop-tart,
Oh, where are a steno's simple joys?</BLOCKQUOTE>

Oh, and those 100 MPG+ carburetors? Unsubstantiated conspriacy theories, nothing more.

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  #12  
Old 10-13-1999, 01:48 PM
tomndebb tomndebb is offline
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Atrael:
Quote:
I can't belive that it cost me about 1/3 the amount to buy a new car as it does to buy a house
The actual price ratio for U.S. cars vs houses is about 1:5 (depending on where you live in the U.S.) which is about what it has always cost for a mid-range car and a modest 3-bedroom house. (Cars have varied between 1/6 and 1/4 of the price of a house for over fifty years.) (Where can you find a house for $36k - $54k?)

I'm sure that the real answer is that cars would cost the same as houses if the costs of houses weren't inflated by those darned carpenters, electricians, and plumbers.

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  #13  
Old 10-13-1999, 01:52 PM
Gaudere Gaudere is offline
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I think cars should cost *more* than houses. After all, you can live in your car, but you can't drive your house.

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- Bertrand Russell
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  #14  
Old 10-13-1999, 02:06 PM
Alphagene Alphagene is offline
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I'm in a linking mood today.

Re the 200mpg carb:
http://www.straightdope.com/classics/a3_150.html

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  #15  
Old 10-13-1999, 02:24 PM
Keeves Keeves is offline
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That's a nice link about the 200-mpg carb. While reading it, I had an idea: He points out that much of the wasted energy in the engine is due to lost heat. Why can't that heat be put to good use, such as charging the battery on a gas/electric hybrid car? Or just charging a miscellaneous battery which I can run some appliances with when I get home?

Would it really be so hard to connect that hot antifreeze liquid to some kind of generator instead of fanning it into the environment?
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  #16  
Old 10-13-1999, 02:41 PM
Atrael Atrael is offline
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I didn't want this to be a thread about the auto industry, just using that as an example. By the way, where do you buy your cars that you can get a new car for <$20,000?
Which would make the 1/3 thing come out to about $60,000 more than enough to buy a nice house where I live. Since we're talking about cars, I notice everyone talking about inproving the internal combustion engine....can't tell me that's the only practical way of moving a car...if that were the case, we'd still be heating our house's with firewood.

And the example of house's costing less, is in part true, but I can't very well automate a consruction site....but you can almost totaly automate a car assembly plant.

Again, I'm not a believer of conspriacy theories either, that wasn't the OP.

Guess I'm the only one that thinks this would be a problem.....(shrug)...ok...Thanks for everyone's input.

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  #17  
Old 10-13-1999, 02:44 PM
Sam Stone Sam Stone is offline
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Actually, it's the cost of houses that is way too high. Autos are a miracle of efficient construction compared to the average house. Zoning laws and construction permits are maintained in large part through efforts by contractors, labor unions, etc.

Many companies have tried to innovate in housing with things like pre-fabricated walls made of plastics with integrated buses for electrical and water and such. One such design was scrapped because they couldn't get their press-fit plumbing connections approved, even though all tests showed them to be superior to threaded connections. But a threaded connection requires a plumber to thread it.

If you built a car like you build a house, you'd hire a journeyman welder to weld you up a frame, then you'd hire a mechanic to add the brake lines, then hire a sheetmetal guy to build a body, etc. Your car would probably be 1/10 the quality and cost $500,000.

As for the instantaneous transporter - transportation costs are a significant percentage of the total cost for all goods. If you could get rid of that, the economy would be MUCH wealthier. There would be temporary displacement, but the overall wealth would skyrocket.
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  #18  
Old 10-13-1999, 03:12 PM
tracer tracer is offline
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Atrael wrote:

Quote:
By the way, where do you buy your cars that you can get a new car for <$20,000?
Saturn S-series, Ford Escort, Toyota Corolla (or Tercel, if they still make it).

Not exactly the peppiest, most luxurious cars on the road, but they get you from point A to point B without breaking down. (Except for the Ford. )

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  #19  
Old 10-13-1999, 05:06 PM
WallyM7 WallyM7 is offline
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Tracer, I've been singing your version of Camelot's chorus for two hours and it's getting on my wife's nerves.

Just wanted to say thanks.

Where are the steno pools....



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  #20  
Old 10-13-1999, 05:53 PM
SuperNerd SuperNerd is offline
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Scott Adams (aka Dilbert) on Star Trek technology, specifically the transporter:
Quote:
Transporter
-----------
It would be great to be able to beam your molecules across space and then reassemble them. The only problem is that you have to trust your co-workers to operate the transporter. These are the same people who won't add paper to the photocopier or make a new pot of coffee after taking the last drop. I don't think they'll be double-checking the transporter coordinates.

They'll be accidentally beaming people into walls, pets, and furniture. People will spend all their time apologizing for having inanimate objects protruding from parts of their bodies.

