Book 8, part 1. The New Civilization (2005)
Dominion over radiation
“Has Volodya been up to something unusual again?” Anastasia enquired of her grandfather, who had rushed over to us. And Grandfather, with a passing glance at me and a brief “Hello, Vladimir!”, explained:
“He is down by the lakeshore. He dived down and brought up a stone from the bottom. Now he is standing there, clutch-ing it in his hand. It is safe to assume that the stone is burning his hand, but he will not let it go. And I do not know what advice to give him.”
Then Grandfather turned to me and barked:
“Your son’s down there. You’re his father. What are you standing here for?”
Not fully aware of what was going on, I ran down to the lake. Grandfather ran alongside me and explained:
“This stone is radioactive. It isn’t big, but contains a good deal of energy — an energy similar to radiation.”
“How did it happen to turn up at the bottom of the lake?” “It’s been lying there a long time. My father, even, knew about that stone. But nobody’s been able to dive down to it.” “How did Volodya manage it? How did he know about it?”
“I trained him to do deep-water dives.”
“He kept pestering me to show him, asking me again and again. You two don’t seem to have the time to look after your own child’s upbringing — you’ve been shoving the whole bur-den onto the shoulders of your elders.”
‘And who told him about the stone?”
“Now who would have told him, eh, apart from me? I told him.”
“He wanted to know what stopped the lake from freezing over in winter.”
As we approached the lake, I saw my son standing on the shore. His hair and shirt were all wet, but the water had al-ready dripped off them, which told me he had been standing like that for some time.
Volodya stood with his arm stretched out in front of him, his fingers clenched into a fist, which he kept his eyes fixed on like a hawk. It was clear his hand was clutching that same sinister stone from the bottom of the lake. I took two steps in his direction. He quickly turned his head toward me and said:
“Don’t come any closer, Papa.”
And when I stopped, he added:
“Good health to your thoughts, Papa! But keep back just a little further. Maybe it would be better if you and Grandfather lay down on the ground. I shall be able to better concentrate that way”
Grandfather at once lay down on the ground, and without really knowing why, I followed suit. For some time we didn’t say a word, just watching Volodya standing on the shore. Then a rather simple thought struck me, and I said:
“Volodya, couldn’t you just toss it a little ways away?”
“Where away?” my son asked, not turning his head.
“Into the grass.”
“I must not throw it into the grass. It could cause a lot of destruction. I feel I must not throw it away yet.”
“So, does that mean you’re going to keep standing there all day, or two days? What next? You’re going to stand there a whole week? Or a month, even?”
“I am thinking about what to do, Papa. Let us keep quiet and give thought a chance to find the solution without being distracted.”
Grandfather and I lay silently on the grass and looked at Volodya. And all at once I became aware of Anastasia ap-proaching slowly — too slowly, under the circumstances — from the other end of the shore. When she got about five metres from Volodya’s position, she sat down at the water’s edge, as if nothing unusual were going on. She let her feet dangle in the water and stayed there that way for some time. Eventually she turned to our son and very calmly enquired:
“Is it burning your hand, son?”
“Yes, Mama,” Volodya replied.
“What were you thinking about when you fetched the stone? And what are you thinking about right now?”
“The stone is giving off energy, similar to radiation. Grandfather was telling me about it. But Man also gives off energy I know that. And human energy is always stronger than any other — it cannot be dominated by any other. I brought up the stone and I am holding it. I am trying with all my might to repress its energy — to send it back inside the stone. I want to demonstrate that Man has dominion over any radiation.”
‘And are you succeeding in demonstrating the superiority of the energy coming from yourself?”
“Yes, Mama, I am succeeding. Only it is becoming increas-ingly hotter. It is burning my fingers and palm just a little.” “Why do you not throw it away?”
“I feel that I must not do that.”
“I feel it.”
“It... It will explode, Mama. It will explode just as soon as I open my hand. There will be a big explosion.”
“You are correct, it will explode. The stone is giving off the energy accumulated inside it. You used your own energy to repress its flow and direct it back inside. You used your thought to shape the nucleus within the stone, and your energy is now building up inside it, along with its own. It cannot go on accumulating indefinitely It is already raging within the nucleus you formed with your own thoughts — it is getting hotter and the stone is burning your hand.”
“I realise that, and that is why I am not letting go of my hold.” Outwardly Anastasia was the picture of calm. Her move-ments were slow and smooth, her speech was measured and with pauses. I could still feel, however, the extremely intense concentration of her thought — it must have been working faster than ever. She rose to her feet, gave what appeared to be a lethargic stretch, and said quietly:
“That means you realise, Volodya, that if you open your hand suddenly, there could be an explosion?”
“That means you have to release it gradually.”
“Just a tiny bit at first. First, ease up on your thumb and index finger to expose just a fraction of the stone. Picture in your mind right off how the energy you directed into the stone is emanating straight upward like a ray And its own energy will begin to follow suit. Be careful: the ray must be directed only straight up.”
