MidReal Story

Whispers of Aerogel's Power

Scenario: Please write a short story on aerogel 
Create my version of this story
Please write a short story on aerogel 
Dr. Emily Parker, a renowned scientist at the National Institute of Science and Technology (NIST), is leading a groundbreaking research project on aerogel, a material with incredible properties that has captivated the interest of governments and corporations worldwide.
Initially developed in the 1930s, aerogel is known for being the lightest solid material on Earth, composed of up to 99.98% air and possessing exceptional insulating capabilities.
However, Emily suspects there is more to aerogel than just its impressive lightweight and insulating features.
Despite its widespread use in applications from space exploration to firefighting equipment, Emily's intuition tells her that aerogel's true potential has yet to be fully understood.
Her innovative research is focused on unlocking the hidden properties of this enigmatic material, with the ultimate goal of revolutionizing industries such as energy and telecommunications.
Supported by a team of dedicated scientists and state-of-the-art facilities at NIST, Emily is determined to push the boundaries of what is known about aerogel and to harness its capabilities for the benefit of society.
As they delve deeper into their studies, Emily and her team stand on the cusp of a discovery that could change the world.
Dr. Emily Parker huddled in the small, cluttered office she shared with another scientist at NIST, the National Institute of Science and Technology.
At thirty-three years old, she was still relatively new to NIST—new in general, actually.
STEM had long been dominated by men, so it should come as no surprise that it was also pretty conservative when it came to hiring practices as well.
Her colleagues on the Aerogel Project had been among the first to welcome her when she’d arrived just over a year ago.
And right now they were gathered in a small conference room down the hall, waiting for her to join them.
Emily ran trembling fingers through her short blonde hair and took a deep breath to try and steady herself.
This was it.
She was about to present their findings to some of the most important people at NIST and she didn’t want to blow it.
Even as she thought that, she knew it was unlikely she would.
Emily Parker was one of the top scientists in her field and she had a reputation for always being prepared.
And if she wasn’t prepared?
She damn well faked it until she made it.
She was just about to stand and head down to the conference room when there was a soft knock at the door—two short raps—that she would know anywhere.
She rose from her chair as Dr.Alex Chen walked through the door uninvited and completely unconcerned with her privacy or their impending meeting with NIST higher-ups.
Alex had been one of the first people she’d met when she’d arrived at NIST and they’d quickly become friends as well as colleagues.
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“What are you doing here?”
“I should be asking you the same thing.” He smiled warmly at her and leaned a hip against one of the free lab tables in their office.
“Or do you have something better to do than attend a meeting about your own project?”
Alex was tall and lean, with jet black hair that he kept cut short on the sides but left longer on top, so that he could sweep it back off his forehead like he was doing now.
He had high cheekbones and deep brown eyes that were so dark they looked almost black.
His mother was Chinese and his father was Brazilian and Alex had inherited the best of both worlds in his looks and his personality.
He’d also inherited their brilliance, or so it seemed anyway.
Alex Chen was one of the smartest people she knew, not to mention one of the most charismatic.
And he knew it too, which should have made her not like him so much but somehow she didn’t mind when it came to Alex Chen.
“Just thinking about our research,” she said with a smile of her own.
“Aha,” Alex said, and there was no way she could miss the sudden flare of interest in his dark eyes.
“What about our research?”
It’s going well.” She sent him a small, secretive smile.
Or at least she hoped it was going well.
Emily couldn’t shake the feeling that they were missing something important, but she didn’t think she could articulate what that something might be.
Not yet, anyway.
She didn’t have enough data.
“Better than well,” Alex said with another smile of his own.
“What are you going to tell them?
That we’re making lightweight armor for soldiers that’s stronger than anything currently available?”
“I thought we were making a new kind of invisibility cloak,” came a voice from the room next door, and Dr.Sarah Johnson walked through door number two and into their small office.
Sarah was new to NIST as well, and she’d been brought in specifically to work on this project with them.
She had long red hair that she wore pulled back almost all of the time in a severe bun, as if she didn’t want anyone to be distracted by her looks.
But if she didn’t want anyone to be distracted by her looks, why did she bother to dye her hair red?
It was a good question, but just like many others here at NIST, Sarah Johnson was a puzzle that Emily couldn’t solve.
She’d been working with Sarah for a year now and she still didn’t feel like she knew the other woman.
And that was fine with her.
So you think that’s what we’re doing?”
Sarah asked with an arched eyebrow.
“I think that’s what you’ve been angling for from the very beginning.”
“What do you think?”
Emily asked Alex.
“Do you think we could make an invisibility cloak?”
“Not exactly,” she said.
“But I do think we could make a perfect light-scattering material.”
Sarah and Alex exchanged a look and she could almost read their thoughts as they wondered why they’d never thought of that before.
“They’ve been trying to make metamaterials for years,” Alex said as he crossed his arms over his chest and leaned his considerable weight against the counter behind him.
“And so far, no one has been able to get it right.”
“Metamaterials are materials engineered to have properties not found in nature,” Emily quoted.
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“Which is what we have here,” he said as he pointed at the door that led to their lab.
“Exactly,” Sarah said with a slight frown of concentration.
“So what’s the problem?”
“The problem is that no one here at NIST thinks that aerogel can do anything that it isn’t already doing.
They believe that the material has already been well-characterized and that we’re just spinning our wheels by trying to do something new with it.”
“Because someone has to think of something,” she said with a shrug.
Sarah shook her head and sighed.
“I don’t know,” Alex said with a shrug of his own.
“Maybe we are spinning our wheels.
But I don’t think so.
I think you’re on to something and I think you should keep pursuing this.”
Sarah shook her head again.
Emily glanced at the clock and saw that it was almost four, which meant their supervisor would be making his rounds soon and they didn’t have much time left to finish up their conversation.