'Pay no attention to the knickknacks; I got beamed into a hutch yesterday.'

If I could beam things from one place to another, I'd never leave the house. I'd sit in a big comfy chair and just start beaming groceries, stereo equipment, cheerleaders, and anything else I wanted right into my house. I'm fairly certain I would abuse this power. If anybody came to arrest me, I'd beam them into space. If I wanted some paintings for my walls, I'd beam the contents of the Louvre over to my place, pick out the good stuff, and beam the rest into my neighbor's garage.

If I were watching the news on television and didn't like what I heard, I would beam the anchorman into my living room during the
commercial break, give him a vicious wedgie, and beam him back before anybody noticed.

I'd never worry about 'keeping up with the Joneses,' because as soon as they got something nice, it would disappear right out of their hands. My neighbors would have to use milk crates for furniture. And that's only after I had all the milk crates I would ever need for the rest of my life.
I don't think I've violated any copyright laws here; this showed up in my eMail in-box (and about five million others) one day. If you want the read the rest of the newsletter, go to
http://www.unitedmedia.com/comics/di...sletter15.html , and you can sign up to have it automatically delivered from there, too.
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  #21  
Old 10-13-1999, 06:58 PM
tracer tracer is offline
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WallyM7 wrote:

Quote:
Tracer, I've been singing your version of Camelot's chorus for two hours and it's getting on my wife's nerves.
Shall I not be on a pedestal, worshipped and competed for?
Not be carried off? Or better still, cause a little war?

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  #22  
Old 10-13-1999, 11:19 PM
Sam Stone Sam Stone is offline
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Atrael: LOTS of new cars are under $20,000. And not just econoboxes. Chevy Lumina, Buick Century, Chrysler Cirrus, Honda Accord, Ford Taurus, Mazda 626, Toyota Camry, Ford Mustang, etc. All have MSRP's under $20,000 on some models, which means you can get them for significantly less than that.

I'd say that the majority of manufactured cars have models available in the $20,000 range or less.
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  #23  
Old 10-14-1999, 05:04 AM
Omniscient Omniscient is offline
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Is anyone else having a hard time reading this thread with out envisioning Homer sitting on the couch reaching into his transporter having his hand appear in the kitchen getting beer from the fridge. Or better yet Homer sliding the transporter in front of the toilet, and then unzipping his fly infront of the other half...

I need help.
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  #24  
Old 10-14-1999, 07:30 AM
Atrael Atrael is offline
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Ok, Ok...I give up....(throwing hands in the air).....but I do want to point out the original intent of this thread.....but you made my point for me dhanson, when you were talking about the construction costs, with the codes being changed so often...ect. This is just one example of an industry that won't go with a cheaper method because of people. So what makes you think that we'd happily embrace any other kind of technological advancment that would detrimentaly impact some portion of our economy. I think you have far too much faith in man's willingness to give up a profit.

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  #25  
Old 10-14-1999, 08:49 AM
tomndebb tomndebb is offline
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Actually, it has gone both ways in the past.

The principles of such simple inventions as the windmill/windpump had been demonstrated over 2,000 years ago. One reason, it has been speculated, that those machines were never put into general use is that the Persians, Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans had such abundant manpower through slavery, that they simply never gave any thought to using those devices as tools. It took the depletion of population and the (nominal) suppression of slavery during the Middle Ages for those toys to be re-examined and turned into actual labor-saving machinery.

On the other hand, there are a number of cases where people tried to stop the introduction of machinery in order to save their jobs.

Your OP asked about the government deliberately suppressing an invention to preserve some of the financial underpinnings of society. That has not happened, and I doubt that in our society it ever will. "Conservatives" will look at the "rising tide floats all boats" model and embrace it even when the rising tide is a tsunami that is about to sweep them away. "Liberals" will see any such technological leap as "freeing the laborer from drudgery" and accept it. (The connection between labor unions and "Liberals" has been stretching thin in recent years and only the surliest, (and stupidest), labor organizer believes that automation must be opposed--especially after the fairly clear lesson of the U.S. Steel industry from 1950 through 1985: opposing automation equals offshore jobs.)

As I mentioned in an earlier post, technology that has clear implications as a weapon against which there is no defense could prompt the military to suppress or control it, but no other significant force or group in our current society will get in technology's way.

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  #26  
Old 10-14-1999, 09:06 AM
Atrael Atrael is offline
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Tom--
You're right...badly worded opening post...my appologies...but I think you see what I was getting at. Perhaps supression is the wrong word....how about "discourage the research of"?....And the transporter thing was just a very extream example. I should have started with more mundane objects.



