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Scene 3: Chemistry

MATTHEW Neil, here is the universe. We are way ahead of schedule. If you would just put the finishing touches on it, I believe we'll be good to go.

NEIL Where's the owners manual?

MATTHEW The owners manual?

NEIL Is there any technical documentation on how this universe works?

MATTHEW Well, not exactly.

NEIL Great. So, we have billions of "stars" and we have no idea how they work.

MATTHEW Actually, we only have to concentrate on this one little "planet" for the moment. [explaining the only part he understands] There are three kinds of sludge there now.

NEIL Three kinds of sludge? How do they behave? What kinds are there? Fifi is going to want different colors...

MATTHEW [Stopping Neil] Neil, we are way behind schedule. We have a lot of work to do. Get it done. I have the utmost confidence in your abilities. This is what we have.

NEIL Yes, Sir!

[Matthew exits. Lights to near blackout then up. Neil now understands everything]

NEIL Sludge? No, Al, not sludge, matter. There are three kinds of sludge. [crosses out "sludge" in documentation] matter. Let's look at the samples. [pulls out rock - looks at it, bites it,] Owwww... [bangs it on the table] This is a pretty solid sample. I'll name these solids. [Opens second box. Pulls out water. Looks at water, drinks some, as if taking notes] Sample has no taste. It flows. I'll name this liquid. [Opens third box. Looks inside] Third sample is missing. [Picks up phone, dials] Bert, will you go to Physics and get some of the third sample. There is none in the box. Oh and see what else they have for me. I'd better get more samples or this documentation isn't going to be complete.

[Enter Bert carrying a cellular phone and still talking into it]

BERT Al said that you'd say that there was no third sample. But, he insists that it's in there.

NEIL [hangs up phone] It's not in there now. Get me some more. [Bert exits] Solids [holds up rock] you can see. It keeps its shape for the most part. Liquid doesn't hold it's shape. I'll worry about the invisible stuff later.

[lights dim and come back up]

NEIL If I heat up the solid matter, it turns into a liquid. When I heat up the liquid, it disappears. Hey, the invisible stuff. Air! No, gas. And when I cool it down, it goes the other way.

[Enter Bert with new samples]

BERT Hey Neil, Al said that the floating stuff is probably still in the box. I tried to explain it to him but he wouldn't listen.

NEIL Actually Bert, Al may not be too bright sometimes but I think he is right on this one.

BERT Jeezh. Here's another sample package from physics. Sign here please.

[Neil signs. Bert leaves package and exits]

NEIL [excitedly opens the box] What do we have here? [Pulls dry ice] A solid that wants to be a gas. No Problem! It turns into a liquid, but it doesn't stay a liquid long enough for anyone to notice. [Looks closer] Oops! That's not it. [Looks at liquid and looks back at dry ice] Hey, there isn't enough. . .force to keep the liquid from flying away. There is not enough pressure on the liquid holding it together. Ha! No Problem! Temperature and Pressure control the states of matter. Al, I've got you this time. But, if we are at the same temperature and pressure, why do we have solids, liquids, and gas? [Uses magnifying glass again.]

Wait a minute, this isn't the same stuff as this other matter. In fact there seems to be an underlying structure to it all. There are these little clumps of positive charges and buzzy negative charges. Those buzzy things are fast! So, with different combinations of these positives and negatives different atoms form. That's pretty neat. How many of these things are there? [Spins around holding magnifying glass] OK, I count 103 and I'm dizzy.

If I drop this solid into this liquid, it just sits there at the bottom. But, if I take this solid stuff and grind it up and mix it with this liquid it goes away. [examines closer] No, its still there, actually all the molecules are combining and organizing, associating. No, dissociating. Yeah, dissociating. And, [tastes] it's, hmm, better than without the solid stuff alone. Hey, I bet that this stuff would do wonders for this tart liquid... [adds sugar to kool aid]. There, that should be enough. [tastes, adds more] Just a little more... Hey, why won't it mix? What's happening? Hey, I think I understand this.

[Enter Bert]

BERT Package! Sign here.

NEIL Is it from Physics?

BERT Yes. Sign here.

NEIL I don't want it.

BERT Why do I always get the crazies?

NEIL Hey, you'd be crazy to if you had to unlock the secrets of an unfinished universe on a shoestring budget.

BERT Oh! And I suppose you think it's easy to raise four kids and keep my wife in young lovers with my salary. Listen, bud, we all have it hard. Just sign here.


BERT Well, can I at least have your autograph? I hear that you guys are going to be famous. Word is somebody is writing an unauthorized biography of your work. It's going to be a best seller.

NEIL Do you know what it's called?

BERT Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy? I don't know. How's about that autograph?

NEIL How should I make it out?

BERT How about "Received, Neil"?

NEIL [signing] That's an odd way to sign an autograph.

BERT Thanks. Here's your package.

[Bert exits. Enter Matthew casually, obviously expecting everything to be done.]

MATTHEW O.K., Neil, what have you come up with?

NEIL [accelerating throughout]Well, we've got 3 states of matter. Well, sometimes, 4 if you consider Plasma a state. And I found a fifth, but it's too cold. We can ignore it. 100 Atoms that can form together in ways where they have properties similar to one another yet can be classified in periodic groups such that those elements can have similar properties to their group and combine thusly. Technobabble at warp 9. And, have you tried the Kool-Aid?

MATTHEW Did I miss a memo?

[at a reasonable speed that Matthew almost understands]

NEIL Well, I have discovered that there are three states of matter. I have named them solids, liquids and gases. The solids are what Al called hard sludge. Liquids flow. Gases fly.

MATTHEW [comprehending this much] The flying sludge.

NEIL Yes. Al also said that there were three basic particles. But I have discovered that these three particles have electrical charge. What happens is that the positive charged particles hang out with the neutral charged particles. Around each of these groups there are shells of energy.

MATTHEW [Proud of his understanding] You mean like eggshells?

NEIL [giving up on educating Matthew] Yeah, like eggshells.