Karazin: Meteorologist or Meteorurge? – Nikolai F. Fyodorov

“Karazin: Meteorologist or Meteorurge?” (essay) by Nikolai F. Fyodorov

English Publication History: Red Star Tales (Russian Life Books, 2015)

Original: Russian (Каразин, как метеороург, а не метеоролог), 1892

Translated by Anindita Banerjee, 2015

Synopsis: In a scientific essay, the author writes about the extraordinary theories and experiments of one man names Karazin. Where weather used to be a passive study of incremental measurements and eyewitness accounts, Karazin has taken the initiative to make the weather work for him. With a sense of social unity needed for his project’s success, the government passes in favor of a competing theory that has more practical and militaristic application, much to Karazin’s disdain.

Analysis: I’m no physicist, not even at the armchair level, though I do find pleasure in particular physical science problems: e.g. What length of wire is needed for a 1mm coiled turning the size of a CD and how many turns will take? Karazin seems to be approaching a similar nasty feat of science: How to conduct electricity from the neither-regions of the atmosphere all the way to earth for general use. His theories seem plausible for 1892, I suppose, as it was passed by boards for study, but I found it rather implausible. Consider:

  1. Karazin wants to run a machine up to the highest, most energetic reaches of the atmosphere. This region between space and the atmosphere is called the Karman line, which is 62 miles (100 kilometers) above the earth.
  2. He wants to usefully conduct the electricity down to earth, so let’s use 0-gauge wire as the standard. It weighs about 1,687 pounds/mile; hence, Karazin would need about 52.3 tons of wire suspended in the air (assuming zero stretch).
  3. To lift 52.3 tons, hydrogen would be a good gas to use, but it’d have to be the size of four Hindenburgs: thirteen times the length and nine tines the height of a 747. It’d be big.
  4. Then there’s the cost… but that’s enough.

Aside from theoretical science, the essay also offers a little glimpse at a centuries-long struggle of science: a government’s sinister urging to use all science for war. Karazin envisioned the use of his invention to benefit all of mankind, but the government was only keen to progress the state along by other means.

One additional and surprising theme is religion. Early in the essay, the author paraphrases, “humanity is not meant to compete with nature, but only to regulate her” (33) and further toward the conclusion claims, “transforming the blind forces … should unite all of us” (36), which, according to the author, is a Christian tenet of conceding that life is good; opposite of this is the Buddhist mindset that believes life is evil.  Following this Christian tenet, it is the author’s opinion that science, through Karazin’s own invention, to establish “the interdependence between sentient being and the blind, unfeeling forces of nature” (35).

Review: As it’s an essay, there’s neither plot nor character. It hypothesizes uses of purported scientific progress with a philosophy of “non-secular transhumanism” (22). So, technically it’s not fiction but it is speculative. If you can cringe past the science, there’s a deeper nature to this brief essay, even if it’s a bit flowery at times.

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