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  #27  
Old 10-15-1999, 12:53 AM
Sam Stone Sam Stone is offline
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There are plenty of mundane examples of the government supressing innovation in order to protect the supposed interests of their voters. When Japan was kicking the U.S. auto industry's butt because of innovations in manufacture, the U.S. response was to attempt to throw tariffs on Japanese vehicles. That's one way to supress technology. The UAW has lobbied to suppress things like robots on the production floor, by demanding that the factories can't lay off workers because of improvements in inefficiency. My example of building codes is another case. NASA has supressed innovation in space research to protect the profits of the shuttle fleet, and only recently has been forced to open up the restrictions on private rocket launches. There are countless examples of this stuff. The dairy industry has a complex web of regulations that were built into place back when milk was moved around in unrefrigerated wagons, and those regulations are still in place to 'protect' the industry against cheap, refrigerated trucking (the worry was that small dairy operations would go out of business, so tariffs are assigned based on the distance from the farm to the consumer).

I could go on all day with other examples.

Note however that this is not a direct suppression of technology, but more of a regulatory barrier that makes innovation expensive.
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  #28  
Old 10-15-1999, 12:58 AM
manhattan manhattan is offline
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Two words: Cryptography exports.

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  #29  
Old 10-14-1999, 08:21 PM
tracer tracer is offline
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I think cryptography counts as one of those "weapons against which there is no defense" tomndebb mentioned.

Or at least, the FBI and NSA think so.
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  #30  
Old 10-14-1999, 10:44 PM
Undead Dude Undead Dude is offline
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Quote:
If all those people found themselves out of a job all at once..... -- Atrael
I think this is where you argument fails. No major technology has come into major use "all at once". We might compare that to saying "What if American Airlines in full force was offering service in 1910?"

I think that tomndebb's view pretty much nails it. In your argument you ignore the long time that it would take to integrate such a technology, and you don't account for all of the industry that would rise up around this new power. New technology often leads to major innovations with great econimic rewards. Imagine, for example, the ability to transport oil out of the ground rather than drill for it. And that's just one application off of the top of the head of one person who isn't exactly an expert innovator.
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  #31  
Old 10-15-1999, 08:40 AM
Atrael Atrael is offline
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Ok, I submit, that I did indeed lose this Great Debate....but I learned some facts along the way...and isn't that what this forum is for?...Debating ideas and learning new ones....Tom, dhanson, Undead Dude, thanks for your remarks...I found them to be informed and well presented.


Guess I'll put the transporter plans away for another decade.....

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  #32  
Old 10-15-1999, 08:50 AM
tomndebb tomndebb is offline
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Hey! If you've got the transporter plans, don't put them away. Our point was that you won't be suppressed! Go make your billions. (Just don't let the military get the idea that it could be used as a weapon delivery system.)

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  #33  
Old 10-15-1999, 09:39 AM
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Big Blue is on the case! http://www.research.ibm.com/quantuminfo/teleportation/
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  #34  
Old 10-15-1999, 10:02 AM
Atrael Atrael is offline
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Well I'll be damned.....Beam me up Scotty.....or rather, beam up the jerk that sits in the cubical next to me and recieve a pile of unusable goo.

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  #35  
Old 10-15-1999, 02:39 PM
tracer tracer is offline
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Problem is, that "quantum teleportation" only works on single photons or electrons.

As The Physics of Star Trek notes, it would take more computer memory to store the quantum state of every particle in a human being than you could fit into the known universe!

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  #36  
Old 10-17-1999, 06:12 PM
Johnny Angel Johnny Angel is offline
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There's always a rumor going around that some fabulous new technology has been invented, and the government is covering it up.

There's a story told over dinner in Petronius Arbiter's The Satyricon which bears a striking resemblance to some of our modern legends. This was written at about the time of Nero. See if this rings any bells:

"But you must allow me to say this, I prefer glass ones [plates] myself; they are quite free from smell at any rate. And if they didn't break, I would rather have them than gold itself; but they've got cheap and common now. However there was an artificer once who made a glass goblet that would not break. So he was admitted to Caesar's presence to offer him his invention' then, on receiving the cup back from Caesar's hands, he dashed it down on the floor. Who so startled as Caesar? But the man quietly picked up the goblet again, which was dinted as a vessel of bronze might be. Then taking a little hammer from his pocket, he easily and neatly knocked the goblet into shape again. This done, the fellow thought he was as good as in heaven already, especially when Caesar said to him, `Does anybody else besides yourself understand the manufacture of this glass?' But lo! on his replying in the negative, Caesar ordered him to be beheaded, because if once the secret became known, we should think no more of gold than of so much dirt."

A `classic' urgan legend, if you will.
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  #37  
Old 10-17-1999, 11:28 PM
tracer tracer is offline
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Darn it, so that's why we never hear about Cold Fusion any more! If you throw a platinum/palladium cold-fusion cell to the ground, and it won't break! The emperor must've beheaded Pons and Fleischmann.

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