The Other Brighter World

Calvin Zephirm, junior reporter with the Arkansas Herald, had a wide job remit but it was easy to describe: everything more senior reporters refused. This week that was a feature on Canadian storm chaser Rubin Acer, currently travelling across Arkansas. Not exactly the next Whitewater controversy but there had been a huge surge in the number of tornadoes, far above the seasonal norm, so for once Calvin could be landing a big story.

Out in the cornfields of Miller County with typical Canadian conscientiousness Rubin started methodically assembling the weather balloon apparatus, lecturing Calvin on the atmospheric system along the way.

“Earth’s climate is an irreversible process yet in a state of equilibrium. Radiation from the sun, packed with energy, low on entropy, warms the planet, driving the enormous heat engine you call weather, pumping from the equator to the poles, from the ground to the upper atmosphere. Everything in God’s Universe must obey the laws of thermodynamics; turbulence in the weather’s engine generates entropy on a massive scale. To keep it all in balance the Earth responds by emitting long wavelength high entropy radiation out into space. This year has seen a multitude of unusually intense tornadoes, all rotating anti-cyclonically. Convulsions of rotating chaos and disorder, indicating the world has changed. Mankind’s pollution within the atmosphere has upset the entropic balance. No-one knows the impact this may ultimately have.”

As he spoke, the sky, only minutes ago a perfect blue, had suddenly darkened. Thunder cracked and lightning strikes surrounded them. All at once a vast tornado burst downwards, the vortex perhaps a mile wide, roaring and rumbling, a jarring cacophony of sound spinning inescapably towards them.

“It’s a twister, it’s a twister! That tornado is coming straight for us. You Canadians may be tough enough but I don’t get free health care.” Calvin, shouting with some urgency.

“Tornado winds are not dangerous in themselves. Strap this tether around your waist. Once we rise above the debris and synchronize our speed with the tornado, all will be fine eh. Although it may get colder as we rise - put on this hat.” Passing a red woolen tuque with the obligatory white maple leaf as if it would somehow protect you from any hazard.

They strapped themselves to the balloon tethers just as it suddenly rose into the air, spinning violently in unstable circles. Calvin was about to black out when there was an almost instantaneous halt to the rotation as quiescent air suddenly surrounded them. They appeared to have entered a central pipe inside the tornado only yards wide. Rubin, acting as if this sort of thing happened every day, grabbed the radiosonde display with one hand, pulled a clipboard from his belt with the other and started plotting points on a chart.

“Astonishing, this tornado, unlike in a hurricane it’s extremely rare to get such a stable core, but even more unbelievable… Look at this tephigram, truly unique.” He was holding the chart at an angle of 45 degrees, the plotted line on the chart dropping almost vertically down. “If you hold a tephigram this way the entropy axis is vertical. On our voyage up through the core entropy has fallen at an enormous rate. Complete inversion of the normal entropic direction, as if the tornado was Maxwell’s Demon himself. ”

“Sorry you lost me back at ground level; I don’t have the brain for math and theory. But what on earth is there over that rainbow, where the sky is so blue?” Calvin pointing upwards where the core widened out to an inverted rainbow, both colors and curvature reversed, surrounded by dazzling blue light from all directions as if from some other brighter world.

Looming larger as the balloon rose higher they approached what gradually revealed itself to be a Luftwaffe airship, iron cross insignia on the side, four engine gondolas and a command gondola towards the front. The air currents in the tornado core drew them nearer until they could see the airship crew, in uniform and pickelhaube spiked helmets, crew turning machine guns in their direction.

“The radiosonde measurements, dramatic reduction in entropy, this suggests that the irreversible thermodynamic process is running backwards. Loschmidt’s paradox played out before our very eyes. The enormous rotational spin of the tornado has reversed the arrow of time. Perhaps these are time travelers from the past.”

“What? You’re telling me that’s a real Luftwaffe airship sucked from the past and traveling backwards in time to reach our present? That’s the most preposterous, illogical thing I’ve ever heard.”

“You were expecting a paradox to make sense? Well I don’t have all the answers, but I have a feeling we’re not in Arkansas anymore.”

To be continued…