The Personal History, Adventures, Experiences & Observations of Peter Leroy
Where Do You Stop?
Chapter 11: The Powerfully Disturbing Effect of Discontinuity
by Eric Kraft, as Peter Leroy



  I ARRIVED IN GENERAL SCIENCE the following Monday expecting the next step in the development of our questions and group work.  I’m sure we all expected that.  We expected continuity.  Continuity was what we had been taught to expect, and we had learned the lesson, we had come to expect continuity, and we planned our little lives accordingly—do the next thing, that was our motto—but discontinuity was Miss Rheingold’s style.  Instead of having us work on our papers she showed us a movie.
    Discontinuity can have a powerfully disturbing effect on the young mind, as a simple experiment demonstrates.  (Caution: This experiment can be dangerous.  For one thing, Step 1 can get you into some trouble, so it’s a good idea to prepare in advance a little speech on the value of science education and the experimental method.)  You will need a candle, some fine white flour, a sharp knife, a metal punch or tin snips, a garden hose or other long rubber tube, and a large can with a lid.  The best type of can is one in which potato chips are sold to institutions, such as the Purlieu Street School.
  1. Use the knife to cut the fitting from one end of the garden hose. 
  2. With the tin snips or metal punch, make a hole in the side of the can, as close as possible to the bottom, just large enough to allow you to insert the end of the hose that no longer has a fitting.  Extend the hose an inch or two into the can.
  3. Light the candle, and use dripping candle wax to seal the hose in the hole.  Extend the hose to its full length, placing its other end as far from the can as possible.  This step is important.  You will be at that end of the hose.  Read on, and you will soon understand why you want your end to be as far from the can as possible.
  4. Inside the can, drip some more wax onto the bottom, roughly opposite the hose.  Blow the candle out, and stand it in its own drippings.  Hold it in position until it is firmly seated.
  5. Put a handful of flour just in front of the hose opening and shape it into a nice little conical heap.
  6. Light the candle and place the lid on the can.  Do not press it into place tightly; just rest it on top of the can, but without leaving gaps.  (See Figure 3.)
  7. Walk to the far end of the hose, take a deep breath, and blow into the hose as suddenly and forcefully as you can.
    If you have followed these directions carefully, your puff of breath will scatter the cone of flour into a zillion minuscule particles discontinuously distributed in the air within the can, the candle flame will ignite the first few particles that come within its range, the heat of their sudden ignition will ignite others, and so on, and before you can say, “Now I see the unsettling effect discontinuity can have on a kid,” the can will flip its lid with a rewarding foom!

Figure 3


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Where Do You Stop? is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents, dialogues, settings, and businesses portrayed in it are products of the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. 

Copyright © 1992 by Eric Kraft.  All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the author.

Where Do You Stop? was first published in hardcover by Crown Publishers, Inc., 201 East 50th Street, New York, New York 10022. Member of the Crown Publishing Group.


For information about publication rights outside the U. S. A., audio rights, serial rights, screen rights, and so on, e-mail the author’s imaginary agent, Alec “Nick” Rafter.

The illustration at the top of the page is an adaptation of an illustration by Stewart Rouse that first appeared on the cover of the August 1931 issue of Modern Mechanics and Inventions. The boy at the controls of the aerocycle doesn’t particularly resemble Peter Leroy—except, perhaps, for the smile.

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