Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Story.

Enjoy this? Share it!

PAGE 3

Damned If You Don’t
by [?]

It was eight seventeen. Sam Bending lit a cigarette and leaned back to wait for the cops. United States Power Utilities, Monopolated, had overstepped themselves this time.

* * * * *

Bending Consultants, as a title for a business, was a little misleading because of the plural ending of the last word. There was only one consultant, and that was Samson Francis Bending. His speciality was the engineering design of atomic power plants–both the old fashioned heavy-metal kind and the newer, more elegant, stellarators, which produced power by hydrogen-to-helium conversion.

Bending made good money at it. He wasn’t a millionaire by any means, but he had enough money to live comfortably on and enough extra to experiment around on his own. And, primarily, it had always been the experimentation that had been the purpose of Bending Consultants; the consulting end of the business had always been a monetary prop for the lab itself. His employees–mostly junior engineers and engineering draftsmen–worked in the two-story building next door to the lab. Their job was to make money for the company under Bending’s direction while Bending himself spent as much time as he could fussing around with things that interested him.

The word “genius” has several connotations, depending on how one defines a genius. Leaving aside the Greek, Roman and Arabic definitions, a careful observer will find that there are two general classes of genius: the “partial” genius, and the “general” genius. Actually, such a narrow definition doesn’t do either kind justice, but defining a human being is an almost impossible job, anyway, so we’ll have to do the best we can with the tools we have to work with.

The “partial” genius follows the classic definition. “A genius is a man with a one-track mind; an idiot has one track less.” He’s a real wowser at one class of knowledge, and doesn’t know spit about the others.

The “general” genius doesn’t specialize. He’s capable of original thought in any field he works in.

The trouble is that, because of the greater concentration involved, the partial genius usually gets more recognition than the general–that is, if he gets any recognition at all. Thus, the mathematical and optical work of Sir Isaac Newton show true genius; his theological and political ideas weren’t worth the paper he wrote them on. Similar accusations might be leveled against Albert Einstein–and many others.

The general genius isn’t so well known because he spreads his abilities over a broad area. Some–like Leonardo da Vinci–have made a name for themselves, but, in general, they have remained in the background.

Someone once defined a specialist as “a man who learns more and more about less and less until he finally knows everything about nothing.” And there is the converse, the general practitioner, who knows “less and less about more and more until he finally knows nothing about everything.”

Both types can produce geniuses, and there is, of course, a broad spectrum in between. Da Vinci, for instance, became famous for his paintings; he concentrated on that field because he knew perfectly well that his designs for such things as airplanes were impracticable at the time, whereas the Church would pay for art.

Samson Bending was a genius, granted; but he was more toward the “special” than the “general” side of the spectrum. His grasp of nuclear physics was far and away beyond that of any other scientist of his day; his ability to handle political and economic relationships was rather feeble.

As he sat in his waiting room on that chill day of February, 1981, his mind was centered on nuclear physics, not general economics. Not that Bending was oblivious to the power of the Great God Ammon; Bending was very fond of money and appreciated the things it could achieve. He simply didn’t appreciate the over-all power of Ammon. At the moment, he was brooding darkly over the very fact of existence of Power Utilities, and trying to figure out a suitable rejoinder to their coup de demon.