My most powerful science fiction story ever—caused a shouting match!
Appeared in the the Feb. 1996 Linewaiter’s Gazette, the newsletter of the Park Slope Food Coop in Brooklyn, NY. Several members took it for real and came to the next PSFC General Meeting to angrily protest that the Hawk should not be sold or used by the Coop!
“HAWK” DEBATE HEATS UP
by Terry Bisson for the New Products Committee
The lively debate over consumer electronics products in the Coop (see cartoon and letters, January 4th Gazette) has heated up considerably with the recent controversy about the PSFC’s stocking of the new Hawk mini-Black Hole solid waste disposal device.
In the interest of promoting discussion, the New Products Committee has decided to present the facts about the Hawk, together with a sampling of members’ opinions, both pro and con. The PSFC’s stance toward this controversial new device is scheduled for full discussion at the next general meeting.
WHAT IS IT?
According to the manufacturer, Singularity Industries of Long Island, the Hawk is a hand-held, battery-powered device that removes trash and unwanted material permanently from our universe, by sucking it into a tiny but powerful Black Hole.
“It’s sort of a quantum dust-buster, says PSFC Coordinator Joe Holtz, who stocked the item for the Coop after seeing it advertised on a late-night infomercial on Channel Nine. “I saw it eat a car on TV.”
“Black Holes are among the most powerful and unusual forces in nature,” added Coordinator Marty Stiglich, though he was unable to explain exactly what they are or how they work.
Calls to the manufacturer’s Opaque, Long Island, number went unanswered. The Product Review Committee made inquiries at selected local universities, and was able to confirm that the scientific principles on which the Hawk are based are indeed sound, if astonishing.
A Black Hole is a distortion in space-time predicted by the award-winning author (A Brief History of Time) Stephen Hawking, for whom the device is named. A Black Hole is created when matter becomes so densely packed that it creates a gravitational field from which nothing, not even light, can escape.
“A Black Hole can suck in almost anything,” confirmed Professor Mara Jimenez Mariskaya, PhD, Chair of the Physics Department at Bensonhurst Community College (and a long-time PSFC member). “There is one in the Andromeda Galaxy that is eating stars at the rate of four a day. I saw one on television eat a car.”
WHAT DOES IT DO?
The Singularity Industries device uses a quantum electronics plasma field generated by a 9v battery to create and sustain a microscopic black hole that is too small to see, but powerful enough to remove up to 122 tons of unwanted material per hour—“safely, effectively and above all, permanently,” according to the manufacturer.
The single alkaline 9v battery lasts up to six hours in normal use, and can be conveniently disposed of inside the device, the manufacturer points out. The Hawk never has to be emptied, since all the material drawn into the black hole is lost to this universe forever. There are, of course, no bags or filters to change. The microwave and radiation effects are certified as under three gauss, although Consumers Reportsand the Underwriters Lab have yet to test the device.
The Hawk lists for $39.95 and is sold by the PSFC for $28.65, a significant saving over current prices at discount outlets.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
PSFC members were introduced to the Hawk during the blizzard of ’96 when it was used to get rid of the enormous 11-foot-high pile of snow in front of the Coop. Although the screen-protected intake port on the Hawk is almost too small to see, three Coop members with shovels were able to remove an estimated 9.8 tons of snow in a little over one hour.
The PSFC was besieged with a “blizzard” of inquiries from passers-by, intrigued at seeing Coop members busily shoveling snow into what looked like an electric razor. Complaints soon followed, mostly from ecology-conscious PSFC members, concerned that the snow was lost to the environment forever by being injected into a Black Hole.
“Nature’s delicate balance is dependent on the water cycle pointed out PSFC member Judy Y. Jensen, a hydrologist. “We should be recycling, not removing material from this universe entirely.”
Other PSFC members disagreed. “The microverse inside the event horizon of the Black Hole is part of this universe,” points out securities analyst and cross-country skier Tom Longpole. “The ‘missing’ snow still exists, just in a more compact form. Although it is true that it is trapped forever in a gravity field so massive that it can never escape.”
Some members were scornful and dismissive. “We ship water from France. What’s the big deal about sending dirty snow to another universe?” queried Allan “Magic” Blitz.
The controversy heated up the first week in February when it was revealed that the PSFC coordinators were planning to use the “Hawk” to get rid of old paint, plastics, and other materials that are difficult to recycle.
“What are we telling our children about recycling when we send solid waste out of the universe, just because it’s more convenient?” demanded Hester Bovary-Karenin, the thrice-married chairperson of the Recycling Committee.
The PSFC staff, however, argued that the mini-Black-Hole was an ecological boon. “I’m holding the answer to the landfill problem,” said Coordinator Mille Clinton, hefting her Hawk. “This little baby can hold the equivalent of 14.6 Staten Islands’ worth of solid trash.”
A spot check of the Suggestion Box revealed impassioned pleas for the safety of children and pets.
“What could be more dangerous than a device that opens a doorway into another universe with a nine volt battery, and a one-way door at that?” asked teacher and author Mark Grashow. “We’ve been worried about kids and box cutters. Wait till the “Hawk” kits the high schools!”
“It sucks! ” said a brief note signed A. Kid.
“One false move by my curious cat and she’s crushed to an infinitesimal dot?” protested Pet Ctte. chaircreature Willard F. Baggins. “This device does not, repeat, NOT, belong on a pet-friendly coop’s shelves.”
HOW MANY ARE OUT THERE?
Some of the protesting PSFC members are alarmed by the fact that 16 of the original 24 “Hawks” have already been sold. The disappearance of several cars and pets have been blamed on the device, though coordinator Holtz is skeptical. “Pets and cars disappear the time,” he points out. “And it wouldn’t be the Coop if people didn’t complain.”
Meanwhile, at the urging of the New Products Committee, the Hawk and the PSFC’s stance toward it will be the fourth item on the agenda at the next General Meeting, right after Plastic Bags, the Thief and the Chair.