Pixel Scroll 12/2/16 Scrolls, Mr. Pixel, Zillions Of ’Em!

(1) I ROCK, I RAN, EUPHRASIA. Amazing Stories’ Jack Clemons answers the question “Killer Asteroids: Can We Stop Them?”

In an earlier post I talked about the ongoing risk of a sizable asteroid impacting Earth, causing atomic bomb-like destruction, and the still-nascent technologies we’ve developed so far just to track asteroids. So an obvious question is, if we did discover one headed for a bullseye with Earth, and if we had enough time to react, what could we do about it?

The answer at this point is: not much. In the words of NASA administrator Charles Bolden, “If it’s coming in three weeks, pray.” The difficulty comes from attempting to stop, slow or even deflect a massively destructive boulder, which might range in girth anywhere from the size of a tractor-trailer to a planetoid hundreds of miles in diameter, traveling at 40,000 miles per hour.

That’s not to say no one is worrying about it. In fact, several of NASA’s finest have given the problem a lot of thought and so far they’ve come up with three options they’ve labeled “Nuke”, “Kick” or “Tug”.

(2) RING OUT. Moshe Feder calls it bad news for Rob Hansen and everyone who loves bells. Whitechapel Bell Foundry, the UK’s oldest manufacturing business, founded 1570 – and reportedly where fanhistorian Rob Hansen works – is is closing down. The announcement earned the business a long profile in Spitalfields Life.

It is with deep regret that I announce the closure of Whitechapel Bell Foundry, the world’s most famous bell foundry and Britain’s oldest manufacturing company. Below you can read my interview with Alan Hughes, the last in a line of bell founders stretching back to 1420, who will retire next year at sixty-eight years old when the foundry closes in May 2017 and the building is sold – meanwhile, negotiations for the future ownership of the business are underway.

Feder says, “I hope someone buys and saves it, even if it has to move.”

(3) MURDER MOST FOUR. Dave Langford’s Ansible Editions has published an ebook edition of Yvonne Rousseau’s The Murders at Hanging Rock (first published in 1980). Mystery multiplied!


What really happened at Hanging Rock on St Valentine’s Day in 1900?

Picnic at Hanging Rock is the source for this erudite literary entertainment, which will be enjoyed and appreciated by all scholars and lovers of unsolved mysteries. In The Murders at Hanging Rock, Yvonne Rousseau offers four logical, carefully worked-out but thoroughly tongue-in-cheek explanations of the fate of the missing picnickers from Appleyard College.

Now reprinted with a foreword by John Taylor which casts yet more light on the subject, The Murders at Hanging Rock is an essential and amusing companion to Lady Lindsay’s classic story.

  • • •

In 1987, the long-suppressed Chapter 18 of Joan Lindsay’s Picnic at Hanging Rock was published as The Secret of Hanging Rock, a chapbook to which Yvonne Rousseau contributed a further ingenious commentary which has been added (with a new Preface of its own) to the Ansible Editions ebook of The Murders at Hanging Rock.

(4) RETROSPECTIVE. Randy Byers, just about the nicest person in fanzine fandom, looks back on his first year of fighting a cancer that tore his life apart and reassembled it in a new way.

A lot has happened in the last year and I’m hopeful that there’s more amazement to come, but I thought it was worth marking that a year ago I walked through a door into an examination room and exited a stranger in a strange land that had such people in it.

(5) HINES BENEFIT AUCTION #7. The seventh of Jim C. Hines’ 24 Transgender Michigan Fundraiser auctions is for an autographed novel and half a pound of specially roasted coffee beans, from Leah Cutter.

Today’s auction is for a signed copy of THE RAVEN AND THE DANCING TIGER, and half a pound of specially roasted coffee beans, both from author and coffee geek Leah Cutter.

About the Book:

Peter worries about just three things: dancing, finding a girlfriend, and hiding his raven soul.

Peter is a raven warrior, an ancient race known for their assassination and fighting skills. Through secrecy and strict teaching, they’ve learned to cope with the modern world.

When Peter meets Tamara, he knows she’s different. Special. He doesn’t learn until too late that she has secrets too. Tamara is a tiger warrior. And her kind are only interested in killing his kind.

