Snapshots 137 Atoms in Every Chlorophyll Molecule

Here are 15 developments of interest to fans.

(1) Carrie Fisher told reporters she was being brought back to play Leia in Episode VII on the condition that she lose 35 pounds before filming began.

“They always hire not entirely me; they always want me minus anywhere between 10 pounds and 30 pounds to 40 pounds,” said Fisher. “In this case I’ve been very cooperative. If I could’ve been as cooperative as I am in this situation in relationships, I’d be happily married. But I complied.”

It’d probably be a good idea if they also made Star Wars fans lose 35 pounds before they let us into the movie. I’ll get started today.

(2) Since J.R.R. Tolkien’s death in 1973, his son Christopher has edited and published many of his father’s unfinished works. This spring saw the publication of Tollkien’s translation of Beowulf. Ethan Gilsdorf of the New York Times surveyed Tolkien scholars to see what they felt about it finally appearing.

Why the long delay for “Beowulf”? Wayne G. Hammond, an author of the “The J.R.R. Tolkien Companion and Guide,” said that Christopher Tolkien “naturally concentrated” on first publishing long-promised books, like “The Silmarillion” and that “Tolkien’s own writings, especially his fiction, presumably took priority.”

Beowulf was a story after Tolkien’s own heart.

That “Beowulf” influenced Tolkien is not news. From King Hrothgar’s mead-hall Heorot to a thief who steals a golden cup from a dragon, elements of “Beowulf” are echoed throughout Tolkien’s work. “Knowledge of his interest in and love for ‘Beowulf’ is essential to understanding ‘The Lord of the Rings,’ ” the Tolkien scholar Verlyn Flieger, a professor emeritus of English at the University of Maryland, wrote in an email. “Battles with monsters (Grendel, the dragon) are the heart of Beowulf, and reoccur in Tolkien’s work.”

But should a work Tolkien regarded as unready for publication have been issued?

Still, some say that Tolkien would have protested his translation being published at all. “If Tolkien knew that was going to happen, he would have invented the shredder,” said the “Beowulf” authority Kevin Kiernan, an emeritus professor of English at the University of Kentucky. Most scholars of Anglo-Saxon try their hand at “Beowulf” translations to better understand the poem, he said, but that does not mean theirs, or Tolkien’s, deserves a wider audience.

“Publishing the translation is a disservice to him, to his memory and his achievement as an artist,” Mr. Kiernan added.

(3) Philip Kennicott’s review of the 9/11 Memorial Museum in the Washington Post is an impressive demonstration of the richness and subtlety of the English language. It’s worth reading whether or not you like all of his opinions.

(4) “Based on earlier surveys of deep-sea fish populations, researchers estimate deep-sea fish effectively capture and store 1 million metric tons of carbon dioxide from Irish and U.K. surface waters each year,” says a writer in Scientific American. Then in the grand tradition of science fiction he extrapolates a scientific idea into a dubious social policy.

Next time you eat fish for dinner, consider that your meal is probably worth more money as a carbon capture and storage device…..

That’s right – get the UN on the phone, make everybody stop eating fish! You think I’m kidding? Well, not entirely. Click on the link.

(5) Speaking of bad ideas, Maureen Johnson and John Scalzi suggested quite a few on Book Expo America’s “The Worst Social Media Advice” panel. For example, they recommend —

Respond to EVERY criticism and win EVERY fight.

Maureen: “Wait, all men are—”
Scalzi: “NOT ALL MEN. As a straight white male, I know how all of you feel all the time. In conclusion, listen to me.”
Maureen: “But isn’t it possible—”
Scalzi: “NO NO NONO NO NO NO. Wait until I’m done.”
Maureen: “I thought maybe…”
Scalzi: “Why haven’t you made me a sandwich yet??” He sighed in frustration, but then allowed, “Now you may speak.”
Maureen (whispered): “I love you.”

(6) The Two-Wheeled Madwoman told her readers they have a chance to Win A Trip To Space:

I don’t know if it’s round-trip or not, but who cares?  The top-level Hackaday Prize is an all expenses paid trip to space!

