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100,000 Diameters

Episode #53
Aired 1948-06-07
Read Overview

Quiet, Please!

Wyllis Cooper

No. 52

'One Hundred Thousand Diameters'

WOR ' MBS ' Mon. June 7, 1948 ' 9:30-10:00 PM EDST
REH ' Mon. June 7, 1948 ' 2:00-5:00 PM EDST STUDIO 2
Mon. June 7, 1948 ' 8:00-9:30 PM EDST STUDIO 15


CHAPPELL: Quiet, please.

(SEVEN SECONDS SILENCE)

CHAPPELL: Quiet, please.

(MUSIC ' THEME ' FADE FOR)

ANNCR: The Mutual Broadcasting System presents 'Quiet, Please!' which is written and directed y Wyllis Cooper, and which features Ernest Chappell. 'Quiet, Please!' for tonight is called, 'One Hundred Thousand Diameters'.

(MUSIC ' THEME ' END)

---

JUDD: Just sit perfectly still.
Better keep your hands in your lap, there. And don't move your feet. Just be still. (A PAUSE) It'll go away in a second: all you have to do is play dead! And don't look at it! Just sit stiiiiilllll ' (A PAUSE) It's fascinatin' .. .you look at it and you see all kinds of things ' hasn't got any eyes but it sees you ' it hears you ' wiggles along the floor toward you '

SOUND: (AND THERE IS THE SOUND OF A VIGOROUS SLAP. JUDD, STARTS, AND SNAPS OUT OF IT INSTANTLY)

JUDD: Thanks, Jean.

JEAN: You know better than to sit and look at the thing!

JUDD: Sure; but you get carried away. Thanks for smacking me.

JEAN: Don't mention it.

JUDD: You didn't need to crack my bridgework, though.

JEAN: You wouldn't have had any bridgework in another couple of seconds.

JUDD: Yes. Thanks. Where'd it go?

JEAN: (LOOKS AROUND) By the chair.

JUDD: I see it. Well, let's put the salt solution over there; maybe it'll crawl back in.

JEAN: All right. That's close enough for me.

JUDD: Me, too. Well, now, friend. You're all right. (A PAUSE) I say it won't hurt you now. Sorry to scare you, but '

JEAN: Judd.

JUDD: What?

JEAN: Don't touch him.

JUDD: Huh? Why?

JEAN: Look at him.

JUDD: Good gosh, the man's dead.

(MUSIC ' AN ACCENT)
JUDD: Now, I want to tell you about that, because you ought to know.
My name is Judd. Verne R. Judd. Not Vernon: Verne. I'm a histologist and bacteriologist. Not a doctor. Not a mad scientist; nothing spectacular, nothing up my sleeve. I look through microscopes, and make various kinds of reports on what I see. Photographs; drawings, qualitative and quantitative analyses. That is, you bring me a specimen and I look at it and dye it different colours and count the various kinds of bacteria I see, and so on. So many staphylococcuc aureus; so many polymorphonuclear cells, so on. I don't tell you what to do with them or anything of that sort. I'm merely an observer and a reporter, that's all.
Jean is my laboratory assistant. Cornell, two years in the lab at Cook County, three years with me. The dead man there in the chair. He's a ' he was a messenger for an analytical laboratory I've done some work for. Unimportant, although I agree that I was a little shocked at his sudden kicking off. I don't know his name, and we've got to get rid of him, Jean.

JEAN: You're telling me.

JUDD: Yes, yes. Now, I realize that you're probably saying to yourself that I'm a pretty hardened customer, and that Jean is too. That we've got no feelings; that probably w're murderers. Well, friend, disabuse yourself of any ideas like those, will you?
It's too bad this fellow died.
But what we're trying to do is keep a lot of other people from dying the way he got it. And we haven't got time to fool around with emotions over one man.
You don't agree with me?
One of the people we're trying to save, mister, is you.
Some of the others are your family.
Your friends.
Practically everybody you know.