Concentrating all his attention on his tightly clenched fist, Volodya gradually eased the pressure on his thumb and index finger. It was a sunny morning, but even in broad daylight one could see the ray emanating from the stone. A bird flying way
up high fell into the ray and was immediately transformed into a puff of smoke. It looked as though a small cloud exploded in vapour when the ray passed through it. A few minutes later and the ray was scarcely noticeable.
“Oh, I have been sitting here with you too long!” said Anastasia. “I think I may go and make us some breakfast while you amuse yourselves here.”
She took her time leaving. After going only a few steps, she staggered a bit, and then headed down to the water and washed her face. No doubt her outward calm had concealed an incredible inner tension. She had hid it so as not to frighten her son and interfere with his actions.
“How did you know exactly what I should do?” Volodya called out after the receding figure of Anastasia.
“How, indeed?” Grandfather echoed, mockingly He had al-ready got up from the ground and was feeling in much better spirits. “What do you mean, howl At school your Mama was a top-notch pupil in physics!” And he burst out in a loud guffaw
Anastasia turned toward us and broke into laughter herself, explaining:
“I had not known about that before, son. But whatever happens, you always need to look for and find a solution. And not to let your thought be fettered by fear.”
When the ray could no longer be seen at all, Volodya opened his hand completely A small oblong stone was lying quietly on his palm. He stared at it for some time, muttering under his breath as he addressed the stone: “What is inside you is no match for Man!”
Then he once again closed his hand into a fist and dived straight into the water without taking off his shirt. It was a good three minutes before he resurfaced and headed back toward the shore.
“I was the one who taught him how to hold his breath that long,” Grandfather commented.
After Volodya came out of the water, he jumped up and down to dry himself off, then headed over our way I couldn’t wait, but burst out:
“D’you have any idea what radiation is, son? I guess you don’t. If you did, you wouldn’t have gone and fetched that wretched stone. Can’t you find yourself some other business to poke your nose into?”
“I know all about radiation, Papa. Grandfather told me about the disasters that have happened at your nuclear power plants, about your atomic weapons and the dangers now posed by the storage of nuclear waste.”
“So, what’s all the interest in this stone lying at the bottom of the lake? What about it?”
“Yes, indeed, what about it?” Grandfather joined the con-versation. “You preach at him, Vladimir. I’m going to go have a little rest. It seems that lately your son’s been making quite a few demands on me.”
Grandfather started heading off, leaving me alone with my son.
And here he was, standing in front of me in his shirt, all dripping wet. He was evidently quite upset about the worry he had caused us all. I didn’t feel like nagging him any farther. I simply stood there without saying a word, not knowing how to begin. Volodya was the first to speak.
“You see, Papa, Grandfather told me that these nuclear waste facilities are extremely dangerous. According to prob-ability theory, they can do irreparable harm to many countries and the people living in them. And to our whole planet, be-sides.”
“They can, of course, but what’s this got to do with you?”
“What this means is, if people think the problem is solved, but the danger still remains, it means they have not come up with the correct solution.”
“So, what if it is incorrect — what does it matter?”
“Grandfather said that it is up to me to find the correct solution.”
“So... have you found it?”
“I have now, Papa.”
There he was, standing before me, my nine-year-old son, soaking wet and with an injured hand, but entirely confident in himself. And speaking in a calm and confident tone of voice about how to solve the problem of storing nuclear waste. An altogether peculiar situation! After all, he is no scientist, no nuclear physicist and doesn’t even study in a regular school. Most peculiar! Here is this boy standing in his wet clothing on the shore of a taiga lake and discussing the safe storage of nuclear waste. Not counting on any kind of effective solution on his part, I asked, simply in the interests of keeping the conversation going:
“Well, what specific conclusions have you come to regarding this insoluble problem?”
“Out of all the possible variants, I think the most effective is deconcentration.”
“I’m not sure what you mean — deconcentration of what?
“Of nuclear waste, Papa.”
“I came to the realisation, Papa, that radiation in small doses is not at all dangerous. It is present in small quantities everywhere — in us, in plants, in the water and the clouds. But the real danger comes when too much is concentrated in one place. In the nuclear facilities Grandfather was telling me about, a whole lot of radioactive objects are concentrated together in one place.”
“Well, everybody knows that. Radioactive waste is hauled to specially constructed storage facilities, which are carefully protected from terrorists. They’ve got specially trained per-sonnel who ensure there are no violations of proper storage technology.”
“Quite right, Papa. But the danger still exists. And a ca-tastrophe is inevitable, caused by someone’s specific thought imposing a wrong decision on people.”
“You know, this problem, son, is being investigated in sci-entific institutes by highly qualified specialists. You’re not a scholar, you haven’t studied science, and so you’re not capable of solving such an important question. It’s modern science that ought to come up with an answer.”
“But what has been the result, Papa? After all, it is precisely the inventions of modern science that have caused people to be subjected to great danger. Of course I do not study in school, and I do not know the science you are talking about, but...”
He fell silent and lowered his head.
“What does that ‘but’ of yours mean? Why did you stop, Volodya?”
“I have no desire, Papa, to be a pupil in that school or to study the science you have in mind.”
“Because, Papa, that kind of science is what leads to disas-ters.”
