by Paul Niquette
Copyright ©1996 Resource Books All rights reserved.

miracle n. An event that appears unexplainable by the laws of nature and so is held to be supernatural in origin.

The miracle is, there are no miracles. 
     -- Albert Einstein

A box-like apparatus with a glowing window stands near the far wall.  The face of a man stares through the window and his voice fills the room.  Suddenly a small rectangle containing a combat scene appears above the man's shoulder.  The man proclaims that the images come from a far away place called the Middle East.  He commands the rectangle to expand, annihilating his own presence in the window.  The sounds of battle reach our ears from the other side of the world.
Are we not witnessing a miracle?
Nah, it's just the evening news.
To a visitor from the 19th Century, however, the electronic genie who can compress distant battlefields into a cabinet the size of a coal bin must indeed possess supernatural powers.

The best education of a hundred years ago did not include certain laws of nature:

  • electromagnetic radiation,
  • thermionic emission,
  • photoelectric effect, and
  • semiconductivity.
Nothing about Einstein either.

Even today, few people command a thorough knowledge of all the technologies of television, which would include...

  • audio and video signal processing,
  • the image orthocon and chroma-keyed switching,
  • modulated electromagnetic radiation and geostationary satellites,
  • superheterodyne tuners and cathode ray tubes.
Turn on a switch and take the miracle of television for granted.  Turn on a switch and pick a channel.


Twelve years after I published this essay, Jack Eagle died at the age of  82.  He became famous worldwide for his role as Brother Dominic in a 1977 Super Bowl commercial for Xerox.  In his award-winning performance, we saw Brother Dominic finish the duplication of an old manuscript by hand, only to learn that the head monk needs 500 more copies. Muttering to himself, Dominic passes through a secret doorway to a modern-day copy shop where the Xerox 9200, which can copy at the rate of two pages per second, does the job. He returns to the monastery and delivers the sets quick as that. 

"It's a miracle," the father says. Brother Dominic smirks skyward. 
In my position as Director of Product Planning at the Xerox Corporation through the seventies, I was called upon to review various advertising proposals.  Given the antipathy I have expressed in this essay, it may not be obvious why I was delighted to recommend management approval for the campaign.  Brother Dominic, by never uttering the word 'miracle' himself, gave full recognition to the product development team at Xerox for their technological achievements. 

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