(MUSIC .. .AN ACCENT)

JUDD: So take it easy, will you?
And don't jump up and down and wave your arms.
We'll save you.
I hope.

JEAN: It's back in the saline solution now, Judd.

JUDD: Well, fasten the lid down tight, then.

SOUND: (FASTENING THE LID)

JEAN: It'll stay this time.

JUDD: Good.
Don't let me scare you too much. Yet.
I started to tell you about things, in particular. Yes, it killed the messenger. I don't know how. I think I know, but '
No, I don't know what it is.
I think I know, though; but '
All set, Jean?

JEAN: (AWAY) All set.

SOUND: (SHE COMES CLOSER)

JEAN: Judd.

JUDD: No, you can't pour that sodium hydroxide solution into the container.

JEAN: Please, Judd.

JUDD: No, you'll just kill it.

JEAN: That's what I want to do.

JUDD: That won't be a great help, Jean. You know that.

JEAN: Yes, I suppose so.

JUDD: Because '
You see, Jean and I've been hoping we could get married one day. We haven't got around to it yet, because we've been so busy - all that sort of thing. You know. But ' well, we'll see how this comes out, first.
I guess it was two weeks ago, wasn't it, Jean, that we were over at Kurt's place?
Yes, about two weeks ago. Kurt and I went to school together, and we're both in the same profes - I suppose business is s better term. Only Kurt's research is a little different from mine.
He got carried away by the electron microscope '
Worked under Zworykin, at Princeton, and got to be quite a boy with the electron job.

JEAN: You'd better tell him about the electron microscope, Judd. The whole store is -

JUDD: That's right. Well; you know how the ordinary microscope works, of course. A combination of objective and ocular lenses that magnify whatever's on the stage; that's all. Well, the ordinary optical microscope naturally depends upon light waves, and there is a theoretical limit of resolving power inherent in it. In other words, you can't magnify anything beyond a certain limit. 5,000 diameters is about the practicable limit. Higher magnifications just don't work; they don't magnify details. I haven't got time to explain it all to you; if you want to no more, look it up in a book on optics. That is, if you have the time.
Well.
Zworykin invented the electron microscope. let's make it simple: he uses electronic fields instead of lenses, and his waves are shorter than light-waves, so he can magnify many more times. Only you can't see by Zworykin's waves, so he put in a very simple device: a fluorescent screen, on which his waves produce an image: a visible image.
And he gets enormous magnification. Of the order of ten thousand, thirty thousand, a hundred thousand diameters, on his fluorescent screen. Unfortunately what you see are cast shadows: but recently they've developed a way of spraying whatever they're looking at with chromium vapours from one side, so that the projected image is apparently three-dimensional. It helps a lot in determining structures and so no - but the effect is only apparent, you see.

JEAN: That's enough of the lecturing Judd, isn't it?

JUDD: Sure.
Let's get down to cases, now. Jean, come here and sit down. I don't want to kill that thing. Killing it won't do a bit of good. Just killing one won't do any good. And we've got so much to find out while it's still alive.

JEAN: I know, but - all right.

JUDD: It was a Wednesday night we went over to Kurt's place, I think. We played three-handed gin rummy till about midnight, and we were eating crackers and gjetost - you know, that wonderful Norweigan cheese - and drinking gin-and-tonic which, I suppose, is enough to make you see things without a microscope. And Kurt - it always took more than a mouthful of crackers and cheese to stop him!

KURT: I got it up to an even hundred thousand diameters now, Judd, and I'm going to show you something.

JUDD: He's talking about his new E.M., Jean.

JEAN: E.M.

JUDD: Electron microscope. A new one. (HE LAUGHS) With a couple of new gimmicks on it.

JEAN: Like what?

KURT: Oh, some things.

JEAN: Plays records?

KURT: (LAUGHS) Practically.

JUDD: What you got, Kurt?

