Honey, I didn’t shrink the car

Albert Einstein once wrote that imagination is more important than knowledge. Dave Wilson discovers that Einstein was right.

Imagination is more important than knowledge. – Albert Einstein.

One Saturday, a few weeks ago, the Public Relations executive of a large industrial laser company decided to drive to her client’s design and manufacturing facility accompanied by her two small children aged ten and six.

As I am sure you can imagine, the two children were jolly excited about going into the plant to meet the folks who designed and built lasers. Especially the six-year old.

But he was clearly troubled about certain aspects of the visit too. ‘Who will drive this home after they have ‘blown it up’ with their lasers?’ he asked his mother, holding up a small-scale model of a car.

Before his mother could utter a word, his ten-year old brother replied that the lasers wouldn’t be able to do any such thing, so there was no need for him to worry.

But the six-year old wasn’t having any of it. He was convinced that after a few hours in the plant, he would have a full-scale 1970 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am on his hands, replete with a 345 horsepower ‘Ram Air’ engine and front fender air extractors. And somehow, he would have to transport it back to his own house.

They entered the building and were greeted by a host of engineers. And, with the enthusiasm that is typical of people of that persuasion, they spent as much time as they could with the children explaining the technology behind the pulsed tuneable UV lasers and how they were put to use in a myriad of scientific applications.

At the request of the six-year old, of course, they were obliged to take the small-scale model of the car, mount it on a small platform in a darkened room, and light it up with one of their products.

Needless to say, however, nothing ‘impressive’ happened to the car. It did not suddenly grow to enormous proportions. Nothing, in fact, happened to it at all. And everyone could see that the little fella was more than a little disappointed by the lack of results.

On the way back home that afternoon, it was a sad little man who sat in silence in the front of his mother’s car.

Until at last his older brother in the back seat broke the ice by reminding him that he had told him beforehand that the lasers would never be able to enlarge his model car.

There was a long silence while the six-year old reflected on the obvious lack of success of the technology he had witnessed that day.

Finally, he came to his own conclusion about the failure of the experiment.

‘They just didn’t use a big enough laser,’ he said.