Archive for December, 2010


The Elements

Last night, purely on impulse and a nudge from rabbit, I picked up a copy of The Elements by Theodore Gray. It’s an element by element rundown of the periodic table, and it’s thought-provoking, informative, enjoyable and laugh-out-loud funny. I finished it in about 4 hours, with lots of stopping to read the really interesting and funny bits to my partner.¬† That’s the first time I’ve managed to get a book completed in the last couple years, and the first time in the last twenty years that I can recall knocking a book out in a single sitting.

The author is one of the founding partners of WolframAlpha, who are famous for Mathematica and for just being really smart folks in general. He’s also one of a rare breed of collectors who focus on trying to obtain a sample of all of the elements – or at least all the ones that are possible to obtain (in keeping with the laws of the land and the laws of physics). His writing style is conversational and witty. He gets into the underpinnings of atomic structures and electron orbitals without going so far off into the woods that a layperson wouldn’t get it. I found it particularly enlightening to read about all of everyday uses for “uncommon” elements. Uncommon not necessarily meaning less plentiful in abundance, but rather the ones that aren’t quite the household names that they probably deserve to be (and the ones that were once household names, and really shouldn’t have been). Like Radium.

I forgot to mention the photographs. Every page has big beautiful photos of the elements¬† in their purest available form, as well as examples of objects containing those elements. If you’re already someone who watches shows like Mythbusters, this book is right up your alley. If Dancing with the Stars is more your speed, you’ll probably still enjoy turning the pages and looking at the pretty pictures – or you might just see a bunch of shiny rocks.


Quick memo on prayers to God.

I got an email today that had a picture of a child who had lost her hair due to chemotherapy. The letter asked that I pray to God for a cure for cancer, and came with a side order of guilt should I choose not to forward the letter or pray as directed.
I got to thinking… Is this the problem with the cure for cancer? Did God just not hear the prayers? Then I thought, “well, you know…He is God and He must certainly get a lot of prayers…” So I wanted to offer up some tips on getting responses from people. We use these a lot at work, so maybe they will work with God as well.

  1. Start your prayer with “ACTION REQUIRED:” This lets God know that it’s not just another “thanks for giving us beer and Kevin Smith movies” prayer, and that you really actually need Him to do something.
  2. ! Flag your prayer as Important, so that it stands out in His Inbox. You can’t argue with the power of that little red exclamation point.
  3. Set a due date. People and deities often work more diligently when they know they have a firm end date. You have to remember, God is infinite. Maybe God has “Cure Cancer” on His calendar for 10,192AD, right after creating the Muad’Dib to liberate Arrakis. For an infinite being it’s right around the corner. For someone waiting for a cure it’s far too late. Try setting a firm date, eg. “I need a cure for cancer by EOD (end of day) Friday, or the following Monday morning at the latest!”

Hopefully these tips will bring about the desired result. If not, try science. I hear they can already cure several types of cancer. You might also try donating to cancer charities.