Snapshots 121 Holes in a Chinese Checkers Board

Here are 7 developments of interest to fans.

(1) NASA is looking for participants to lie in bed for 70 days at its Flight Analogs Research Unit to help researchers understand the effectiveness of exercise on loss of muscle, bone and cardiovascular function. Subjects will only get out of bed to do specified exercises.

While in bed, you can read, watch TV and even use the internet. However, the catch is that you can’t stand up to stretch your muscles — not even to go to the bathroom. NASA developed a special gurney for that while you’re lying down.

By using a machine called the Horizontal Exercise Fixture, participants will help NASA understand if that same exercise program will be useful for astronauts in the future.

I’m waiting for the sit-70-days-in-front-of-a-computer study. Of course, I expect there will be a lot of competition from the rest of you to get into that study.

(2) Digitized libraries of old books and newspapers make it possible do extraordinary research from home. Awhile ago I wrote about the author who had unseated the Wright Brothers as the first to fly. Another author has been hard at work to fathom the hidden ancestry of baseball. But there are certain things to keep in mind when using a computer to search PDFs.

Eighteenth-century Britons sometimes used the long s, which OCR tends to read as an f. So you might only find baseball by searching the word bafeball. It was a real pain in the afs.

Also —

In the “B” section, after base-born (“born out of wedlock”) and base-minded (“mean spirited”), Block found an entry for baseball. It was defined as, “A rural game in which the person striking the ball must run to his base or goal.” The first dictionary definition of baseball.

I saw that and privately complained, isn’t this just as much a description of cricket? But I relented when the author trotted out this 1799 quote from Jane Austen’s cousin —

“Ah!” says he, “no more cricket, no more base-ball, they are sending me to Geneva.”

The cousin obviously knew base-ball was a game unto itself.

(3) The original Delorean auto company went broke in 1982 after producing only 9,000 of the famous cars with the gull-wing doors. A Southern California entrepreneur revived the brand name in the 1990s for his business of remanufacturing Deloreans from an inventory of parts he bought from an Ohio company. One of the company’s sidelines is making copies of Dr. Emmett Brown’s time-traveling car from Back To The Future. They’ve made 6 so far.

The pseudo time machines are outfitted with a gaggle of “time circuits” allowing users to happily punch in a “destination time,” just like Fox, or McFly, did in the movie, as well as a lever that activates the all-important mock “flux capacitor,” which, if not capable of generating an actual 1.21 gigawatts of electricity, does, in fact, glow with flashing lights.

…The refitted DeLoreans cost about $45,000, and utilize a whole range of motley parts – like a military surplus jet engine cooler – as well as a Krups coffee grinder that subs as the machine’s “nuclear reactor.”

(4) H.P. Lovecraft as a hard science author? The Lovecraftian Science blog exists to make the argument —

At the convention, I gave a talk on the biology of some of the Old Ones and I received some positive input from the participates. I would like to continue to investigate Lovecraftian Science as a whole (biology, astronomy, chemistry, etc.) and I thought doing it through a blog would be the best means.

I will be talking about Lovecraft’s love for science, how he incorporated a wide variety of scientific theories into his fiction and pose questions on how science would operate in Lovecraft’s world. Based on existing text and essays, I will also identify how Lovecraft was a strong advocate and defender of science. Finally, I will also compare Lovecraft’s attribute toward science to more contemporary scientists and writers.

(5) If you’re interested in football I recommend this 2007 Los Angeles Magazine profile of Coach Pete Carroll. If not, humorous writing may still be worth your time —

On two separate occasions, though I aim the tape recorder at Carroll’s mouth, I later discover nothing on the tape but sibilant mumbles. I hear his voice, then a rustling, then silence, then garble garble—it’s spooky. The tape recorder is brand-new. It was the most expensive one they had at Radio Shack. It picks up my voice fine. When Carroll speaks, the recording sounds like an articulate man gagged and locked in the trunk of a car.

(6) Here’s a link to the Planetary Society’s diagram showing the status of dozens of NASA space probes carrying out missions in the Solar System.

(7) James H. Burns sends a link to a YouTube rarity.

In a clip that was rare and new, to me, at least, Fred Gwynne as Herman Munster suddenly pops up at a 1965 beach, a ‘typical’ mid-60s Shin-Dig scene. The description at Youtube says this was shot on location for a Murray the K TV special, and gets even odder, when it morphs into a Public Service Announcement of sorts!   (And, for the uninitiated, and those too young (!), Murray the K was a top DJ of the era). The first half, anyway, I think, is good fun (and it totals about five minutes).

[Thanks for these stories goes out to Andrew Porter, James Hay, John King Tarpinian, David Klaus, James H. Burns and The Chronicles of the Dawn Patrol.]

3 thoughts on “Snapshots 121 Holes in a Chinese Checkers Board

  1. 2) And, as the Austen quote demonstrates, the name was often spelled “base-ball” – or even “base ball” in the early days. Something else to take into account. This is why library catalog subject headings use a controlled vocabulary – ideally, a standard term for everything, and no casting around with different spellings or variable terminology.

    4) That Lovecraft was a dedicated science amateur is no surprise to anyone who knows anything about him.

  2. I remember back in ’76 Stu Shiffman created a fanzine (which Gary Farber published) from the universe next door, which celebrated the 80th birthday of famous astronomer Howard P. Lovecraft, along with sercon articles by A. W. Tucker, fanzine reviews by Bobby Bloch, and a review of the Broadway musical about Conan the Barbarian, with its title song “Aquilonia” (where the wind comes sweeping o’er the plains), starring Robert Goulet as Conan and Shirley Jones as the Stygian Maiden.

    If you don’t want an entire deLorean, Think Geek will sell you just the flux capacitor to mount in your own car for about $250 — but General Electric is also running a cool commercial right now about how they manage a smart network which can handle 1.21 gigawatts of power each day, including for your favorite deLorean, narrated by Michael J. Fox.

    The reason the wheels turn outward ninety degrees when you’re going where you don’t need roads is that when Jack Kirby and Stan Lee created S.H.I.E.L.D. in 1965, S.H.I.E.L.D.’s flying cars did that so that a turbo-fan would be pointing downward out of each wheel to push the car up into the air, and Bob Gale wanted to see that on his flying car in his movie, so that’s something else in a movie besides art for Lord of Light in Argo for which you can thank Jack’s genius.

    NASA has done bed-equivalents of simulated long-term-in-orbit experiments before, years ago, long before they could get the actual data from an actual crew as they can now, so I’m surprised they need new simulated data.

  3. Mike: The Herman Munster video and the article about baseball were both very entertaining. Thanks for the links! Martin

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