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However improbable we regard this event, or any of the steps which it involves, given enough time it will almost certainly happen at least once. And for life as we know it…once may be enough.
Time is in fact the hero of the plot. The time with which we have to deal is of the order of two billion years. What we regard as impossible on the basis of human experience is meaningless here. Given so much time the “impossible” becomes the possible, the possible probable, and the probably virtually certain. One has only to wait: time itself performs the miracles.
–George Wald, “The Origin of Life”, Scientific American, August 1954
Although stimulating, this article probably represents one of the very few times in his professional life when Wald has been wrong. Examine his main thesis and see. Can we really form a biological cell by waiting for chance combinations of organic compounds? Harold Morowitz, in his book Energy Flow and Biology, computed that merely to create a bacterium would require more time than the Universe might ever see if chance combinations of its molecules were the only driving force.
–C. Folsome, “Life: Origin and Evolution, Scientific American Special Publication, 1979
of any play that lacked a love seat.
-Grand Narrative with Chandelier
Matthea Harvey, Sad Little Breathing Machine
I say to mankind, Be not curious about God.
I asked the earth, and it answered me, “I am not He”;
and whatsoever are in it confessed the same.
I say no man has ever yet been half devout enough,
None has ever yet adored or worship’d half enough.
I asked the sea, and the depths, and the living creeping things,
and they answered, “We are not thy God, seek above us”;
To me the converging objects of the universe perpetually flow;
All are written to me, and I must get what the writing means.
I asked the moving air; and the whole air with his inhabitants answered,
“Anaximenes was deceived, I am not God”;
The universe is a procession, with measured and beautiful motion.
I asked the heavens, sun, moon, stars,
“Nor (say they) are we the God whom thou seeks.”
The true words do not fail, for motion does not fail, and reflection does not fail.
I hear and behold God in every object, yet understand God not in the least,
And I replied unto all things, which encompass the door of my flesh:
“you have told me of my God, that you are not He:
tell me something of Him.”
and we heard the burners pulse and roar and this made Marian laugh again. She talked and laughed incessantly, happy and scared. The basket was not large, barely taking the three of us plus tanks, valves, wires, instruments and coiled rope. Every propane wallop sent a man-sized streak of flame into the open throat of the nylon that bulbed out above us.
Jerry the pilot said, “We need this wind to hold just like it is. Then we make it okay, I think. But we got to be boocoo lucky.”
This made us both laugh. We were lighter than air, laughing and the balloon did not seem like a piece of science so mach as an improvised prayer. Jerry spaced the burns and kept an eye on the pyrometer, adding just enough heat to make up for routine cooling inside the envelope. It was a game, a larger-than-life toy we’d found ourselves wickered into, and our eyes went big at the wooshing flames.
–Underworld, Don Delillo
“Three quarks for Muster Mark!/Sure he hasn’t got much of a bark/And sure any he has it’s all beside the mark.” This passage from James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake, part of a scurrilous 13-line poem directed against King Mark, the cuckolded husband in the Tristan legend, has left its mark on modern physics. The poem and the accompanying prose are packed with names of birds and words suggestive of birds, and the poem is a squawk against the king that suggests the cawing of a crow.
The word quark comes from the standard English verb quark, meaning “to caw, croak,” and also from the dialectal verb quawk, meaning “to caw, screech like a bird.” It is easy to see why Joyce chose the word, but why should it have become the name for a group of hypothetical subatomic particles proposed as the fundamental units of matter? Murray Gell-Mann, the physicist who proposed this name for these particles, said in a private letter of June 27, 1978, to the editor of the Oxford English Dictionary that he had been influenced by Joyce’s words: “The allusion to three quarks seemed perfect” (originally there were only three subatomic quarks). Gell-Mann, however, wanted to pronounce the word with (ô) not (ä), as Joyce seemed to indicate by rhyming words in the vicinity such as Mark. Gell-Mann got around that “by supposing that one ingredient of the line ‘Three quarks for Muster Mark’ was a cry of ‘Three quarts for Mister . . . ’ heard in H.C. Earwicker’s pub,” a plausible suggestion given the complex punning in Joyce’s novel. It seems appropriate that this perplexing and humorous novel should have supplied the term for particles that come in six “flavors” and three “colors.”
31. See, for example, Tracy McVeigh: “One in five women is a shopaholic” (London Observer, Nov. 26, 2000). A searched for “shopaholics anonymous” on the web generated the following advertising message: “Buy and sell ‘shopaholics anonymous’ and millions of other items on eBay!”
Scholastics is hoping to invent the next Harry Potter. Philly Inquirer has the details.
Also due to Google, the titles of books are growing. Ian Williams:
Cristian Mungiu’s film “4 luni, 3 saptamani, si 2 zile” (“4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days”) is devastating. It is a film that has defined “harrowing” for me. It is a hard film for a culture that is hard of heart. Like “The Passion of Christ” it is a film of such violence that is not necessary for everyone to experience. For those who would like to watch the film without commentary you should stop reading here, but for those that don’t wish to subject themselves to the film or for those who wish to soften its blow, read on.