Thursday, December 22, 2005

Paper Clips

(Advance for Saturday 12/24/05)

When was the most recent time you went out and actually BOUGHT a box of paper clips?


You CAN’T remember.

But you have one, maybe more than one. It’s on your desk or in a drawer or on a shelf somewhere in the house and the office.

So, how did they get there? Maybe you inherited them from a poor uncle (everyone talks about RICH uncles. How about the poor ones; the middle class ones?)

Maybe they just appeared. Poof!

The conclusion: there’s a finite number of paper clips in the world, and they just keep circulating. It’s a non-renewable resource, but one that’s not likely to be exhausted, like, say, oil, Brazilian rosewood, or Buicks.

You get a bunch of papers in the mail, and they’re clipped. You save the clip. Use it again when you need one. You send it to someone else who sends it to someone else. Eventually, one or more come back to you and it’s not because of your magnetic personality, either.

The physicist Stephen Hawking has not responded to inquiries about a “big bang” theory of paper clippature. He’s a bit busy these days, and slow to answer his e-mail. But there’s word in the scientific community that he will soon deliver a paper on the anti-magnetic properties of black holes in space and may postulate that that’s where the clips come from.

There are factories that make them, you say. Oh yeah? Have you ever seen one?

“Invention” of this marvel is generally credited to a Norwegian working in Germany in 1890, Johann Vaaler. It is said he needed a device to pin together the extra vowels and consonants in his name, the extra “a” kept floating away and the extra “n” kept falling off. But is this true? Perhaps, nominally. But what was his inspiration, really? Perhaps it was the intervention of a higher spiritual being.

(There’s also speculation that the American William Middlebrook was the inventor, and he too had extra letters in his name, i.e. “l”, “d” and possibly “o.”)

Thus, the “Intelligent Design” theory of paper clippage.

Some theologians and their followers assert that this marvel of technology had to be thought up by an outside intelligence, that it is too ingenious for the human mind to accomplish on its own. (What they are really saying, of course, is that it is too ingenious for THEIR minds to grasp.)

They insist that their notion of the origin of paper clips be taught in science classes, along side the big bang and “ever circulating” theories. This would require the re-writing of every science text book at huge costs to already financially pressed school districts.

So, in the end, this battle is about money, not science or even theology.

All of us at the secret seaside laboratory would like to wish you and yours a Merry Christmas. But we won’t.

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.™

©wjr 2005

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