The Cuckoo's Klein Bottle

The Cuckoo's Egg meets Acme Klein Bottles

Published on 
3 min, 496 words

Categories: life

When I was at university, a long time ago, one of the books I really enjoyed was "The Cuckoo's Egg" by Clifford Stoll.

It tracks the true story of an astrophysicist at Berkeley who is asked to have a look at a minor discrepancy in some billing for computer time. Over the next couple of years he ends up tracking a hacker to Germany including the involvement of various US Government agencies. It reads like a thriller. Even though the technology aspect is a little old now - it is still well worth a read.

I have read that book so many times that I had to buy a new copy just to get a new dustcover as the old one is so worn out.

It turns out that the author of the book, Cliff Stoll, now has a side line business - Acme Klein Bottles - and is selling Klein bottles that can be shipped around the world. A klein bottle is a one-sided surface zero volume bottle - basically think of a bottle where the neck is very long then passed back through the side of the bottle and out through the bottom.

Anyway, I decided to order a "Baby" Klein bottle. As part of the ordering process it asks if there is any message if it is a gift. I said it was a gift for myself so surprise me!

Within 24 hours I had received a personal email from Cliff reminiscing about the days of 300 baud modems and detailing how he was going to cycle to the post office later that day to post it. It also promised a subsequent email with photos of the bottle and it's packing etc.

The promised email turned up shortly after with 19 photos! including pictures of the notes and pictures he had written/drawn on the bottle, invoice and box as well as pictures of the great man himself holding the bottle and the parcel.

The bottle arrived safely and now sits beside my laptop on my desk. The package also included some pages of notes about Klein bottles and various other things, an invoice with a message in a logarithmic spiral and an old IBM 360 control card with a personal message on the back to use as a bookmark for the book.

It would have been very easy for him to just take a bottle, package it and send it off. However he made the whole process and experience special - going way above and beyond - making it personal and something to remember and talk about.

So, thank you Cliff for making it special and also for the book that started me on this.

P.S I hope you enjoyed the eclipse!


Acme Klein Bottle

The Cuckoo's Egg