About the Coffee:

Leah will be in touch with the winner to determine what type of roast you want. (Light? Dark? Espresso? Uncertain blend? Decaf? Etc…)

(6) HARLAN IS #1. Digital Trends reviewed all the iterations of Star Trek and picked the top episode from each: “From time travel to Tribbles: Here are the best Star Trek episodes from every series”.

Over its five decades, no science-fiction property has had more of an effect on the genre than Star Trek. Five television series, an animated cartoon, and a dozen movies have captivated Trekkies for generations. While the show has occasionally produced some kitschy dialogue and plot lines that are cringe-worthy, there are many episodes that withstand the test of time as some of the greatest sci-fi adventures ever put on a screen.

In preparation for the forthcoming new series from CBS, Star Trek: Discovery, we glossed hundreds of episodes from each live-action series and picked some of our favorites for you to enjoy, whether you’re new to the franchise or a life-long fan. We’re sure this will cause a lot of discussion, but if you really want to go where no sci-fi adventure has gone before, here are the 20 episodes you’ll want on your watch list.

Star Trek: The Original Series

Set in the 23rd century, Star Trek: TOS follows the five-year mission of the USS Enterprise, with Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner), first officer and half-Vulcan Spock, the ever cantankerous ship’s Doctor Leonard McCoy (DeForest Kelly), Uhuru (Nichelle Nichols), Sulu (George Takei), and the rest of the gang, alongside a host of alien species.

The winner

Season 1, episode 28: The City on the Edge of Forever

The final episode of the original series’ first season gets our nod for its solid storyline. Some of the episodes of TOS seemed to suffer from gimmicky — if not corny — plots, but Roddenberry and his team thread the needle well in this one. In fact, it was good enough to receive the 1968 Hugo (the Emmys of sci-fi) for Best Dramatic Presentation.

In this episode, Kirk and Spock must travel back in time to go after McCoy, who, in a fit of delusion following an accidental overdose of Cordrazine, transports down to the nearest planet. This planet is home to a time portal, and McCoy enters the portal. The incident alters the time line, causing the Enterprise and the entire Federation to disappear. Kirk and Spock bargain with the “Guardian of Forever” to enter the portal, which takes them back to 1930s New York City. What unfolds is a story about timelines that might have been, a device later used by J.J. Abrams in the series’ cinematic reboot.

(7) IT’S CONTAGIOUS. Skyboat Audiobook of Harlan Ellison’s Star Trek Teleplay was named to AudioFile’s Best Audiobooks of 2016.

Today, AudioFile Magazine named THE CITY ON THE EDGE OF FOREVER as one of the BEST AUDIOBOOKS of 2016. Took our breath away. We wanted to share this amazing news with you, because without you, there would have been no audiobook. There are thousands of books produced every year, and it is deeply moving that CITY was included on this prestigious list. And that brings us back to thanking all of you again and again for your outpouring of love and financial support. Bless you one and all during this Holiday Season.

(8) SACHS OBIT. Fawlty Towers star Andrew Sachs has died reports the BBC.

Fawlty Towers star Andrew Sachs, who played hapless Spanish waiter Manuel in the BBC sitcom, has died aged 86, his family has confirmed.

Sachs, who had been suffering from dementia for four years, died on 23 November and was buried on Thursday.

On his role of Manuel, he told the BBC in 2014: “It was just a part I was playing and people seemed to laugh.”

….Manuel was one of the most imitated comedy characters of the 1970s.

The waiter, who famously hailed from Barcelona, often said little more than the word “Que?” to generate laughs, but arguably his most famous line was “I know nothing”.

Fawlty Towers co-writer Booth, who played hotel maid Polly Sherman in the series, said Sachs “spoke to the world with his body as well as his mangled English.”

She said he was a “universally beloved figure”, saying it was “a privilege and an education to work with him”.

Writing in the Guardian, she also compared the pairing of Cleese and Sachs to that of Abbott and Costello or Laurel and Hardy.

(9) CARTOON AMERICAN. Gizmodo’s Casey Chan thinks this is true: “Why Bugs Bunny Is the Ultimate Animated American Icon”.

Mickey Mouse is obviously more well-known than Bugs Bunny. But there’s a kitschy globalization aspect to Mickey that Bugs has somehow managed to avoid ,even though they both served as mascots for their companies (Disney and Warner Bros., respectively). How did Bugs do it?

