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Saturday, September 13, 2014

How To Know Everything!

Ever since I was a little boy, if I wanted my imagination informed, I would go find this book:

It is the 1914 edition of Our Wonder World. Although I have never read the text, I found it full of great, scientifically accurate pictures. I still have it, and when I want to know stuff I just look at the pictures and imagine what they're about. For instance, when I need to know anything about the solar system, I consult this illustration captioned, "Off for the planets!":
As you can see, in 1914, space travel was not conducted with rockets, capsules, robot explorers or telemetric probes. It was conducted by crop duster. Carburetors were choked to run rich, pilots took a deep breath and held it, then flew out of Earth's atmosphere to solve interplanetary enigmas. One of the questions they solved was the difference between a solstice and an equinox.

As you can see from this detail of the illustration, there were two people in the crop duster:
One, of course was the pilot. The other was either a naturalist or naturist --no way to tell because everybody bundles up in outer space-- whose task it was to determine what extraterrestrial life-forms eat. Because he found no creatures in the void, he decided they were either omnivores (which eat anything when they can get it --and there wasn't anything) or carnivores (they eat only carnival  food --candied apples, peanuts and such-- when the circus is in town, which it wasn't). But let's return to the enigma they did solve.

Solstice is taken from the Latin "Sol", meaning Sun, and "sistere", meaning to stand still. It means the day is much longer than the night because the sun seems to get stuck --except in countries closer to the North Pole where the sun just flies around in a circle and is still thought to be a comet. For Equinox, I had to consult a more modern authority, Norma, who said "Equus means horse. So equinox is when we all turn into horses?"

I disagreed: " Silly idea. You're neglecting "nox", obviously from the Latin "noxa", meaning toxic or dangerous."

"So," she said. "Twice a year we turn into very unpleasant horses."

I closed and reshelved Our Wonder World, satisfied the time to read its text has not yet come.

36 comments:

  1. Love this. Absolutely wonderful. Does the carnivore diet include those little sugared doughnuts? If so, I'm in.

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    1. Anything sold on the midway --doughnuts, cotton candy too!

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  2. Well those nasty horses are approaching fast....too bad we can't head them off at the pass.

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    1. Such a maneuver might disprove Norma's theory, which would upset her because she is always right.

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  3. There are worse things to turn into than dangerous horses. And my partner would tell you that all horses are unpleasant and dangerous. All of the time.
    A question. Did the Geo who compiled your go-to book where your blog monicker came from?

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    1. Perceptive! But no, Geo. is a fiendishly clever pseudonym based on my real first name, George.

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  4. Indeed. But Bosma and others have found in their studies that the following need to be in effect: "Therefore we have to require a R/B of at least 7, better even 10, before we can have some confidence in sigmaH(r) or Vc(r)."
    If you account for that, I'll take you seriously.
    Cheers,
    Mike

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    1. I can't account for it, Mike. So don't take my posts seriously --I never do.

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    2. Actually I was just hoping you could tell me what the hell they were talking about. I have little confidence in sigma since he took 20 bucks from me in a bar....

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    3. Sigma is part of Bosma's formula for the universe when it has gas. If you gave him $20 to go away, he probably considered it final.

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  5. A beautiful and delightful guide to the cosmos you have there. We must all work on our deep breathing and find friendly crop duster pilots. A party in the stars.

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    1. Thanks! Biplanes in outer space doubtless fired a lot of young minds 100 years ago --artist had fun with it.

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  6. I'm tickled pink by the idea of 'a bundled naturist': Would that be an oxymoron or a paradox? It could even be an enigma!

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  7. Geo, you have absolutely no need to read "Our Wonder World", since you have already absorbed much more knowledge than could ever be contained in ten paltry volumes.

    I'm still laughing at your definition of "carnivores".....

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    1. Alas, Jon, I only have the 1st volume. Wish I had more, but who needs to know 10 times everything?

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  8. And here I thought I knew everything. Live and learn I guess.

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  9. Times change - but a "wonder world" our earth remains. Loved this post - and now I am going to check with my sisters to see which one ended up with the book we all used to consult for our answers!

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    1. Thanks, Susan. I hope, in everyone's childhood, there was a magical book of answers!

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  10. Two things to never question, the universe and Norma always being right. You are a very smart and wise man, Geo.

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    1. Kind Arleen, that makes three things.

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  11. This book must be wonderful. I would love to read it. Thanks.

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    1. The book is wonderful, Sangay. It exists in childhood where everything possible and impossible is assembled.

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    1. Keith, I suspect the O2 content of outer space has thinned since 1914, so you'll need a scuba tank and fuel injector.

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    2. So that’s how it works.
      I’ve been wondering. Ever since I was little. I should have had a book like yours then I’d be clever now too.

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    3. I have only one volume, Friko. The whole set is distributed among the imaginations of children, and children we used to be. Consult your dreams and a book will be there.

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  13. In Finney's From Time to Time, Si Morley says of 1911 that he knew it was a place whose spirit and innocence he wanted to preserve (his mission was to intervene in history and prevent WWI.) This post makes me think about that lovely sentiment.

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    1. You know Jack Finney is a favorite of mine, and a fellow time traveler. Sometimes I wonder how many Si Morleys were successful in changing infinite timelines of our contentious species. Toynbee thought all wars seem inevitable in retrospect. It would be wonderful to reverse that illusion and make peace before wars happen.

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  14. Big dreams are nothing new. I need a book like that.

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    1. Haunt used bookstores, daydream --hard to do in this busy world but results are most efficacious. It is not the final frontier, but a most enjoyable one.

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  15. Realize I'm coming back to the party at 1:30am, but just read your comments to this point.
    You're good. Throw off Toynbee in an answer to a comment...above and beyond. As a undergrad, lo those many years ago, I did a paper on Arnold Toynbee....40+ year memory remembers I said he was a flawed individual, tended to take at face value things that deserved further analysis.
    Anyway, just a way of saying I like your blog.
    Cheers.

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    1. Dang, busted! Correct quote: "Historical events are not inevitable; it is only in retrospect that they seem so." And yes, Toynbee was flawed, or in retrospect he certainly seemed so. I like your blog too!

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  16. I am very late to this party...I loved reading the comments and seeing how the stream continued for 2 or so day both day and night. I am sure that in your wonderful book there is a thought on that.

    I have always pretended I knew everything. I was wonderful at a game called Balderdash and the only person that could beat me was my own son. It is funny how I sound to reasonable and knowledgeable when actually I know nothing at all.

    b+

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    1. I'm always happy when a discussion happens amid comments, and very happy that you commented too!

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