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« Sir Arthur C. Clarke, 1917-2008 | Main | into the infrared »


I have to say I didn't think the doomsday book was that great a novel. The characterization of some of the heroes and villains were weak, and another failure of the book (particularly as the book was written in the early 1990s), no one in the future apparently uses a cell phone or email to communicate. Now ok some of the Cambridge colleges are a bit behind the times, but they are not that far behind. So from that perspective it was a weak plot point to use the inability of the hero professor to communicate with his colleagues. Saying that I did think the description of medieval England was pretty interesting.

A minor point concerning your black death mortality numbers. "Most of the European population" was not wiped out by the Black Death. Far from it. The number was closer to 1/3 (at least according to most historians and economists nowadays). Great post otherwise.

I don't suppose some crazy (say Kim Jong IL or Mahmūd Ahmadinejād) might get ahold of some russian SS-25 missles, and use the info in the above study to gauge maximun effectiveness of spread of nuclear contamination?

Doggone it I didn't want to but I guess I need to well, answer the first comment. I was fortunate enough to have an Uncle who received "Popular Mechanics" back in the 30's. I've got old issues in my storage room (anybody wishing to confirm may delve my address from the author, and thus she and I might fill our respective fuel tanks) and none of them foresaw cell phones and "enhanced 911" or GPS.

I seem to recall a history lesson where this guy named Ghengis catapulted bodies over the walls of Constantinople, apparently he had some idea of disease transmission.

Boccacio. He described people "getting the hell outta Dodge" and by the way gave us (I think) our first case of child whatever, Rustico and -I can't recall her name.

Anyway, Arthur C. did it for me (the book) "The Foundation Trilogy" and the jokes that fostered the first inter-racial consensus jokes by Bradbury are included. Ya'll know, the "Martians Discovered" stuff. I guess ya'll can tell I'm from...


Love, love, love Connie Willis!

I, too, am a Connie Willis fan of many years. And I agree with each of your assessments of her various books. My two favourites are "The Doomsday Book', and 'To say nothing of the dog' For the stories, the plausibility (strained only a little at times), and the characters that I come to like.

My basic comment though has to do with the spread of SARS and a few other 'plagues'. My take on the total is, "Had the SARS pathogen been just a little slower to infect, say an additional incubation time of 24 hours, the spread would have been unstoppable."
There is something critical in the time of infectiousness and onset of symptoms, too rapid and deadly(ebola) and hosts are killed before they can relay or hosts are terrified enough to do something about it.

SARS nearly fulfilled all of our worst nightmares and is a near perfect case for us to study.

BUT,,,, the all time winner of human nature being woven into an outcome is the Canadian physician who after studying the epidemic in Hong Kong, did not quarantine himself an flew straight home to friends and family. Air travelers, hospital workers, friends, family, strangers,,, all paid for this bit of hubris. Had SARS been just a bit slower to exhibit, it would have spelled catastrophe.

I like shoes too.


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    Physics Cocktails

    • Heavy G
      The perfect pick-me-up when gravity gets you down.
      2 oz Tequila
      2 oz Triple sec
      2 oz Rose's sweetened lime juice
      7-Up or Sprite
      Mix tequila, triple sec and lime juice in a shaker and pour into a margarita glass. (Salted rim and ice are optional.) Top off with 7-Up/Sprite and let the weight of the world lift off your shoulders.
    • Listening to the Drums of Feynman
      The perfect nightcap after a long day struggling with QED equations.
      1 oz dark rum
      1/2 oz light rum
      1 oz Tia Maria
      2 oz light cream
      Crushed ice
      1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
      In a shaker half-filled with ice, combine the dark and light rum, Tia Maria, and cream. Shake well. Strain into an old fashioned glass almost filled with crushed ice. Dust with the nutmeg, and serve. Bongos optional.
    • Combustible Edison
      Electrify your friends with amazing pyrotechnics!
      2 oz brandy
      1 oz Campari
      1 oz fresh lemon juice
      Combine Campari and lemon juice in shaker filled with cracked ice. Shake and strain into chilled cocktail glass. Heat brandy in chafing dish, then ignite and pour into glass. Cocktail Go BOOM! Plus, Fire = Pretty!
    • Hiroshima Bomber
      Dr. Strangelove's drink of choice.
      3/4 Triple sec
      1/4 oz Bailey's Irish Cream
      2-3 drops Grenadine
      Fill shot glass 3/4 with Triple Sec. Layer Bailey's on top. Drop Grenadine in center of shot; it should billow up like a mushroom cloud. Remember to "duck and cover."
    • Mad Scientist
      Any mad scientist will tell you that flames make drinking more fun. What good is science if no one gets hurt?
      1 oz Midori melon liqueur
      1-1/2 oz sour mix
      1 splash soda water
      151 proof rum
      Mix melon liqueur, sour mix and soda water with ice in shaker. Shake and strain into martini glass. Top with rum and ignite. Try to take over the world.
    • Laser Beam
      Warning: may result in amplified stimulated emission.
      1 oz Southern Comfort
      1/2 oz Amaretto
      1/2 oz sloe gin
      1/2 oz vodka
      1/2 oz Triple sec
      7 oz orange juice
      Combine all liquor in a full glass of ice. Shake well. Garnish with orange and cherry. Serve to attractive target of choice.
    • Quantum Theory
      Guaranteed to collapse your wave function:
      3/4 oz Rum
      1/2 oz Strega
      1/4 oz Grand Marnier
      2 oz Pineapple juice
      Fill with Sweet and sour
      Pour rum, strega and Grand Marnier into a collins glass. Add pineapple and fill with sweet and sour. Sip until all the day's super-positioned states disappear.
    • The Black Hole
      So called because after one of these, you have already passed the event horizon of inebriation.
      1 oz. Kahlua
      1 oz. vodka
      .5 oz. Cointreau or Triple Sec
      .5 oz. dark rum
      .5 oz. Amaretto
      Pour into an old-fashioned glass over (scant) ice. Stir gently. Watch time slow.