How weird can it get? I have carried this shattered bit of rock in my pocket for almost two years now and it has become quite polished by rubbing with coins. I picked it up as an innocent souvenir from Hutton’s Rock on Arthur’s Seat, a fifteen minutes brisk walk from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland.
I had traveled from Berkeley, California (which calls itself the Athens of the West) to Edinburgh (which calls itself the Athens of the North) in pursuit of a possible hoax hidden there by Arthur Conan Doyle on the small mountain called Arthur’s Seat. Because of my search, I climbed a rather craggy route to the top, several times rethinking the large sign at the entrance path “proceed at your own risk”. But, having survived, … it is remembered as a beautiful experience.
The shock came a few minutes ago when reading “World Set Free” by H. G. Wells, for there on page 21 of 193 (on my Nokia 770) the hero “made his way to the top of Arthur’s Seat, and there he sat for a long time in the golden evening sunshine”. He had come to that lonely mountain top to be alone, and to think about the lecture on atomic power which he had just attended. This was written in 1913, a long, long time before atomic energy was considered anything but a curiosity. He was thinking about how to harness the atomic power of the sun. It was unknown to Szilard the discoverer of fission, or Wells the fictional creator of fission, or me an ex-B-47 bomber pilot that we had all sat on that mountain top thinking about the same thing. Later, and, this is a quirky part, we all lived within a block of each other in London, where Szilard conceived the idea of chain reaction as did the protagonist in Wells’ book.
Earlier Doyle, whom I was pursuing on Arthur’s Seat, had lived for a couple of years just two doors away from Wells in a semi-residential street in Southsea, England, shortly before either of them became famous. They claimed never to have met at that time, but later became friends. Szilard said repeatedly, that he was tremendously affected by Wells’s scientific prognostications, especially “The World Set Free”, and he felt that he was living out, in fact what Wells had written up, as fiction.
I have intentionally traveled half way across the planet twice to exact locations which years later I have discovered have a very tight links to the H-Bomb. It is a huge planet, but time and again I have happened to be within a few steps of where strange, but very specific things relevant to me had happened.