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Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Going for Gold

I had an extra reason to be proud of Lizzy Yarnold's triumph in the 'skeleton' at Sochi, as her sled had been subject to a unique preparatory treatment which virtually guaranteed her victory, the first practical application of my researches in macroscopic quantum effects. The process by which I improved the performance of Lizzy's sled is easy enough to appreciate in principle, although fiendishly difficult to apply in practice. Having first been polished optically-flat, the runners of the sled were cooled to a fraction above absolute zero, and a tune-able solid-state laser used to eject individual atomic imperfections from their surfaces. The runners were then passed through a Bose-Einstein condensate of rubidium, resulting in a film of rubidium, one atom thick, being deposited on the runners in a coherent macroscopic quantum state, yielding a perfectly friction-less surface. Owing to the extreme thinness of the rubidium coating, the absence of friction persists for a while even when the runners are returned to the relatively high temperature of the ice track. The rate at which the frictionless-effect breaks down depends upon the intensity of the ambient light, since photon absorption is the main causal agent. Unfortunately an ice-track illuminated for the purpose of a televised Olympic contest does not provide the darkest of circumstances, and the friction-less quality of the sled is sustained only for the first few seconds of the race, after which things go down hill rapidly; but even so, the initial advantage is more than enough to allow an athlete as gifted as Lizzy to seal a golden victory.
Ironically, the million dollars needed to prepare the sled that bore Lizzy to gold in Sochi was a gift to me from a grateful Russian government. Or, more accurately, a donation to my charitable research foundation from a grateful Vladimir Putin. Obama had been invited to join the gala dinner at which the donation was announced, held on the decennary of my birth, but he made his excuses. I know the real reason, of course. He is still smarting from the joke that Merkel and I played, when we spoofed a phone call about an imagined affair between Putin and Michelle, knowing that it would be eavesdropped by US intelligence and ultimately reported to their supreme chief of staff. His relationship with Putin has been another thing going down hill rapidly on my account.