Eccentrics: Impossible is Nothing

Yet “impossible” is not a word in the eccentric lexicon. Yvonne X (that is her name) builds perpetual-motion machines in her workshop in Westfield, New Jersey….

She led me out to the workshop and proudly pointed at her machine, which looked like something out of a low-budget 1950’s science-fiction film. Gleaming stainless-steel cylinders were mounted on a frame along the brick wall. Tubes sprouted from the tops and bottoms, joined together by candelabra-shaped connectors. In the far corner more tubes dripped from the ceiling like plastic spaghetti. In the center was a highly polished silver disk, about the size of a football, mounted on a tripod and suspended by wires….

She squeezed the trigger mounted on the machine to activate it. The pipes made a fizzing sound, the liquids changed color, and the tubes began vibrating violently. A deep rumble issued sickeningly from the cylinders, and a gasket blew off like bullet, splattering test tubes. Then the silver disk, spinning with a gentle hum, began to ascend, faster and faster, until it finally crashed right through the workshop ceiling. There was a moment of calm. Yvonne X and I gaped at each other.

Then, as Milton said, all hell broke loose. Behind us a beaker exploded, then another. Sparks came showering out of melting wires. The room was filled with acrid smells of raw electricity and singed eyebrows (mine). The sprinkler system came on a sprayed the room with warm water. Yvonne turned and hightailed it out of the room, with me treading on her heels and feeling very much like a character in a particularly violent Warner Brothers cartoon. The fire department was soon on the scene. As firemen hosed down the scene of the disaster, Yvonne X was already brainstorming. She told me she was certain she knew what was wrong with the design, and vowed to start over.

That indomitable spirit of hopefulness is almost universal among eccentrics….

—Dr. David Weeds and Jamie James, Eccentrics: A Study of Sanity and Strangeness

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4 comments on “Eccentrics: Impossible is Nothing

  1. shinbikkuri3 says:

    I love it. Makes me think of a guy from TESU in the 70s who ignored the big energy companies who, while receiving huge government grants to research alternative energy, kept telling us (and him) that it was impossible to generate sufficient solar energy.

    He bought standard mirrors and heated and bent them with a torch, which was 'impossible'. He backed them with Boeing surplus wing material. He mounted them on a frame made from standard steel pipes and truck wheels, so he could track the sun. He put an old wrecking ball at the focal point and heated the water inside it to make ample steam energy to run his home, even on a cloudy day in the PNW. Impossible is nothing.

    My mother grew up learning that it was scientific impossibility to get a vessel out of earth orbit because of diminishing returns: fuel being too heavy. Yet, when I was four, I watched a man walk on the moon.

  2. Sylvia says:

    Bikkuri, not to mention the earlier “impossibility” of heavier-than-air flying machines. 🙂 Too bad it has taken so many decades to just start getting domestic solar water heating on the market. We don't have that kind of time any more. We must conquer the impossible faster!

  3. Jodie says:

    That story is so awesome and it does remind me endless cartoons like Pinky and the Brain where one day, with the right plan they'll take over the world. Or even Dell Boy in Only Foos and Horses 'Oh day Rodders, we'll be millionaires' and they were!

  4. Sylvia says:

    Jodie, what I've read so far is that eccentrics don't so much want to take over the world as make it a better place with their inventions/artwork/general zaniness. Wanting to take over the world is for us INTJs… Mwa ha ha! 😉

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