Gravity. Ever since it was discovered by Sir Isaac Newton in 1666, we've all taken it for granted. But not for much longer, says a shocking report made public today by a little-known Government department.
According to the US Bureau of Geophysics, which runs the nation's network of gravity control stations, the nation's gravity reserves are at an all-time low. Unless additional sources of supply can be brought on line in the next 2 years, the nation will face its first-ever gravity deficit. The report calls for an additional investment of $17 billion over the next 5 years, simply to keep pace with the ever-growing demand for gravity. Without it, we will all have to start changing the way we live.
Why the shortage? We spoke with Ivan Appel, head of the Bureau's Gravity Unit. "The United States is no longer self-sufficient in its gravity supply; for the last few years we've had to rely on foreign imports. But with world demand on the rise, each year it gets harder to fill the gap."
Last December 31, the nation's gravity stocks - always at a low ebb before the new year's supplies kick in - ran dangerously low. Peak demand forced the Gravity Unit to impose a 2% cut in gravity during the run-up to midnight. This was too small for most people to notice, but some individuals reported feeling a little lightheaded. And if the champagne corks seemed to fly a bit farther than usual, that was why.
Normally, the Gravity Unit can manage any temporary problems like this with little public inconvenience. But last May, authorities in one part of the US were caught napping. In Lake View, Iowa, a sudden hailstorm depleted the local gravity supply, causing a 30-second outage, or "lightout" as the Bureau calls it. Local farmer Bill Muller takes up the story:
"I saw three cows float up in the air, just like that night back in '87 when the aliens came. But this was a Wednesday, and everybody knows that UFO's only come to these parts on Saturdays."
The story was hushed up at the time to avoid widespread panic, but now, with the Government calling for voluntary conservation until additional supplies are in place, the decision has been made to go public. The Bureau has announced a 3-stage alert system:
A Stage 1 alert is the least serious, and involves cutting non-essential uses of gravity. Roller coasters are halted, ski slopes are closed, parachuting and bungee-jumping are banned, and astronauts defer re-entry.
A Stage 2 alert includes a ban on all sports, as well as high-demand industries such as logging and construction.
In a Stage 3 alert, all but the most essential services will stop. Citizens must remain indoors and refrain from going down stairs unless absolutely necessary, Contingency plans for a Stage 3 alert include distributing special suction boots to every man, woman and child in the nation.
However, says Appel, this alert system won't be needed if we all practice conservation. Here's how you can help conserve gravity:
- Bolt your house to its foundations (if you live in California your house should be bolted down already).
- Don't drop objects; lower them gently.
- Use a capillary-feed lawn watering system in place of sprinklers.
- Lower your shower heads.
- Weigh yourself weekly, rather than daily.
- Don't stack stuff. Two objects in a stack use 50% more gravity than the same objects placed side-by-side. A stack of ten items uses a whopping 450% more gravity than the same items individually. If you must stack things, be sure to put the heaviest at the bottom.
- Glue pictures to your walls instead of hanging them.
- Whenever possible, travel by plane instead of by car.
- Strap yourself into bed at night.
- Bury your garbage.
If we all play our part, says Appel, then our great nation can survive this difficult time.
SOME GRAVITY FACTS:
- The Bureau of Geophysics, a division of the US Geological Survey, has its headquarters in Menlo Park, California.
- The Bureau's Gravity Unit controls the Government's stocks of gravity, held in caverns deep beneath the New Mexico Desert.
- Oregon is the top gravity-producing state in the nation; Hawaii produces the least.
- New York City uses enough gravity each day to power Niagara Falls for a whole year.
- The nation's golfers use more gravity than its steel mills.
- The nation's airlines produce enough surplus gravity to supply the demands of all our railroads twice over.