Odyssey -- for adventures in science!

A Day in the Life of George Winkle

By Erin Schlemmer

George Winkle was having a very bad day. First, his house-bot had failed to wake him up for school in the morning and he had been late. Then, his "Planetary Resources" teacher had given the class a huge assignment of sending a survey to a scientist in the Intersolarsysematic Research Station on Mars to get his or her thoughts on the prospect of mining the planet for copper. It could take hours to send a message to Mars and hear back, even with new Time Warp Messaging. To top it all off, the photocells in his Jetblades had given out and he hadn’t been able to meet with his friends to play baseball.

Now, his communicator wasn’t working. George acquired a Q-tip from the bathroom and jabbed it into his ear, twisting it this way and that. All he heard was a crackling sound that increased tremendously then it died completely.

Groaning with exasperation, George pushed the flap of his ear over his ear hole and shouted, "Jane!"

Nothing happened. "Jane DeWitt!"

George smiled as, with a low buzzing sound, the communicator clicked into gear. Communicators were supposed to work for life, from the time they were installed in baby’s ear when you were born. Unfortunately, George’s had been acting up lately. He would have to see a Body Systems Enhancement Expert.

The buzzing increased as a voice spoke, as though from inside his ear, "Hi George, do you want to talk to Bob?"

"Yeah, Mrs. DeWitt. I want him to spend the night. Is he around?"

"Yes, Just a minute."

Bob was a robo-child, a robot that had human parents, thoughts, and feelings. Robo-children did not, however, have human rights. Robots weren’t allowed to wear communicators, so George and Bob had to talk through Bob’s mother.

Now, George faintly heard Bob’s voice; Mrs. DeWitt must have her mouth open for her Larynxcom, a transmitter inserted in the mouth at birth, to be picking up Bob’s voice. Jane DeWitt came back again, saying, "I’m sorry, George, but Bob needs an oil bath. He’s got a bad case of Titanium Tarnish. Maybe another time." George muttered a short, "Thanks," and released his earflap to hang up. His day was growing worse by the minute!

George shuffled dejectedly towards his room to mope but was stopped short by his father, Luke Winkle. "Why the long face, son? It’s Big Bang day, after all! Today is a day of celebration, a day to recognize the extraordinary intellect of Dr. Martha Simmons! If it weren’t for her ingenious Lunar-Based, Deep Space Telescope, we would never have been able to see the edge of the universe! Why, I know! Why don’t you read the article in my Virtual Paper? I downloaded it just minutes ago. Yes, that would certainly cheer you up! Come along now . . . "

But George was too quick for his science-fanatic father; right as Mr. Winkle was about to shove the Virtual Paper into his son’s face, George ducked into his bedroom and our of harm’s way. Slumping onto his bed, George turned on his Holographic Image Transmitter and selected "Top News Stories" from the dialogue box.

Trixie, the Winkles’ personalized news anchor, appeared on the three-dimensional screen and began in her airy voice. "The Glynheimer Launch Pad in Topos, Antarctica, will be closed until February due to construction on the ozone. Two crews of Atmospheric Engineers from Meltco, Incorporated, will be repairing the damaged atmosphere with a series of 03 infusions. Although this won’t prevent depletion of the ozone, it should help cut back on the amount of ultraviolet radiation reaching the earth . . .

"In other news, there was another demonstration in Boston today as a group of robots’ rights activists protested against the new law requiring all robots, young and old, to be registered under the guardianship of an adult human. Marilyn Gospey, chairperson of NARORIA, the National Robot’s Rights Association, initiated the protest. Gospey says that the demonstrations will continue until Congress at least passes a law enabling robots to vote and to live by themselves . . .

"The Center for Human Clone Research in Tokyo, Japan, is conducting a new investigation. Scientists at the Center are comparing cloned humans and their originals to try to find out why clones age faster than regular humans do. Gochi Narahaka, the scientist who is heading up the project, says that they have found that clones have a much lower level of Human Growth Hormone than regular humans do. Narahaka adds that this helps explain why clones are often shorter than their originals and don’t live as long.

"Construction is underway in Gary, Indiana, for the first ever fusion plant . . ."

George turned off the Holographic Image Transmitter and put his chin in his hands. He didn’t care about fusion plant or the demonstrations. He wished that his communicator worked so that he could call his friends without the crackling and buzzing.

Hearing his mother’s voice down the hall, George got up to go see her. Mrs. Winkle had been to the doctor with his baby sister, Mary. Mary had a defective gene in her second chromosome that gave her sickle-cell anemia. This was another thing nagging George’s mind because his little sister was often in pain and was usually tired and fatigued. George heard talking in the living room and wandered in to see his mother beaming from ear to ear.

Catching sight of her son, Mrs. Winkle exclaimed, "Oh George! I took Mary to the gene therapist and he said that he can insert a new gene into her with virus vector. He is sure that it will cure her!"

George smiled for the first time that day. His homework assignment seemed like nothing now, his broken jetblades of minor concern. His sister’s health was a hundred times more important than all his other problems combined. All of a sudden, George Winkle was having a very good day.