Book Review #21

Once upon a time, a man purchased a book. It was

A Brief History of Time

The book: A Brief History Of Time

The Author: Stephen Hawking

The Review:
Through luck, and association with a particular social group, the man who purchased the book, later got to actually meet the great man, Stephen Hawking himself. He informed him that he had bought and read the book. Largely through Hawking’s handler, the man who guided his wheelchair and who had learned to interpret his minuscule movements, he was asked what he thought of the book.

He replied that he had not understood a word of it. Well…. He got words like a, to, at, the, and, but the rest were over his head like an umbrella. Hawking was surprisingly pleased by this, because it proved that the man had actually read it, even if he didn’t get it.

I tried to get a copy of this book from the library thirty years ago, when it was first published, but it was too popular, and I finally gave up. Recently I thought I’d have another go at it. Hawking’s writing style is pleasantly clear and easy. He claimed that he wanted to provide this information for the ordinary person. Your ‘Ordinary Person’ may vary. MAGA-hat-wearing Trump supporters won’t be forming book clubs to discuss it, nor will it be a hot topic at truck stops.

Even though I’m retired, I’ve kept up my dues to the United Nerds International Union. I was a good halfway through this small (214 page) book before I had to start checking terms and concepts. After the body of the book, Hawking included 2-3 page bios on the likes of Einstein, Galileo, and Newton, to show how their works and discoveries have provided the foundation for modern understanding of the universe.

For a book on time, Hawking spent the first several chapters discussing/explaining matter. Matter and Time are interwoven. You can’t have time without matter. When I was born, scientists had only recently discovered that molecules were made up of atoms. The Second World War brought us the A-Bomb – the atom bomb. A few years later, the thermonuclear hydrogen H-Bomb was produced. These showed that the atoms could be torn apart, and jammed together, made up of protons, neutrons, and electrons.

More powerful and delicate devices, like the CERN Collider, have shown that even these tiny building blocks are made of even tinier bits. Like strange little trouble-making Gremlins, they have names like quarks, muons, pions, mesons, leptons, tachyons, baryons, gravitons, and bosons. While they are too small to reflect light, fun-loving physicists label them as red, blue and green, and insist that they have ‘spin,’ based on how they react with each other, and reality.

Hawking eventually got around to explaining time – how it (so far) only flows in one direction, from past to future. He showed how it is subjective, and is influenced by mass, and speed of travel. I’ve run into most of these terms and concepts before, but it was nice to see them laid out so completely and clearly.

Ordinarily, with a book so nicely written and presented, I’d be recommending it, but not this one. For most of you, your only concern with time is that you arrive at work before the boss gets grumpy about your ETA. If Hawking’s successors are successful at using black holes to reverse the flow of time, you’ll never have to worry about that again.

There was a young lady from Bright
Who could travel faster than light
She set off one day
In a relative way,
And returned the previous night

This book is different – a niche market. Unless the checkout clerk down at Geeks R Us knows you by name, I suggest giving it a pass. Don’t pass up the chance to read my next post. It will be available in no time at all.

I Wish You Hadn’t Said That

Being a rant about the things that people write without thinking, mostly, but not entirely, incorrect homonyms.  Crossword puzzles still irk me when the creators don’t really know what they’re talking about.  The Canadian province Alberta, can be rendered AB, Alt. or Alta, but not Alba.  That’s another name for Scotland.

“Refrain from” does not mean cease.  Refrain means not doing something.  Cease means you’re already doing it and must stop.  A video was titled “crazy way to tow a bus”, and showed it being pushed.  Towed means being pulled.  Pushed means not being towed.

Connotation vs. denotation means, what people think things mean, instead of what they really do mean.  Often secondary meanings become so common that the original gets lost.  If I were hungry, I might be a little testy, but peckish means hungry, not testy.  I get a bit testy when people don’t know that.

