The Can Opener

Phillip Rog | published Jan, 1949

added Jun 10, 2024
cover Image
First Date of Publication
Jan, 1949
Original Source
Fantastic Adventures
Original Source Type
Magazine - Pulp
Medium
Short Story
Original Language
English
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Summary: Surely the fourth dimension has more uses that sticking in a straw to steal juice from closed cans, no?

Story Tag Line: Empty a can without first puncturing it? Impossible, the psychiatrist said. But of course, he had never seen the opener…


Reviews

  • Vijay Fafat
    Published on

    A very silly story about a man who accidentally finds out that an office colleague of his seems to be sipping juice out of sealed cans with pipe-like contraptions, but leaving the cans in a sealed state. He conjectures that the can-opening straws are somehow curving through the fourth dimension and going inside the cans. So he steals one of those pipes, finds out that an alloy iron, nickel, copper, lead, phosphorus, carbon and sulphur end up interacting in a strange manner and create an electromagnetic field threading through the fourth dimension. So he builds another such device, sticks his head into the higher dimension, finds pitch blackness and re-emerges, only to find that now left and right are reversed for him, he is unable to type coherently and in general, life has become miserable. Till a few years later, after having lost the original device which sank inside earth, he re-discovers the secret and starts selling 4-D siphons with his old office colleague.

    Not only is this a lazy, bungled-up story, even the geometry is wrong. The left-right flip for a 2-d figure occurs on a non-orientable surface - a Mobius strip, say - when the figure completes a full circuit in one direction (suitably defined). There isn’t a specific point on the strip where the flip occurs - the flipping is a global property. Similarly, if a 3-D object went into 4D and then returned, it is not automatic that a left-right flip would have occurred. If the object retraces its path backward, the way the protagonist did in the story with his head, there would be no flip.

    Another place where the author gets it wrong is where he describes the reversed man’s sensations. His brain commands his right hand to move but his left hand moves, which he finds frustrating. In reality (such as it may be), this is not what the man would feel. The brain would not find anything odd because it would have undergone the reversal itself, including its own sense of right and left. So if it said, “move left hand”, from our perspective, the man would move his right hand but from his brain’s perspective, he would have moved his left hand.

    Anyhoo, too much analysis of a fake yarn.