Kaptain Kristian breaks down the difference between Mickey and Bugs as such: Bugs is cool, slick, funny, defiant, and in control. Mickey is tame, inoffensive, and, well, corporate as hell. Bugs is who most Americans want to be (even if we’re meek li’l Mickeys inside), Mickey is just a safe brand that gets stamped around the world. And while Bugs is a character, Mickey is a company.

Instead of running down Mickey Mouse, Chan needs to justify picking Bugs over Homer Simpson. The aggressively credulous Homer is our neighbor, our nightmare, and – if never to be admitted – sometimes ourselves.

(10) INDIE OR NOT TO INDIE. When asked “Why even have a publisher?”, Fynbospress gave this answer in a comment at Mad Genius Club:

For us, the value of a publisher is as follows:

1.) Exploitation of rights that would otherwise lay fallow. Namely, audiobook, because I personally don’t care for the medium, and therefore am crippled when it comes to trying to put out a good quality product.

2.) additional fanbase. Publishers like Baen and Castalia have cultivated a fanbase that is willing to buy a new author based solely on the publisher – and whether you’re a newcomer to the field or trying to expand into a new market, these are additional sales and market penetration above what we can easily reach. (Note; do research on your publisher. Nobody ever says “Oh, boy, I can’t wait for the next Penguin Putnam release!” So the majors are actually less attractive this way.)

3.) additional marketing efforts. Again, due diligence is required, but if the publisher is willing to commit to pushing your book, that’s more work the author doesn’t have to do. If the press is big enough that your editor has to run this past a marketing department, then it’s critical to get this in the contract.

4.) Someone else to carry the ball. We’ve had some interesting medical adventures over the last couple years. The ability to hand a manuscript off, and not have to do anything else (even though the publisher did ask us for approval / suggestions on cover and blurb), was the difference between getting Brings the Lightning out or not. And when we’re more concerned with the surgeon saying “Unfortunately, due to shrapnel in his body, we can’t put your husband in the MRI to see if complications X or Y will ensue…” having a publisher who will get a royalty check to us is much nicer than having 70% of nothing.

Note that these reasons are very individual to us and our circumstances; they do not necessarily apply to all authors.

(11) AWARD FOR NON-ALTERNATE HISTORY. Pornokitsch tells us that once upon a time there was such a thing as “The Georgette Heyer Historical Fiction Prize”.

Something else I’ve learned this week – the existence of “The Georgette Heyer Historical Fiction Prize”. This was proudly emblazoned on the spine of Zemindar, which I promptly bought for £2. See, awards do sell books!

Sponsored by Corgi Books and The Bodley Head, the Georgette Heyer Historical Fiction Prize ran from 1978 to 1989. It was for discovering “new talent in historical fiction writing” – and not solely Heyer’s stomping ground of the Regency period, as shown by the list of winners below….

There’s a great article about the prize on Reading the Pastwhere Sarah Johnson has done a terrific job of piecing together the award’s history.

(12) RIOT BEGINS IN 3, 2, 1…. Peter Burfeind pokes all those sensitive places in an article for The Federalist, “Aliens Don’t Exist, But They Tell Us A Lot About Atheists”.

In his movie “Expelled,” Ben Stein challenged Richard Dawkins about the remarkable phenomenon of life on planet earth: how could life arise given the sheer magnitude of its improbability? Dawkins suggested aliens possibly deposited life on earth.

Dawkins, we recall, is an atheist, a scientist directed only by provable facts. Yet he’s willing to posit the source of earthly life to a concept lacking any evidence.

Of course, Dawkins is guilty of nothing more than a thought experiment, something great scientists do all the time. Accordingly, a galaxy without aliens would be like a valley producing no life decades after a massive volcano covered it with volcanic ash—eventually some seed will find its way into the hard crevices, and though difficult, life will find a way.

(13) BACK TO THE BIG BANG. Beware – CinemaBlend tells “What Christopher Lloyd Did On The Big Bang Theory”.

Warning: Spoilers ahead for tonight’s episode of The Big Bang Theory.

