Before there can be any sober discourse about Russian Nanospirals, I need to get this whole wire transfer business out of my hair. Various questions spring to mind, but chief among them is the following:
Why does it take a bank three or more business days to do what Western Union can do in an hour? Good question!
One explanation is that if a bank can pluck some money out of your account and then somehow delay doing anything with it for a few days, that money is basically in limbo. The bank can lend it to someone else in the interim and make a few bucks on interest.
OK, OK. Call me a cynic.
But this close to Christmas, we shouldn’t be giving in to Cynicism. We should have faith: faith in our fellow humans and faith that large corporations are utilizing technology to enrich the lives of all living creatures including subatomic particles. So what follows is basically a story about faith and hope (and dubious physics).
All information these days can be converted into long strings of bits-short for binary digits. These bits can be stored as voltages but also as tiny snowmen made of a special ceramic material first discovered in the Ural Mountains of Russia which is the same place that the Nanospirals were discovered, oddly enough.
And of course, stored bits can be taken OUT of storage and sent someplace else: as trains of electrical pulses through wires or as trains of light pulses through optic fibers.
I think what happens with these banks is that they take your wire transfer information and stash it as trains of electrical pulses in huge magnetic-confinement storage rings.
Now the pulses would just keep whizzing dejectedly around and around the rings in a dark vacuum, day after day, forgotten and hopeless, if it weren’t for the nice bank physicists.
What happens next is almost beyond belief. But hey. ‘Tis the season. Santa Claus is coming to town soon. So get over yourself and believe.
Hand-picked for their lightning-fast reflexes, the bank physicists capture the bits, take them out of the storage loops, talk to them, give them Christmas snacks, read them stories and then shoo the bits gently back into the storage loops. The bits emit tiny contented cooing noises the whole time. It’s awesome.
This scenario unfolds over and over in the next several days and as you can imagine, the bits love the TLC. And the children of the bank physicists love to hear their parents tell them stories about the lonely bits and the tiny cooing sounds. Children love physics! And baby animals!
Things get even better, though. When the bank physicists aren’t tending to the money transfer-related bits, they make their way past the storage rings and down through the subterranean levels of the bank, traversing dimly-lit dank corridors roughly hewn out of the living bedrock. Finally they come to the money vaults, where they beaver away tirelessly, washing and blow-drying the ACTUAL BILLS you deposited that morning for safekeeping. (This is called money laundering.) Then the bills are tucked neatly back into cozy heated drawers, where they dream eagerly about the hustle and bustle of the next day’s Christmas shopping.
The bank physicists’ offspring don’t mind hearing about the money-laundering part either, in case you were wondering. And I think The Bank Physicist’s Identical Twin Children would be a great title for a work of Literary Fiction, now that you mention it.
No wonder the banks have to charge all these ridiculous service fees. People simply have NO idea how complicated banking is these days. Especially when Christmas rolls around.
But all good things must eventually come to an end. Sooner or later the bank physicists tire of fiddling around with the money you gave them to give to someone else. They collect the interest, hook the storage rings up to electro-optical converters, tenderly herd the money transfer-related bits out of the storage rings into the convertors whereupon the bits are promptly converted into trains of laser light pulses. The light pulses enter fiber optic cables and 30 milliseconds later they emerge, blinking owlishly, at undisclosed locations 4000 miles away. Probably in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Or maybe Magnitogorsk.
Money should never sit still.
And if you believed ANY of this, you’re ready to hear about Russian Nanospirals. Or maybe The Attack Of The Eyeworms. I haven’t decided yet.
P.S. It just occurred to me that since the bits/electrons are whizzing in a circle, confined by a magnetic field, they are also losing energy by generating synchrotron radiation (see below). This is one of the main reasons why the buying power of your money diminishes over time. Or else it’s those monthly service charges.