“Dr.Eriksson doesn’t believe that we can make aerogel do something new,” Emily said as she unrolled the sleeve of paper on which she’d written the notes for their meeting.
“Which is why we can’t tell him that we’re going to try to make the best light-scattering material out of our aerogel.”
“Because then he’ll just tell us no.”
“Exactly,” Emily said with a nod.
“So here’s what we’ll do instead.”
Alex and Sarah leaned in close so they could hear her better.
Emily had never been able to understand why people did that.
It wasn’t as if she was speaking in whispers and so softly that they wouldn’t be able to hear her.
But when she’d asked Sarah about it once, the other woman had laughed and said that people did it because they were interested in what she had to say and wanted to know what she was thinking.
But somehow she didn’t think that was why Alex was leaning in closer.
You’re going to make some new aerogel for us and then we’ll test it against our old aerogel.”
“How long do you think it will take us to develop this material?”
Sarah asked as she picked up the sleeve of paper and began to study it.
Her eyes moved slowly as she read through Emily’s notes and then she put them back down on the lab bench.
“I’m not sure,” Emily said honestly.
“It may take us a few months to make the new gel and then a few more months to test it.”
“And if it doesn’t work?”
Alex asked as he picked up the notes so he could study them as well.
“We’ll try again.”
“And if it still doesn’t work?”
“We try again,” she said as she lifted her chin and found Alex watching her with an expression that made her think that he’d like to do more than just watch her.
She swallowed and tried not to be affected by him.
He was her colleague and she was determined to remain professional.
“You’re sure you want to do this?”
Sarah asked as she picked up the notes and began to turn them over and over in her hands.
“I’m sure,” Emily told her.
Sarah seemed to think it over for a moment and then she gave a quick nod of her head.
“Then I’m on board too.”
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Sarah headed for the door, but Emily caught Alex watching her as she walked away and then Sarah stopped and turned back to look at them.
“What’s wrong with you?”
Sarah asked Alex as she frowned at him.
“Nothing,” he said with a shrug of his shoulders.
He turned back to look at Emily and thought that there was nothing wrong with him that couldn’t be fixed by having her under his hands and his body.
Unfortunately, Emily didn’t seem to think that there was anything right with that idea either.
She gave him a tight smile and then hurried after Sarah.
Emily stood back and watched Alex work.
It had been almost a year since they’d been partnered together and she still didn’t understand how anyone so brilliant could be so lazy when it came to doing experiments.
He didn’t seem to care how long something took or even if what he did worked or not.
He just did things at his own pace, which drove her crazy because she was always so focused and so determined to get things done as quickly and as efficiently as possible.
Even if it meant making mistakes along the way, she was willing to make them, because it was the only way she’d ever learn and be able to move forward.
But not Alex.
“What do you think?”
Sarah asked as she set the latte down on the counter in front of Emily and looked at her.
Emily glanced at the clock and saw that it was almost ten o’clock at night, which meant they still had a few hours to kill before they could begin their experiment.
But hopefully it would be enough time to let the caffeine kick in and then give them the energy they needed to see it through to the end.
“Are you ready?”
Sarah asked as she set the empty cup next to the latte and began to open up the lab bench where they’d left the aerogel sample earlier that morning.
Emily and Alex both gave quick nods of their heads as they each took their places at their respective lab benches.
They’d synthesized this new sample of aerogel earlier that afternoon and had spent most of the day drying it out and preparing it for use in this experiment.
The last thing they needed to do was to set up their equipment and then hook it all together before they could begin the experiment itself.
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With any luck, they’d still have enough time to collect data before the janitor came to kick them out and send them home for the night.
“Remember to start out at a lower intensity until we get it dialed in,” Alex reminded her from his spot at the other end of the lab bench.
The last thing any of them wanted to do was to blow up their aerogel sample after spending all day working to make it.
Emily quickly looked over at him and gave him an emphatic nod of her head before turning back to her own equipment, where she began to adjust both the intensity and wavelength of the laser to match what they had used during their last experiment.
“Hey, you three aren’t thinking about sticking around here all night, are you?”
the janitor asked as he made his way into their lab with his mop and bucket in tow.
“I’m afraid that’s kind of what we had in mind tonight,” Emily replied from where she was standing next to the laser, as she and Alex worked to adjust both its intensity and wavelength to match what they’d used last time.
“Do you think you could come back and check on us in about an hour?”
she asked as she turned to look at the old man, who was now standing near the lab door with his arms crossed over his chest as he watched them work.
He took another step forward and looked at the large digital clock on the wall before turning back to her and shaking his head again.
“Did I mention that I don’t get paid overtime for this job?”
he said with a frown, clearly unhappy about the whole situation, as he let out a long sigh and then shook his head again before walking away to finish up the rest of his cleaning while they continued to work on their experiment.
“I think that’s our cue,” Emily said to Alex as she turned back to look at the laser, which appeared to be set up just right for their experiment tonight.
“What’s the wavelength you have it set at?”
he asked, as he reached into one of the drawers of his lab bench and began pulling out various safety goggles for them to put on while they were operating the equipment, just like they were supposed to.
“Seven hundred nanometers,” Emily replied as she adjusted the settings on her computer before looking up at him and giving him a quick nod of her head before he handed her one of the goggles and she put it on while he did the same thing with his own.
“Are you ready?”
she asked once they had all of their safety gear in place, just like they were supposed to.
“Ready when you are.”
They both turned toward the aerogel sample on Sarah’s lab bench and watched as the laser beam hit it dead center before it began to transform into a glowing mass before their very eyes, which was so beautiful and so unlike anything she’d ever seen before that it immediately brought tears to her eyes and left her speechless.
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