A Short Tale from the Future by
L. Van Warren

Fear only this.

Forget the Sierra Club.
Forget "Dioxin".
Forget weapons of mass destruction.
Forget the endless parade of post-war Cheeto™ flavored half-truths shoved down the unwilling throat of an otherwise busy populace.

Here's the one thing to remember, one thing to know in the future past:

"Cars of the future were powered by ions."

Let's move past the good news and get to the nitty gritty.

These ion-powered cars had a downside.
That downside was charge pollution."

That's right. "Charge Pollution".

It all started when some oil barons were put in charge of energy policy. America, also called the new Republic of Texas was changed forever. How you ask? Clothing. Fashion would never be the same.

I'll spare you the whole sad story, witnessed firsthand.  Instead, this terse tale is offered to put you on the lookout for the perpetual motion puppeteer, the techno huckster that sucks the blood out of mother love. Those oil barons used the same profiteering tricks that glazed the eyes of those gathered round the snake oil wagon in times long past.  The rock bottom line this deal read like fast copy:

"Ion powered cars were the last hope for a clean future, the last hope for an unspoiled frontier."

At first the ion cannisters that fueled the new breed of cars were packed by government labs. Who else had particle accelerators? But then, when ion propulsion went mainstream, the government labs were turned over to the oil companies. This had happened before, with spacecraft, but nobody thought dereg would go that far.

Once the oil companies were firmly in charge, it went down like this. Ion cannisters were supposed to be grounded with a ground wire as they left the plant. But the grounding wire added cost. That cost ate into profits, meaning a shorter cigarette boat for big daddy. Solution. Cut the grounding wire, which ironically was colored green.

Who cares?  Who ever heard of gassing up with a donut shaped thermos bottle, charged by a particle accelerator in Batavia, Illinois? Certainly not Texas robber barons who smacked their lips on derrick-drawn ooze till they were as black as Marilyn Manson in a pig sty.  But I'm rambling.  Let me tell you what happens when the real car of the future "drives by". Let me give you a preview of "charge pollution".

The hair on your arms stands up.  And not because your scared, although if  you knew what was really going on, you might be. No. Its the rivers of stray electrons, leaking out all over the place, looking for their real mommy. Sure, driving an ion powered car on asphalt was quiet and fine, but concrete was another story. Mainly the clatter of sparks spraying right off the tires.

Time to pop a fallacy. Tires don't insulate a car from lightning. Yes tires are made of rubber.  But they are excellent conductors.  Why? Marketing of course. All the tire vendors dope their tires with carbon black, whose fantastically low resistance is rivaled only by copper wire. Sitting in a car was safe in thunder you thought. Guess again. You are in a Faraday cage sitting on Carbon black and it is the cage, not the tires that save you. Save you from that yet another new age evil. An evil not to be confused with Neoprene, The Michelin Man or even the Pillsbury Dough Boy, registered trademarks of their respective conspiracies.

The hair on your arms stands up is the same reason the hair on your head goes vertical right before you get struck by lightning. No - cars of the future didn't have Van deGraffs's.  It was worse than that.  Here is a year of physics in four lines of code:

If you strip the outer electrons off  off your typical friendly elements, things are well and good, till you get to the tightly bound subshells...  Prying an electron out of there, well, it just isn't going to happen anywhere but in a particle accelerator. Those inner electrons just don't let go.

Sodium is easy:  she gives her first electron away for a glance.  5.138 electron Volts of potential energy to be exact.  You want to dig seven more electrons out of her?  Well that will cost you some commitment.  264 eV by the time you get to number eight.  Want to see "whose got game" with sister Fluorine?  She "charges" 953.6 eV for her eighth electron.  Not chump change.  I'll take the sodium.  Yes it explodes in water, but fluorine will eat your skin off.

You graduated.  Meanwhile, back in the future, some bright peace loving physicist figured out that getting from point A to point B in that smoke-belching oil can of a hobo's ride was a steam locomotive compared to the clean living elegance of trapped and cooled ions. See that was what made the difference. Cooling the ions made it possible to transport them long distances, but the long distances then became part of the problem. Problem as in lightning that would run for miles through the ground, up and down rivers, and sometimes two feet off the surface of the ground for some strange and freaky reason.

So up in Batavia, at the "plant", they were busily stripping electrons off ions in the remains of government funded particle accelerators. The workers had a saying. Strip 'em, cool 'em, stick 'em in a jar.  They would say this over and over, then laugh a strange, wierd laugh.

Then the money question came to the executive robber barons. Where do they put the electrons?  Exactly. You probably guessed it. Right into the landfill. Then they run a paving machine over the top before they can leak out. An asphalt paving machine. The foreman says, "Pave over here, Mister".  Back at the factory and off the assembly line come donut shapped bottles full of cold quantum ions. Ions ready to be shipped north, south, east and west. Just so we, the mindless consumer can happily "twist and click" the safety interlock on our vehicles when we're not playing "ring toss" with the empties.  When those trapped  ions hit the exit of the mini bottles, they want only one thing back, "electrons".  No discretion required.  Any electrons will do.  Yours, mine, the cashier at the counter.  And when they do the hair on your arms and your neck will stand on end, the lightning will arc and the lady bagging your groceries will say, "Will there be anything else with that?" and smile with that funny "there is electricity on my braces" grin.

So when you're walking around in your aluminum suit, remember "Charge Pollution".  When the legs scrape together with that swipping sound remember that wake of missing electrons from here to Batavia.  When it gets hot in there, remember the guy steamrolling electrons while unthinking ions are blithely stripped, cooled, and sold.  Random fires everywhere you go. Aluminum foil clothing no longer optional. It will happen.  You can bank on that. No ground wire. Its human nature.

Forget Dioxin

Forget Nuclear Power

That New Energy Policy

Return Your Empty Ion Traps

- Antique Ion Trap from NIST

No ground wire.

Every ion will find some electrons.

She gave me that
"there is electricity on my braces" grin.

Wouldn't you rather be a Pepper too?