Generous Effort

Armand’s First Letter. Amelia’s First Letter.

18 July 1017

Dear Journal,

It was terribly hot this afternoon, too hot to do serious work. I sent Bastien and William off to cool themselves however they might choose. The girls napped, and Amelie was busy about the shop. I sat on the porch in hope of a breeze, sipping at a cup of cold tea, and pondered effort, and greediness, and generosity.

I know well that a formed artifact with a greedy nature, such as a lifting block, will pull effort from any generous formed artifact in its vicinity, such as a hardened block. I know how to measure how much effort the lifting block will require, and how to balance the artifacts in a larger structure so that the generous artifacts are not overwhelmed. This is the basis of the success of Tuppenny Wagons.

It is possible that the governing equations can be improved. I have not forgotten Marc Frontenac’s accident when the sky-sled came to pieces beneath him, and I thank God every time I think of it that Marc was keeping low so as to avoid being seen. I could not bear to see Elise or any other women widowed because of my own failure, so I have always chosen to err on the side of ensuring that my customers do not fall out of the air.

Since I determined how to do that I have concerned myself with making use of the equations in designing new wagons and packets, and with recording what I have learned.

But today a thought occurred to me. A hardened element, when put under stress, produces a reliable stream of effort that can be consumed by nearby greedy elements. But what happens to that effort if the greedy elements are quiescent: if a lifting element is not lifting anything at present?

I know that an unstressed hardened element placed next to an active lifting element will crumble after some interval of time.

I know that an unstressed hardened element placed next to a quiescent lifting element can coexist with it seemingly indefinitely.

I know that a properly stressed hardened element placed next to an active lifting element can coexist with it seemingly indefinitely.

But what of a stressed hardened element placed next to a quiescent lifting element? Clearly it will not crumble. But what of the effort it produces?

Is it consumed by the lifting element? A greedy artifact might conceivably consume any effort that’s available whether it is active or not. This seems unlikely, for an unstressed hardened element is no less generous than a stressed one and yet survives unscathed.

Does the effort dissipate into the air like the morning dew? Or is it retained—stored—in some way? And if so, where? In the greedy element? Perhaps.

But what if there no greedy artifact in the vicinity? Might the hardened element retain the effort it produces?

Suppose that it does. One could then stress a hardened element to store effort, and then place it unstressed into some construction to provide effort to a lifting or motive element for a controlled period of time.

At the moment I am unsure quite how one would construct anything useful in this way. I suppose one could use it to drop heavy objects onto an enemy army: send out a flying object with a limited degree of effort and some damaging payload. When the generous element is consumed, the payload falls on the enemy.

For such a thing to work reliably, one would have to make quite sure there were no other generous artifacts in range. I have not forgotten how the hardened cookware of the housewives of Bois-de-Bas began to crumble after I began to make and sell warming blocks, just from the two being in the same house over a period of months. A flying artifact would naturally be distant from other sources of effort, so this idea might work.

But I find I have no desire to form artifacts of war ever again.

I wonder how one would determine the range at which a generous object is safe from a greedy object. To date I have simply endeavored to ensure that any greedy element is accompanied by a durable generous element of sufficient strength, and that has been enough.

I have much to think on.

Next letter


Photo by Ana Essentiels on Unsplash

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