Weightless – Part 8 (Draft)


(The next day)

“I’m nervous, and excited,” Mr. Jackson thought as he made his way to Dr. Best’s office.

Dr. Ellen Best, hired very recently, received a doctorate degree in mechanical engineering from a reputable university aerospace program. She was about the same age as Mr. Jackson and had been working in the aerospace industry since her graduation from college. From all that Mr. Jackson could tell, Mr. Torres hired Dr. Best to raise the level of academic prestige in the organization. He had been involving her in all technical discussions.

“Come in Morris.” Mr. Torres got up from a corner chair in Dr. Best’s office and introduced them. “Ellen, this is Morris Jackson, one of our best engineers. Morris, this is Ellen Best.”

Ellen stepped forward and they shook hands.

“I’m happy to meet you formally,” Morris said. “Welcome to the company.”

“I look forward to working with you,” Ellen said.

Mr. Torres returned to his corner seat, Ellen took the high back chair behind the desk, and Morris sat in the remaining chair at the small conference table.

“Morris,” Mr. Torres said. “As you know we are working on a project to weigh rock samples on the comet mission. In anticipation of the funding, I put my old engineer’s hat on a month ago and got our technicians working on a solution.” He paused. “I made a mistake.”

“Could this be possible?” Morris thought to himself. “Is this a confession from my manager?”

“I didn’t want to risk research funds on a lot of preliminary engineering so I sketched up an idea and got a prototype made. The testing had some problems and I need you and Ellen to see if you can fix it.”

“What?” Morris thought. “You want me, or us to fix your idea?”

Ellen sat behind her desk and looked back and forth from Mr. Torres to Morris. Her head was tilted down a little; her lips pressed together.

“I’m sure it will work,” Mr. Torres continued, “but it either has a dynamic, or a hysteresis problem. It oscillates in all directions and the results are not consistent.”

Now Ellen looked back and forth between the other two for a moment. “But I thought,…”

“Mr. Torres,” Ellen said. “Perhaps it would help if you explained the design and the problem to Morris like you did for me.”

“Good idea.”

Mr. Torres grabbed the marker and sketched the design on the board. It was spiderweb-like with wires reaching out radially in four directions from a container. He also drew two springs on the remaining two opposite sides of the box. He explained the concerns shared by the technicians.

“How am I going to steer him over to my idea?” Morris thought.

“Mr. Torres,” Morris said. “I wish you would have talked to me sooner. I think there are some ways we can control the container motion and eliminate some of those degrees of freedom.”

Mr. Torres, looked over at Ellen.

She nodded.

Mr. Torres nodded in return. “If you would please,” Mr. Torres said to Ellen.

“Morris,” Ellen said. “I came into this project just a few days before you, and encouraged Mr. Torres to get some more engineering involved. Some real science…”

“That sounds like a good idea,” Morris thought.

Ellen continued, “During the past forty-eight hours however, I’ve been thinking about this a lot and I have a different solution I’d like to propose. It involves using the principle of conservation of momentum.”

Mr. Torres looked surprised.

Morris blood pressure rose.

“It’s kind of like the balls on a pool table,” she continued. “If we impact the container of rocks with a known mass,…”

A few drops of sweat appeared on Mr. Torres’ forehead. Ellen continued to describe her idea. Morris thought about the wooden box mounted to linear rails in his garage and saw his idea drifting away.

“Look,” Morris said looking back and forth between his boss and his co-worker. “I also have an idea but I can see that we are all engineers at heart and I can’t focus on your ideas while I’m convinced that mine is the right one. My prototype should be ready in a few days.”

“Your what?” Mr. Torres slid forward in his chair and gripped the edge of the small conference table with both hands. “What funding are you using?”

“I’m doing it on my own, in my garage.”

Mr. Torres opened his mouth, but said nothing.

“Don’t worry, I’m using my own time and money.”

“Morris, you can’t expect to be paid for work we don’t even know about.”

“Look,” Morris raised his voice. “I’m not worried about that. I just thought you invited me in here to do some engineering, not just fix your…” He paused. “I’m not sure I want to,… I mean, I’m not sure I’m the right one for this…”

(To be continued)

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