KURT: Well, come on, I'll show you. Come on in the lab.

JUDD: An electron microscope takes up a good part of a small room. It looks like a modernistic drill-press, or one of those super-science instruments you see in Stupefying Stories, or something. The power unit takes up a lot of room, too, and the microscope itself stands taller than a man. This was the biggest one I'd even seen - and it was different. Usually, there's a bulge in the middle of the tube, about table height, with a number of holes through which you look down at the magnified image on the fluorescent screen.
That part was missing on this one. Instead, there was a thing built into it that looked..well, something like a strange sort of coffin, and there was only one eyepiece leading into the coffin.

JEAN: What's that thing, Kurt?

KURT: That's the eyepiece.

JEAN: That your gadget?

KURT: No. This is my gadget.

JUDD: That coffin thing?

KURT: Look. Look into this ordinary microscope.

JEAN: (AFTER A PAUSE) Yes.

KURT: You look, Judd.

JUDD: (AFTER A PAUSE) So what?

KURT: Recognise it?

JUDD: Looks like a piece of mosquito's wing.

KURT: It is. A piece exactly one tenth of a millimeter square.

JUDD: So?

KURT: Well, I want to show you something.

JUDD: I've seen a mosquito's wing blown up to a hundred thousand.

KURT: (GRINNING) Oh, have you? Wait.

SOUND: (HE TURNS ON A SWITCH AND WE HEAR A LOUD AC HUM)

KURT: Warm up the tubes.

JUDD: Jean, go and get us a drink, will you?

KURT: Now, wait. Plenty of time for that later. I want you to watch.

JUDD: Well, do something,.

KURT: Keep your shirt on.

SOUND: (HE TURNS ANOTHER SWITCH AND THE HUM BECOMES LOUDER)

KURT: Now. Now we take the slide with the little mosquito wing ' and we

SOUND: (OPENING A LITTLE DOOR)

KURT: put it in here at the focus of the beam

SOUND: (CLOSING THE LITTLE DOOR)

KURT: and I run a simple saline solution in here - in your 'coffin', Judd

SOUND: (AND WATER RUNS THROUGH A METAL CONTAINER)

KURT: and then ' wait, better stand back a little way '

JUDD: What are you going to do?

KURT: Watch.

SOUND: (HE FLIPS ANOTHER SWITCH. RELAYS CLICK, THERE IS A BOILING SOUND, AND A SMALL BELL RINGS)

JUDD: What goes on?

KURT: Watch, boy.

SOUND: (HE UNFASTENS A LID, THROWS IT OPEN, FISHES AROUND A SECOND IN THE SOLUTION, AND BRINGS UP SOMETHING WHICH DRIPS)

KURT: (TRIUMPHANTLY) There.

JEAN: What - what is it?

SOUND: (KURT TOSSES SOMETHING ON THE TABLE WITH A SPLAT)

KURT: That, my friends, is your mosquito's wing, magnified a hundred thousand diameters!

(MUSIC ' AN ACCENT)

JUDD: And I'm telling you, what he threw onto the laboratory table, dripping with solution, was nothing less than a roughly square segment of wing. The veins, the fragments of muscles, the bony integument, and the web itself, a foot thick and tough as Plexiglass. And I thought ' if the mosquito that came from were magnified that many times, it'd be ' it'd be - you figure it out for yourself; it'd be nearly half a mile long, and it's stand a good fifteen hundred feet tall! You wonder that I shuddered?
I don't know how Kurt did this incredible thing.
I don't want to know.
All I know is that he did magnify what had been a piece of living insect-flesh to a chunk of tough leather and sinew more than a yard square.
Yes, we needed our drinks then and Kurt was in his glory.

KURT: Why, think of the commercial possibilities of this thing, Judd. My golly, every woman in the world'll wand a pair of mosquito-skin gloves! Think of shoes made of fly-leather! They'd last forever! And armour for battleships made out of the chitin from beetles! Why, one beetle would give you enough armour-plate for ten battleships! And bees, for example!

