Saturday, March 24, 2012

eReadings 11

The Poison Belt
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

This book was published in 1913, and has nothing to do with Sherlock Holmes. It figures another of Doyle's characters, Professor Challenger, a large and boisterous man who is able to see phenomena and make some startling deductions, such as the impending demise of all life on earth, which he communicates to the London Times at the beginning of this story.

The story relies on a holdover from prior generations of scientific thought that there is some ill-defined "ether" that permeates the universe, which somehow plays a role in the maintenance of life.

Professor Challenger, noting reports of some aberrations in Fraunhofer's lines – these are the gaps in the visual spectra of light which depend on the light's source – attributes this to some disruption of the ether, and anticipates this will be lethal to the human race, this being accompanied by some coincidental epidemics being reported in faraway parts of the world.

Indeed, there is something spreading over the world, from south to north, with everyone falling lifeless as it comes upon them invisibly.

The story is a relatively short one. Although I can't imagine someone making a movie from the concept, something like an episode of The Twilight Zone could have been made.

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