Ordinary folk using the wrong word is common, but it especially irks me when someone who really should know, doesn’t.  Probably not old enough to remember wringer washing-machines, the female leader of a Provincial political party claimed that, “The Liberals are putting us through the ringer.”  What a ding-a-ling.

The editor of an on-line publishing company got rid of a troublesome client, and wrote, “Good riddens to bad rubbish.” apparently not knowing the existence of the word riddance, and that riddens is not a word in English.

A successful author’s character, “Reloaded his weapons, and checked his partner’s ordinance.”  There’s a law against that, because weaponry is ordnance.  This man has three university degrees, works for NASA, and has six successful books – just not a publisher with a proof-reader.

“Grant shirked back into his leather duster” and the author shirked his duty to discover that the correct word is shucked – to remove from, or in this case, return to, an outer covering.

“I’m not the kind of mother who pawns her children off.”  I didn’t know you could get money for the little ba….bies.  She should use some to catch a magic show.  Closely watching a card trick will show you how the performer palms the card.

For all intensive purposes – or, for all intense and purposes.  My intents (intentions) and purpose is to remind people to think about the correct word.

I despair of ever having the general public correctly use the forms of lie and lay.  Misusage is endemic in newspapers, and on TV.  “Danny DeVito and his wife laid low.”  If you are “laid low” you’re dead.  Lay requires a noun to perform its action on.  Lie doesn’t.  You can lie down, and lay your head on a pillow.  You can lay your mistress, and lie to your wife about it.

I am sadly amused by those who are illiterate enough to not know that the word segue is pronounced seg-way, but have the arrogance to “correct” it by writing segue-way.  I mentioned it to the great Edward Hotspur when he did it, and was promptly run over by his turbo-charged ego.

We go back to the pawnshop for the story of a young man and woman who hocked their virginity online.  In aggressively promoting something for sale, they hawked the product.  A businessman offered Brittany Spears $2 million for her virginity.  This gal got $68,000!  The guy just got a lot of people shaking their heads.

A man who’s reputation preceded him should have thought, damn it, if it has an apostrophe, it’s an abbreviation.  Whose yer English teacher?

A woman wanted to sell an original addition of War and Peace.  Damn, it’s long enough already!  Why would you want to increase it?  Another genius wanted to sell a Star Wars action figure – Job of the Hut.  I thought nerds could read and write.

They failed to chalk the truck in place, after arriving early to get a good birth on the ferry, and its parking breaks failed.  This author/book must take some sort of prize for having the most mistakes in one sentence.  I’m sure you already know, but the correct words are chock, berth, and brakes.

After seen the video, or, I seen the video.  One wrong word taking the places of both seeing, and saw.

He hit one out of the part.  What!!?  Let’s hope that was just a baseball typo.

It meant that, simply foot…  Simply put, I don’t even want to know what the author thought the word foot meant in that context, oh damn, that thought word again.

For sale – radio arm saw.  I wonder if it’s AM/FM.  I have a bionic shoulder.  What’s a radio arm?

Don’t say anymore, the game’s a foot, just proves that two words don’t mean the same as a single compound word.  Allot means to divide, or portion out.  I see that a lotAlot is a lot closer, but still not proper English.

It is not a case and point.  It is a case in point, in case no-one pointed that out.  And it’s neck and neck, side by side, not neck in neck, which is impossible.  Think damn it!

A palace spokesman changed his tact.  If he’d been a sailor, he’d have correctly changed his tack.

There was wed paint on the rod iron railing.  I know you got the wet paint.  Did you know the railing was wrought iron?  Hogs get into chicken coups…and cause double entenders.  Hey, if you can’t handle English, stay away from French or someone could get hurt.

The wing snapped off the plane, and it augured into the ground.  Well, I could have foretold that.  The spirally thing you’re vaguely thinking of, is an auger.  While we’re talking about machine-tools, she wore a fancy broach on her lapel.  Not my Mom, she wore a brooch.

For better or words, (Ow! Ow! Ow!) that’s all my rants for this time.  Come back soon and I’ll tell you a funny story.