JEAN: I don't want any bees two miles long, thank you.

KURT: (IMPATIENTLY) Oh, no! You'd only have to magnify a bee about a thousand times! Bout as big as a c??? Think of the honey production.

JEAN: I don't want to think about it! It's horrible!

KURT: How about it, Judd?

JUDD: (SLOWLY) It's incredible, Kurt.

KURT: There's the evidence.

JUDD: And I lifted the soggy mass of alien flesh and blood that had once been as small as the head of a pin - smaller; a tenth of a millimeter is a two-hundred-and-fiftieth of an inch! And I thought of a world peopled by ravening insects that would dwarf our highest buildings and make a shambles out of a whole countryside in a few short hours. And I thought I had imagined the ultimate in stark horror.
But I hadn't.
For Jean was as badly shaken as I, and nervously she walked across to the instrument and looked down, shuddering, into the turgid water in the 'coffin' tank at the base of the big microscope.

JEAN: (AWAY) What is that stuff, Kurt?

KURT: (UP) What stuff?

JEAN: In here?

KURT: In the tank? Saturated solution of sodium nitrite, spiked with alphadinitrophenol. Don't try to taste it.

JEAN: Taste it! Good heavens, n- (AND SHE SCREAMS)

(MUSIC ' AND THE MUSIC PICKS HER UP)

JUDD: Yes, you were right.
There was something else in that tank.
Something that stirred the heavy sludge at the bottom of the container; something that slithered and rustled and bumped soggily against the stainless steel sides.

JEAN: Something that didn't seem to have a shape; something that seemed to be only a little denser than the solution it floated in; something that smelled of death and decay and a kind of ghoulish hunger.

KURT: Something no human eye has ever seen before; something that we knew existed something we had all of us searched for these many years that we might destroy it. You know what it is, of course, Judd.

JUDD: It was on the mosquito-wing, and of course we couldn't see it.

KURT: From its present size it was about twenty-five ten-millionths of an inch before.

JUDD: And alive.

JEAN: Could you see its shape, Kurt?

KURT: (UNCOMFORTABLY) It seems to change.

JUDD: What do you think it is, Kurt?

KURT: It's a virus.

JEAN: What kind, do you suppose?

KURT: I don't know.

JUDD: If it gets out, we'll soon find out.

JEAN: Nobody's ever seen one.

KURT: Of course not. Because they're filterable. They pass through the finest porcelain filters - through everything. You can't isolate 'em.

JUDD: You've done it.

KURT: Yeas, I have! Yes, I have, and I've got science's greatest gift to mankind right there in that tank - Judd! Nobody's ever been able to kill a virus, because they couldn't see it! Now we've got it, and we'll experiment on it till we find out how to kill it! And when we find out, we'll find another, and do the same thing! And by - I tell you, Judd, we're going to end disease in this world!

JUDD: Yes ' if '

JEAN: What if it gets out of that tank?

KURT: It'll die, and we'll just have to start over. That ought to be easy, though. I mean - what's the matter with you, Jean?

JEAN: You think it'll die if it gets out?

KURT: Of course.

JEAN: How long was it on that mosquito-wing?

KURT: Why, I mounted that this afternoon, and -

JEAN: And it went through all that electronic stuff, and it isn't dead yet '

KURT: Well, but -

JUDD: I know what she means, Kurt. Maybe you can't kill it.

KURT: (AFTER A PAUSE) Why, that's nonsense.

JUDD: Is it?

KURT: I'll show you. If I can get one, I can always get another, Judd.

SOUND: (HE WALKS AWAY)

KURT: I'll just kill this specimen here, just to show you, and then we can.

SOUND: (HE OPENS THE TANK LID)

KURT: find another one and - (HE STOPS)

JUDD: (AFTER A MOMENT) What are you doing, Kurt? Kurt?