The Big Bang Theory has become known, in its 10 seasons on the air, for enlisting the help of several guest stars to enhance the stories the show tells of the group of funny friends we’ve all come to know and love. It was announced a few weeks ago that tonight’s episode, titled “The Property Division Collision,” would feature a guest appearance from iconic actor Christopher Lloyd, but we didn’t know who he’d be playing or how his character would feature into the main plot. Episode 10 of The Big Bang Theory saw Christopher Lloyd playing Theodore, Penny and Leonard’s new oddball roommate.

(14) FOR AN INCREASE IN CHRISTMAS CHEER.  The Tea and Jeopardy advent calendar podcasts run from thirty seconds to five minutes (so far).

Advent Calendar 2016 – Day 1

Whimsy, silliness and festive cheer! The Tea and Jeopardy advent calendar begins with a card and gift from the Harper Voyager Publishing Director Natasha Bardon!

Advent Calendar 2016 – Day 2

Day 2 of the Tea and Jeopardy advent calendar features a card and gift from Sebastien de Castell. A song is mentioned in the episode that you can listen to here.

(15) IT GETS VERSE. A magnificent effort by Peer Sylvester: https://file770.com/?p=32198&cpage=2#comment-513386

I scrolled myself today
To see if I still file
I boxticked on the pain
The only thing that’s real
The pixel tears a hole
The old familiar sting
Try to scroll it all away
But I remember everything

(Rest of the day: Try to get the song out of my head again)

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Mark-kitteh, and Chip Hitchcock for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

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79 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 12/2/16 Scrolls, Mr. Pixel, Zillions Of ’Em!

  1. Sylvia Sotomayor says ‘Phryne Fisher. Smart, beautiful, accomplished, successful, fights crime. Not at Doc Savage level, but closer than many.’

    If you’ve not seen the Australian (naturally as that’s where it’s set) series, it’s well worth watching. Netflix is broadcasting them currently.

  2. airboy: Gallup conveniently did a poll. It doesn’t address the age of the universe, but it does address the age of humanity.


    In a 2014 poll, 42% of Americans believed that “God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so.”

    I couldn’t find a Gallup poll specifically about the age of the universe, but I did find a Harris poll from 2009


    39% believed that “God created the universe, the earth, the sun, moon, stars, plants, animals, and the first two people within the past 10 000 years.”

    So your “very few Christians” look like rather a lot of them. Given that Christians weren’t the only ones polled, perhaps as many as 50% or so. Including, going by the numbers, quite a few Catholics and Lutherans.

  3. 6) I mostly agree with their selections for TOS and TNG. Might have picked a few different ones for DS9, but that’s a matter of taste. Gave up on Voyager midway thru the second season and on Enterprise after the opening titles, so I have no opinion about those. (Although I do think it’s a mistake to consider the Giant Retcon Of Everything to be a Star Trek show at all.)

    9) The difference between Bugs Bunny and Homer Simpson is that Bugs has class.

    12) Over the course of several billion years, a lot of highly-improbable events are going to come to pass. And the thing is that once “life”, which is to say an entity capable of reproducing itself, has come to pass, it quickly overwhelms other probabilities that depend only on random chance. But a lot of people don’t have any grasp of statistics at all. (Mine isn’t the best by any means, but at least I’ve had the 101-level course.)

    @ Cora: Many religious people are incapable of grasping the idea of not needing religion — it’s such a completely alien worldview that they can’t wrap their brains around it. If you start from the postulate of “everyone needs religion”, it’s a logical progression to think that someone who rejects religion must have a religion-shaped hole in their lives which they are desperately seeking to fill, and all the rest follows from that. It’s a classic illustration of “garbage in, garbage out”. (Notice that I don’t say “God” here. It’s not the concept of God that these people think atheists are missing.)

    @ Steve D.: I think of Dawkins as serving the same purpose as the Black Panthers — he defines the far edge of the Overton Window and makes people more willing to deal with atheists who are “less abrasive”. These days, of course, I also think of him as a misogynist brat, but that has nothing to do with his religious views.

  4. According to this Gallup poll, the percentage goes up to 58 percent for Republicans. And from the same poll, of people identifying as attending church weekly, 67 percent were Young Earthers (or at least Young Humanityers.)

  5. Many religious people are incapable of grasping the idea of not needing religion… Notice that I don’t say “God” here. It’s not the concept of God that these people think atheists are missing.

    I agree with you on the first part, but not on the second.