(7) Z-Man sounds like a new creation from Stan Lee, but he’s from DARPA.

DARPA’s Z-Man program has demonstrated the first known human climbing of a glass wall using climbing devices inspired by geckos. The historic ascent involved a 218-pound climber ascending and descending 25 feet of glass, while also carrying an additional 50-pound load in one trial, with no climbing equipment other than a pair of hand-held, gecko-inspired paddles….

The anatomy of a gecko toe consists of a microscopic hierarchical structure composed of stalk-like setae (100 microns in length, 2 microns in radius). From individual setae, a bundle of hundreds of terminal tips called spatulae (approximately 200 nanometers in diameter at their widest) branch out and contact the climbing surface.

A gecko is able to climb on glass by using physical bond interactions-specifically van der Waals intermolecular forces-between the spatulae and a surface to adhere reversibly, resulting in easy attachment and removal of the gecko’s toes from the surface.

The van der Waals mechanism implied that it is the size and shape of the spatulae tips that affect adhesive performance, not specific surface chemistry. This suggested that there were design principles and physical models derived from nature that might enable scientists to fabricate an adhesive inspired by gecko toes.

(8) Stephan Pastis, the artist who creates the Pearls Before Swine comic,revealed that the reclusive Bill Watterson (of Calvin and Hobbes fame) ghosted artwork in three recent strips

He said he knew that in my strip, I frequently make fun of my own art skills. And that he thought it would be funny to have me get hit on the head or something and suddenly be able to draw. Then he’d step in and draw my comic strip for a few days….

The only thing Bill ever asked of me was that I not reveal he had worked on Pearls until all three of his strips had run. (And if you haven’t yet seen those three strips, they can be found HERE, HERE, and HERE.)

(9) I suppose I’m including this hockey link simply because the video is bizarre.

There is a monstrous video screen with Will Ferrell’s mug shouting “Go Kings Go,” and other ravings about losing his mind, in the shadow of the Empire State Building. The video screen is on the corner of 33rd and 7th avenue, one of the busier intersections in New York. For those unfamiliar with the city, that means Will Ferrell is basically looking directly into Madison Square Garden and screaming at the New York Rangers.

… And it’s a job well done; it is definitely a little unsettling to see Will Ferrell’s giant head yelling at you, like an even more deranged Wizard of Oz, as you try to go about your business.

Well, there’s the Oz reference too.

(10) Neil deGrasse Tyson’s list of 10 favorite sci-fi films doesn’t overlap much with mine, I can tell you that.

(11) For $115 the New York Times Store makes it possible for you to own something that looks like a Hugo, the Rocket Coin Bank:

This retro bronze bank, featuring three portholes, has a slot in the back for your coins. When it is full, you can unscrew the rocket, empty it and start again. The 8” rocket is solidly built and weighs 2.5 lb.

For example, if your dad is Larry Correia this might make a great Father’s Day Gift and take the pressure off him needing to win “the Big One” (as George R.R. Martin calls the Best Novel Hugo).

The same outfit also sells a really nifty-looking Flying Saucer With Alien Figures:

This is a fantastic cast bronze and aluminum extraterrestrial, complete with an alien family that will make itself right at home on your shelf or desk.

(12) Beware! There is now an official beer for The Walking Dead.

It’s produced by Dock Street Brewing in Philadelphia, and is called “Walker.”  The secret ingredient: GOAT BRAINS.

Yes, nothing beats the great taste of BRAINS in beer!

Lucky for you they’ve sold out the entire stock. By the time they brew another, the impulse to try it may have passed.

(13) The most certain way to get high school kids to read SF is, of course, to ban it. That’s why Cory Doctorow will soon have a huge following in Pensacola says

Cory Doctorow’s 2008 YA novel Little Brother is all about questioning authority, thinking critically, and reverse-engineering surveillance….

Needless to say, if you’re a principal at a high school, that’s the last thing you want your students to be thinking about. (Back in my day, teachers and administrators were all stressed out over Pink Floyd’s The Wall.)

