6

An accident at a research lab has resulted in hurricane-force winds converging on it from all directions. Air goes in, doesn't come out: Evidently the scientists, who were exploring the properties of spacetime, punched a hole somewhere else in space -- and space is mostly a vacuum. They're all dead now and no one knows how to keep all of Earth's atmosphere from disappearing through the hole. A man arrives on the scene and offers to stop the loss of air -- but if he succeeds, he must have the title to the property the hole stands on. The authorities agree, and he sets off in a very strange, armored vehicle that has a pair of spoonlike arms on top. He negotiates the rubble with some difficulty through the wind. When he reaches what used to be the lab, he parks the vehicle in the dead air under the hole and allows the arms to swing upward. The two ends of the spoon come together and fit tightly, like the two halves of the Magdeburg sphere from the early study of vacuums. The hole is enclosed, the terrible wind stops, and the problem is solved. "But why did you want the deed to the property?" he is asked. He shows his questioner that he has included a spigot in the sphere. He can now empty any desired container and provide buyers with a high vacuum without any energy cost for pumping.

It disturbed me that he would so calmly waste the Earth's atmosphere to empty light bulbs -- compare "The Dwindling Sphere" -- but it was an elegant solution to a difficult problem. I probably read this story in a 60s or 70s anthology, in English. I don't recall any names, personal or geographic, from the story.

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    Nice story! The guy could also make an ever-lasting energy source by adding wind turbines in front of the spigot. – Klaus Æ. Mogensen May 10 at 13:20
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    Personally, I'd just stick an airlock near the hole and sell dumping rights. £5 a tonne – Valorum May 10 at 13:33
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    I don't know what this is, and I want to read it. – Organic Marble May 10 at 13:33
7

This is Dean McLaughlin's "The Permanent Implosion", first published in Analog in 1964. The "hole" is termed a congruency; and the story is the tale of successive attempts by the hero, one Mick Candido a well capper, and his team to plug the leak.

He does not arrive on the scene, he is called by the government. The wind does not stop; it is merely reduced to a light breeze because the hemispheres do not quite fit perfectly, although it is implied that this is a manageable problem that can be dealt with. And he is not asked why he wants the deed and then points to the spigot; someone else points to the spigot and asks what it is and he explains his plan to sell "the emptiest vacuums anywhere in the world" and lay a pipeline "maybe all of the way to the East coast".

Further reading

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    Amusing that this is the 2nd time Dean McLaughlin has come up in an answer this week. – DavidW May 10 at 14:48
  • What a guy! Thank you, JdeBP and others who commented. This is certainly the right story, though none of the imprints listed in its ISFDB page seem to be the anthology where I read it. But the database is incomplete. – Invisible Trihedron May 11 at 1:24

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