  6. (10) “rights that would otherwise LIE fallow”, and an editor (unlikely at Baen or the other place) who would spot and correct grammatical errors.
    (11) I read Susan Kay’s “Legacy” and liked it very much.
    Seconding the Phryne Fisher fans. Although the TV series is fun, it tones Phryne down and simplifies the plots. I much prefer the books.
    And joining in the wishes for Sarah Hoyt’s recovery.

  7. @Darren Garrison– It goes up to 58% if you consider only Republicans. What does it go down to, if you consider only Democrats?

    @Cally– Any Catholics or Lutherans who believe in Young Earth creationism or close variants needs to have a long, serious talk with their priest. It involves accepting the proposition that God lies to His people (planting false evidence of evolution) and then damns people for believing the planted evidence. That’s classed as a heresy; that’s why Catholics are expected to accept the best available scientific evidence on matters of the physical world, rather than preferring a literal reading of a Bible section not necessarily intended to be read literally.

    As for the correlation with weekly church attendance– The fundamentalist denominations tend to be much sterner on social enforcement of weekly attendance, compared to Catholic relative laxness on actually enforcing weekly attendance.

    And honestly, does anyone really think it’s sensible and useful to insist to practicing Christians of mainline denominations that we reallio trulio believe, because we are “religious,” things our churches not only don’t teach but regard as tending toward heretical, or at a minimum really, really stupid? Isn’t that a bit silly?

  8. Dawn Incognito: Her proclamations about “Borderlines” demonstrate some extreme thinking. Which is maybe supposed to be the point? Is it the character or is it the writing?

    I think it’s intended to convey the way that people with BPD think — which, in my experience, is frequently “extreme thinking”.

    Just one example of thousands I could give you:

    Me, in passenger seat, to driver, going someplace neither of us has ever been before: Okay, we need to turn right at the next stoplight.

    Them: You just said I was stupid!

    Me: No, I didn’t. I just let you know where we needed to go, since we haven’t been there befiore.

    Them: Yes you did! You called me stupid! YOU THINK I’M TOO STUPID TO KNOW HOW TO DRIVE!!!

    Multiply that by at least a couple of times a day, pretty much every day about pretty muich any subject, for years on end.

    This is why the phrase “walking on eggshells” is quite often used in describing what it’s like to be around a person with BPD. The most innocuous things will set them off, and will be twisted in the most bizarre, sinister ways possible, and you never know what is going to set them off or what they’re going to twist it into. 😐

  9. @RDF: Re. life/thermodynamics – interesting stuff, thanks.

    @JJ wrote:

    Maybe not, but I frequently say “Oh boy, I can’t wait to see what Orbit / Tor / DAW puts out next!” — simply because those publishers have earned a reputation with me for consistent excellence in what they publish.

    Yeah! For example, I’ve thought many times over the past year how much I’ve greatly enjoyed every Orbit book I’ve read and how most of their books sound very interesting to me. They’re not the only publisher – just a recent one, for me. I definitely perk up when hearing about new Orbit books; they’re one of the only publishers where I signed up for their e-mail newsletter! (Granted, not all publishers have newsletters, oddly enough.)

    Some publishers move off and back on my “new book from X? worth checking out” list, e.g., Roc (after some disappointments over the years, I’ve loved several books from them over the past couple of years). Heh, Roc is part of Penguin. 😉

    Anyway, /ramble.

  10. I can’t remember who said it, but it was a hostage in captivity somewhere, and I don’t remember the exact quote, but it was a request for books with the Penguin logo on it for something to good to read. I wish I could remember. Penguin marketing highlighted it for an anniversary back when I was working for them in the mid 90s. Penguin also mentioned that the logo was in the top 5 (or 10) of most recognized brands worldwide.

    ETA: This seems appropos to the anything by $publisher discussion. I wish I could remember the quote and who said it.

  11. @Heather Rose Jones: It’s like picking up your hand of cards in bridge and exclaiming, “Do you know how astronomical the odds are against me having been dealt this exact hand?”
    More formally, this is the difference between a priori and post priori statistics, a distinction that frequently eludes even people who ought to know better.
    @Greg Hullender: The key point is, chemistry isn’t random. Arguments that assume it is produce absurd conclusions.
    Word. We could sidestep a lot of nonsense if people understood this.