Needless to say, if you’re a principal at Booker T. Washington High in Pensacola, Florida, you butt in at the last minute to scotch a school-wide reading and discussion of the book. And you do it without realizing that the author is incredibly well-connected and blogs at the hugely popular site Boing Boing.

You’d never guess from the principal’s reaction that Little Brother is recommended by the Florida Library Association for use in schools.

This kerfuffle was resolved by making Little Brother a student elective. Publisher Tor has sent 200 free copies to the school. And Doctorow will probably do a videoconference with kids in the classroom this fall.

(14) Librarians have been instrumental in connecting many a fan with fandom. A fellow named Gary who likes to write about himself in the third person tells how a librarian helped him discover the Elves, Gnomes and Little Men’s Marching and Chowder Society in the 1950s.

Their destination was the Garden Library in the 2500 block of Telegraph Ave in Berkley.   Arriving, Gary discovering h was the youngest in attendance and was somewhat ill at ease among this elderly group.  The gathering possessing a organizational name, ” Elves’,  Gnomes’ and Little Men’s Science Fiction ,  Chowder and Marching Society”.  The sobriquet displaying a knowledgable wonderment, furthering Gary’s conjectured intrigue about the group.   The youth  seated among the faction, having been introduced to those calibrated appropriators of inventive science.  A  sense of ambiguity soon faded as a speaker arose, standing  before a chalkboard, clearing his throat,  beginning a discourse on yet to be explored  world  of Hyper-Space.

Gary also tagged along to the aftermeeting where members devoted themselves to the disappointingly mundane topic of guessing whether President Eisenhower would seek a second term.

(15) Game of Thrones *Spoiler Warning*

Here’s something George R.R. Martin can’t give you in a book — an interview with the personified character after he or she has been killed out of the series. In this case, it involves the actress who played Ygritte.

What was that final day on set like, shooting that final scene? Were there more people on set to see you off? Was the weather nice for your last day?

We were up in Belfast; it wasn’t particularly nice weather. But the production was very lovely, very thoughtful, and the scene that I die in Jon Snow’s arms was my final scene, so after that was done, I was wrapped for good, as it were. So already it was quite an emotional day, and it was a night shoot, and there were loads of people there on set. David and Dan were there as well, and after we finally wrapped, they presented me with Ygritte’s bow. They had wrapped it for me and the crew and everyone kind of surrounded me and stuff, and then it was done and I cried. I mean, I cried profusely, like a little baby girl. They were wonderful; it was very, very magical. I was very touched.

[Thanks for these links goes out to Martin Morse Wooster, Andrew Porter, David Klaus, John King Tarpinian, James H. Burns and Michael J. Walsh.]


7 thoughts on “Snapshots 137 Atoms in Every Chlorophyll Molecule

  1. According to Michael Cavna in the WASHINGTON POST the impetus for Bill Watterston coming out of retirement was former fan artist Richard Thompson, who now raises money to fight Parkinson’s disease via his nonprofit Team Cul de Sac. I gather Watterston’s original panels are going to be auctioned for charity.

  2. Watterson did pop into view about a year ago when he did an oil panel of one of the characters from Cul De Sac, Petter Otterloop, which was featured in a book to raise money for Parkinson’s research,

  3. One hundred fifteen dollars for a rocket-shaped coin bank? That defeats the purpose of saving one’s spare change.

    I love retro-styled rocket ships, and have since childhood (I even had a rocket-shaped crystal AM radio which was powered by induction, by putting a suction cup over the wall where your electric wires were hidden), but I think I’ll continue to use a rinsed-out screw-cap orange juice bottle for my change instead.

  4. Re. Goat brains in the beer – Oddly, enough, there is a Welsh brewery named Brains –

    It’s just the name of the company, though – I don’t THINK they actually add brain tissue to the wort. I’ve never actually tasted the brew myself, but I do recall that as much as thirty or forty years ago, whenever anyone announced they were planning to visit the Principality, the standard line was: You don’t want to go there – they drink brains, you know!” and it occasionally raised a laugh.

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