KURT: Judd ' it's gone '

(MUSIC ' AN ACCENT)

JUDD: And three frightened people searched that house from cellar to attic in those long, slow hours between midnight and dawn, and it was almost seven in the morning, broad daylight, athat we found ' what had been Dinty, Kurt's Siamese cat.
It didn't look much like a cat anymore.
And alongside it, this thing, twice as large as it had seemed when we first saw it.
It seemed ' contented.
We got pails, and a broom and a fire-shovel. And as we lifted it up - it weighed very little, but it was sticky - as we lifted it up, it divided neatly into two parts, and the one that dropped to the floor started to move briskly away.
It had fed, and it had reproduced, simply, efficiently, like all things near the bottom of the evolutionary scale. And for a moment, I thought I saw this gleam from the new thing on the floor ' a gleam like the one I used to see sometimes in the blue eyes of Kurt's Siamese cat '
And at last we dumped both the things back into the tank, and sat staring at each other, in the cheerful sunshine that peered inquisitively through the window. We held the greatest enemy of mankind captive; and captive, he was a thousand times greater enemy. A hundred thousand times.

KURT: We've got to kill 'em , Judd.

JUDD: Yes.

JEAN: How, Kurt?

KURT: Poison?

JUDD: What's poison to them?

KURT: We'll try everything.

JEAN: We'd better start.

JUDD: Burn them, maybe, Kurt?

JEAN: Or starve them.

JUDD: That one lived a long time without '. eating.

KURT: And as soon as it ate, it - reproduced itself.

JEAN: Well '

JUDD: What, Jean?

JEAN: I'm just wondering. We sit here and talk '

KURT: What do you want to do?

JEAN: Kurt, hadn't we better get someone who has done research on viruses - who knows something about them?

KURT: Who knows anything about them?

JUDD: Patterson, at Cook County.

KURT: He'd think we were crazy.

JEAN: He wouldn't, once he saw these things.

KURT: Maybe you're right, Jean.

JUDD: Kurt, will you stop sitting there and do something? Don't you realize that the whole world -

KURT: Don't blow your top, Judd. I'm just as scared as you are.

SOUND: (JEAN IS DIALING A SEVEN-DIGIT NUMBER)

KURT: Jean, who -

JEAN: Hello, Cook County? Let me talk to Dr. Patterson, please. Urgent? Yes .. I'm afraid it's very urgent.

(MUSIC ' FOR TRANSITION)

KURT: Well, Doctor?

JUDD: Doctor?

PATTERSON: This is - just plain amazing, boys.

JUDD: Is it a virus?

PATTERSON: Near as I can tell.

JEAN: Well, how can we kill it? Them?

PATTERSON: I don't know.

KURT: But look, Doctor Patterson -

PATTERSON: I want one of these things, Kurt.

KURT: What for?

PATTERSON: Well, I'm going to New York tonight, and I'm going to see Lamb and Sheehan and Mitchell, and if I can get Sandra Gerson I'll get her, and we're going to do some fast experimenting on this brute. And if I'm not mistaken, Kurt, you are going to go down in medical history along with Pasteur and Ehrlich and - what about it? Can I have him?

KURT: Doctor, I hate to let you take him out of the lab ' can't you kill him here?

PATTERSON: Dear boy, my colleagues would kill me if they ever heard of it. I'll take good care of him, don't you worry. What about it?

JUDD: I'd let him, Kurt.

JEAN: Yes, Kurt.

JUDD: After all, Kurt, we're amateurs in this stuff. Dr. Patterson -

KURT: Okay. Okay, only take him and kill him! Kill him, I tell you!