  12. Anyone ever read the “Super Powereds” series self-published by Drew Hayes? It’s online to read for free as a serial (currently in book 4 of 4) and also in ebook (Amazon only), print, & audiobook (Audible). It was recommended on the “fan favorites” holiday shopping guide blog post at John Scalzi’s Whatever and caught my eye.

    I’m going to try the online version when I have time (gah who knows when that’ll be), but I’m interested in any comments if anyone’s read it. It’s about superhero university, more or less – but it sounds less juvenile than similar stuff I’ve run into like that use that concept (e.g., the “Sky High” movie, sigh).

    (I thought of spending one of my too-many Audible credits on the audiobook, but I didn’t really care for the narrator’s voice.)

    ETA: Several people here seem to like superhero fiction on occasion, so if someone else tries it after reading the above, please report back! 😉 Oh and I’m a dork – a link would help, huh.

  13. @ Darren: I agree that “God-shaped hole” is what they say, but in context they use it in ways that clearly indicate they’re not talking about a deity but about an entire religious structure. Because if you say, as a friend of mine is wont to do, “I believe in God but not in churches” — that turns out to be not good enough. If you’re not properly performing the whole religion thing, you’re Doin It Rong.

    BTW, I found something interesting on that page you linked:
    It’s not so much that we’ve got a God-shaped hole inside, it’s more that we’ve got a hole-shaped God. We made him to suit our own wishes, so of course he fits them like a hand in a glove, or rather a glove over hand. We’ve been duped about which one made the other. – Neil Carter

    That’s something I’ve been saying for decades now. God didn’t make mankind in his image, we make him in ours. Tell me about the god you worship, and you tell me much more about yourself.

    @ JJ: Holy crap. I’d be outta there so fast it would leave skidmarks.

  14. Ebook sale a.k.a. Meredith Moment:

    The Dragonbone Chair by Tad Williams is on sale from DAW (uses DRM) for $2.99. Yeah, probably everyone but me has read this, but FYI. 😉

  15. JJ: you have my sympathy. A family member of mine probably always had BPD but life events about 10 years ago kicked it into overdrive. I can’t count the number of times I stood in the shambles of a family gathering, muttering, “what just happened here?” I keep hearing good things about “Borderline” but I just don’t think I can go there.

  16. @Cally – Interesting reply.

    But if you poll US Citizens (or citizens of most countries) about a lot of things the answer would be wrong.

  17. @Lis: can you point to other inferior bells? I’ve seen a counterclaim that US goods were generally inferior (e.g., the worst grade of rail produced in the UK was referred to as “American rail”); I’m also unsure why a higher percentage of tin (less widely found than copper AFAICT) would indicate an inferior product.

  18. @Chip– Remember that we’re talking about the 1750s and 1760s. Britain wasn’t importing manufactured goods from the American colonies. Railroads in anything like the modern sense are no older than the 1790s. So if we’re talking about “American rail” referring to railroad tracks, we’re talking about a period at least a few decades later than the manufacture of the Liberty Bell.

    It was illegal for the American colonies to export manufactured goods to Britain. Mercantile law put a serious crimp in sending manufactured goods from the US to Britain even after the revolution.

    All of which means that it’s difficult to see how British merchants and end consumers would have any clear idea of the actual quality of American manufactures in either the colonial or the early post-colonial period. That’s even if we pass over the oddity of the fact of the British calling cheap rail manufactured in Britain “American rail” being cited as objective evidence of the quality of American manufactures rather than as a reflection of the well-documented British prejudice against the colonists and all their works.

    And of course that doesn’t even get to the fact that we’re not talking about the quality of American manufactures, and the fact that that quality or lack thereof is utterly irrelevant to the quality of a bell manufactured in Britain by what really was one of the most respected bell foundries in Europe…

    And which cracked the first time it was rung, and nearly three centuries later, the manufacturer is still blaming the customer.

    Or the even more embarrassing fact that American foundry people, who legally shouldn’t have existed, shouldn’t have been equipped to cast a bell, and never had cast a bell before, did successfully recast it. The sound of the resulting bell was criticized, but they got a few decades of use out of it before it got its current, final crack.