“But there’s no other kind of science.”
“There is. ‘Reality should be determined only through one’s own self,’ says Mama Anastasia. I understand what that means, and I am studying, or ‘determining’. At the moment I do not know how to put it more specifically”
Wow! How sure he is of his convictions! I thought. Then I asked: ‘And what is the probability of disaster, as you see it?”
‘A hundred percent.”
“You’re certain of that?”
‘According to probability theory and the absence of any counteraction to destructive thought, a disaster is inevitable. The construction of large nuclear storage facilities can be compared to the construction of huge bombs.”
‘And am I to guess that your thought has begun counter-acting this destructive element?”
“Yes, I have launched my thought into space. And it will triumph.”
“Specifically, what solution has your thought come up with regarding the problem of the safe storage of nuclear waste?”
‘All nuclear waste concentrated in large facilities needs to be deconcentrated — that is my thought.”
“Deconcentration — does that mean dividing it into frag-ments a hundred thousandth or a multi-millionth in size?”
“That is right, Papa.”
‘A simple solution. But the big question remains: where to store these tiny fragments?”
“On kin’s domains, Papa.”
For a moment the shock of this incredible statement com-pletely overwhelmed me — I didn’t know what to say Then I practically shouted:
“Nonsense! That’s utter nonsense you’ve thought up, Volodya.”
After I’d thought about it a little more, I said in a calmer voice:
“Of course, if nuclear fragments are deconcentrated and spread among various places, a global catastrophe can be averted. But this will also put millions of families who have decided to live on these domains in danger. After all, every-body wants to live in a place that’s environmentally clean.”
“Yes, Papa, everybody wants to live in an environmentally clean place. But there are hardly any such places remaining on the Earth today.”
‘And here in the taiga, isn’t this environmentally clean ei-ther?”
“The environment here is relatively clean. But it is not ideal, not pristine. There are no ideal spots left, anywhere. Clouds can bring their acid rain here too, from a variety of places. The
grass and trees and bushes are coping with it for the time being, but the filthy places are becoming only filthier with each passing day And the number of such places keeps growing with each passing day That is why it is essential right now not to walk away from this filthiness, but attack it. ‘We need to create clean places ourselves’ — that is what Mama says.
“From all the possible variants my thought selected just one. It could not come up with any other. My thought tells me it is safer to deconcentrate and tame the waste one fragment at a time, and derive a benefit for life on our planet by storing a tiny fragment on one’s domain.”
“But where on the domain? In a larder? In a safe? Store this radioactive capsule in an underground cellar? Has your thought given you any hint of this yet?”
“The capsule should be buried underground no less than nine metres deep.”
I spent some time thinking about my son’s proposal, which had indeed seemed incredible at first, but the more I thought about it, the more inclined I became to accept that there was some grain of reason in what he said. At the very least, his proposal for nuclear waste storage would be entirely sufficient to avert a large-scale catastrophe. As to pollution on the given domain, that was something that could indeed be avoided, and there might even be a plus side. Perhaps scientists could come up with something like a mini-reactor — or something similar.
And then, all at once a thought dawned on me. Wow! Here was another reason for the need to deconcentrate the storage of radioactive waste. Money!
Huge sums are being doled out by foreign governments for the storage of such waste. It is these funds that pay for constructing the facilities, maintaining service personnel and whole security control systems. And a part of this money inevitably disappears into the unknown. Why not pay it, instead, to every domain where radioactive waste capsules are stored? Fantastic! Not only would ‘safe contamination’ be guaranteed, but people would earn money besides.
At the present time nobody can guarantee security from contamination even for those living far away from the storage facilities. Think what happened at Chernobyl2 — the con-tamination affected not just parts of Ukrainian territory, but of Russia and Belarus as well. Clouds can carry the pollution for hundreds and even thousands of kilometres.
So, even though it is still at the conceptual stage and the details need fleshing out, my son’s proposal deserves serious consideration — not just on the part of the academic world, but from governments, and especially the public.
I was walking along the lakeshore, immersed in my thoughts, and had quite forgot about my son. He was still standing at the same spot, silently watching me. His upbringing forbade him from being the first to reinitiate our conversation. To interrupt the thought of a Man in contemplation was unthinkable. I decided to change the subject.
“So, you spend your time thinking about different problems, Volodya. Don’t you have any duties to carry out? Have you been assigned any work to perform?”
“Work?... Assigned?... I always do what I feel like doing. Work? What do you mean by the word work, Papa?”
“Well, work is when you carry out some kind of task, and people pay you money for it. Or when you do something that’s going to benefit your whole family Take me, for example — when I was your age, my parents assigned me to look after our bunny-rabbits. And that’s what I did. I would collect grass for them, feed them, clean their cages... And the rabbits brought our family a bit of income.”
After hearing me out, Volodya suddenly said with some ex-citement:
“Papa, I shall tell you about one particular duty which I as-signed to myself — a very enjoyable duty Only you’ll have to judge whether it can be called work or not.”
“Tell me about it.”
“Then let’s go. I have a specific place I want to show you.”