PATTERSON: Jean, call the hospital and tell them to get me reservations on an airplane for New York right away, and then call Van Lengerre and Antoine and get me one of those covered buckets fishermen use, and then get me long distance to New York and '

(MUSIC ' COVERS HIM)

JUDD: And so Jean and I drove the doctor out to the airport in his car ' and we were mighty careful. Ogden Avenue is pretty bumpy, and we didn't want to spill what the doctor had in that pail '
Kurt stayed at his place to keep an eye on the other one in the tank, and we promised to bring him back another bottle of gin when we came back. He was going to need it, he said.
As a matter of fact, he didn't need it at all. Both Jean and I breathed a long sigh of relief when we got into the house. All this was a little too close to nightmare for us. Jean was almost cheerful.

JEAN: Kurt! Doctor Patterson got away all right!

(THERE IS NO ANWER)

JEAN: He's in the lab, I guess.

SOUND: (SHE OPENS A DOOR)

JEAN: Kurt, we brought your bottle. What - you sitting in the dark? Kurt!
Ohhhhhhh!

JUDD: The lid of the tank was open.
Against it leaned a figure in the familiar brown gabardine suit Kurt had been wearing. But there was something strangely limp about the figure, and I stepped across Jean's body and seized the arm '
There wasn't any arm.
There wasn't anything at all except a brown gabardine suit that crumpled to the floor. And I picked it up, almost stupefied with horror, and something twitched near my foot, and there lay the thing '
No, I won't tell you what it looked like.
All I could see were Kurt's glasses lying across it, and the light shone on them in a way that '
And then I felt that fascination ' the thing seemed to draw me down to the floor toward it, and I couldn't help myself, and I bend down, and I put out a hand toward it, and the light flashed from the glasses into my eyes, and I felt sick, and

JEAN: Judd!

JUDD: And suddenly I was all right again, and I pulled myself up from the floor, and a seething rage just about over came me. I beat at the thing with a chair; nothing happened. It just lay there. I kicked it, it didn't move. It might have been dead - except that I know it wasn't. And then Jean - she leaped to the lab table and she struck a match, and she lit a Bunsen burner and she came back and thrust it right against the thing on the floor. And do you know what? It blazed up like high-test gasoline, and I knew we had it licked - but it divided again!
And before she could reach the new thing with the fire, it had slithered away somewhere - and it was gone ' and our victory was only half complete.

(MUSIC ' FOR BG)

JEAN: Well, anyway, we've got it now, Judd.

JUDD: Yes, we've got it now. And some day we'll find out how to kill it. No, this one doesn't react to fire. Nothing we've done so far seems to do any good. But we're trying. We're trying. And we may succeed. I hope we'll succeed. We'll have to, or '
Well, you see, it's worse than you think.
Dr. Patterson never got to New York.
His plane crashed somewhere.
I don't know exactly where.
But he had the thing with him, and ' everybody was killed in the crash '
And those things reproduce after they feed. So we've got to find a way to kill this one - and then Jean and I are going hunting for the others. We hope we'll find them.
Just sit still. Just sit perfectly still, and don't move your hands ' just relax '

(MUSIC ' THEME ' FADE FOR)

ANNCR: The title of tonight's 'Quiet, Please!' story was 'A Hundred Thousand Diameters.' It was written and directed by Wyllis Cooper, and t he man who spoke to you was Ernest Chappell.

CHAPPELL: And Dan(??) Sutton(??) was Kurt; Ann (??) Seymour(??) played Jean, and Dr. Patterson was Art (??) Kohl (??). The music for 'Quiet, Please!' is played by Albert Burhmann. Now for a word about next week, here is our writer-director Wyllis Cooper.

COOPER: None of the characters you overheard tonight is based upon any living or dead person, of course; they're all fictitious. Next week 'Quiet, Please!' will be called 'Not Responsible After 30 Years'.

CHAPPELL: And until next week, I am quietly yours, Ernest Chappell.

(MUSIC'THEME ' FADE FOR)

ANNCR: 'Quiet, Please!' comes to you from New York.
THIS IS THE MUTUAL BROADCASTING SYSTEM..