    The higher proportion of tin is suspect because it would naturally result from using leftover scraps from previously cast bells rather than starting with new copper and tin. What matters here is not the relative availability of copper or tin, but getting the correct mix of the two metals in casting a bell–and mixing scraps from casting previous bells along with whatever amount of fresh copper and tin was needed to make up the total would result in a wrong mix, resulting in a potentially more brittle bell.

    Whitechapel Bell’s entire defense is, “See? We didn’t ship inferior crap to customers who mattered, so how could we have shipped inferior crap to customers for whom we had a well-documented contempt, a contempt that we righteous British still often express in a variety of ways even today!”

  19. Lis Carey on December 3, 2016 at 9:47 pm said:

    I heard that part of the problem was the scrap metal tossed in when it was recast. I’m not sure what the problem was when it arrived, but bellmetal is prone to cracking or breaking when it’s mishandled. It’s about 3/4 copper and 1/4 tin, IIRC. (We wore gloves when handling them, and had padding on the table they rested on. That was pretty much standard for all handbell ringers.)

  20. It’s just mighty convenient for Whitechapel to continue to blame the customer, when we’ve known for forty years at least that the use of scrap raised the tin content, which would make it more brittle.

  21. @Lis: mixing scraps from casting previous bells along with whatever amount of fresh copper and tin was needed to make up the total would result in a wrong mix, resulting in a potentially more brittle bell. How and why did the scraps’ composition vary from the desired ratio? If they were high-tin scraps from other bells, those bells would have been more out of proportion than a bell partly from scrap and partly from fresh metal in the correct ratio. And availability does matter; why would a foundry use more of the material that was harder to get?

  22. It’s odd that Whitechapel’s two most famous bells – Big Ben and the Liberty Bell – are both cracked, and probably both for the same reason, ie. being improperly struck. Bell metal is very brittle – it wouldn’t ring if it wasn’t. If you don’t strike a bell in the right place and with the correct strength you will crack it. In the case of Big Ben the man who commissioned it, Lord Dennison, decided it needed a clapper of approximately twice the weight he had been told should be used. Guess what happened? Not prepared to accept he could be wrong, he claimed the bell had been shoddily made. The foundry sued him for libel and won. It also won a second time when he repeated the libel.

    Lis Carey writes: “Rob Hansen has never been willing to accept the copiously documented fact that most British merchants and manufacturers palm off shoddy goods on the American colonists whenever they could manage it.”

    I don’t recall ever expressing on opinion on this tendency, but my memory is not what it was. However, I’m a bit puzzled by Lis’s assertion that the higher than usual tin content in the Liberty Bell proves Whitechapel used inferior materials since tin is more expensive than copper. I’m also puzzled by how an analysis of its (I’m assuming) current tin content proves anything about the mix Whitechapel
    originally used since it was subsequently recast twice by Pass & Stow who buggered around with the copper/tin mix in the process. Here’s the Foundry website page on the bell, btw:


  23. Oh yeah, one thing I didn’t mention was this reference to ‘scrap metal’ and this apparently being a bad thing. Few bells are cast solely from ‘new’ metal. Most are cast from a mixture of ingots of bell metal obtained from a metal merchant, finings (metal cut from other bells during the tuning process), and scrap metal obtained by breaking up old bells. When breaking up the latter with a sledge hammer you can tell the quality of the metal therein both by how difficult it is to smash – the lower the tin content the more the hammer has a tendency to bounce off the bell rather than to crack it – and also by examining the granularity of the metal revealed when the bell is broken. Tin levels are then adjusted accordingly, and yes it’s always the tin levels. If the original makers of those old bells were trying to save money they would do so be putting in less tin, not more.

  24. airboy wrote: Interesting reply.

    But if you poll US Citizens (or citizens of most countries) about a lot of things the answer would be wrong.

    Interesting that Gallup’s numbers for the percentage of
    Young Humanityers remain very consistent over more than 30 years of polling, then. The poll I cited is not an outlier.
    http://www.gallup.com/poll/21814/evolution-creationism-intelligent-design.aspx . Belief in plain old evolution goes up, and belief in divinely directed evolution goes down, but Young Humanityism stays approximately level.

    If it was just one poll done once, sure, it might be screwed up, but when the numbers don’t vary all that much, AND agree with the Harris poll I also cited, then it seems to me that the polls are pointing to real data. What makes you think they’re not?

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