MT VOID 08/16/13 -- Vol. 32, No. 7, Whole Number 1767

MT VOID 08/16/13 -- Vol. 32, No. 7, Whole Number 1767

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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
08/16/13 -- Vol. 32, No. 7, Whole Number 1767

Table of Contents

      Co-Editor: Mark Leeper, Co-Editor: Evelyn Leeper, Back issues at All material is copyrighted by author unless otherwise noted. All comments sent will be assumed authorized for inclusion unless otherwise noted. To subscribe, send mail to To unsubscribe, send mail to


My apologies for the lateness of the last issue. Something that YahooGroups did broke its moderation system. Responding affirmatively to whether we wanted the posting of the issue to be sent merely got us the same question again. We eventually figured a way around this, and we hope the problem will not recur. [-ecl]

Best Known Unknowns (comments by Mark R. Leeper):

Someone I know is collecting a list of little-known films that are unknown gems. He is having people contribute to this list. At first it seems like a reasonable idea. But the more I thought about it, the more it seems self-contradictory. If a film gets only one vote it probably will not make the list. If it gets a bunch of votes it probably is not an unknown film. [-mrl]

Nuclear Radiation is Correlated to Ice Cream Sales (comments by Mark R. Leeper):

You never are really sure of yourself and what you know in science. Science is pretty much made up of the least assailable explanations for how things work. Every once in a while I hear something that just kind of draws me up short. I find I thought I understood generally how things work. But I didn't see this one coming.

Take a radioactive isotope like silicon-32. Well, silicon has 24 isotopes currently known. Silicon-32 is a radioactive isotope of silicon. It is formed when radioactive argon breaks down and gives up some of its radiation. Silicon-32 has a half-life of 170 years (according to the article in Wikipedia, though the same article lists it as 153 years elsewhere). The silicon atoms break apart and release radiation energy. Giving off that energy they become phosphorus. So atoms that were argon break down and emit radiation and become silicon-32. Eventually that in turn will break down, emit radiation, and will become phosphorus.

Each silicon-32 atom has an equal chance to break down over an interval of time and it doing so it releases energy in the form of radiation. If you double the amount of silicon-32 you will have twice as much releasing radiation and twice much as radiation coming from your sample. More to the point if you have half as much silicon-32 it will release half as much energy. And if you have a big lump of silicon-32 it will give out a certain amount of radiation. In 170 years only half of what is in that sample will be silicon-32. The rest will have given off energy and have broken down into something else, phosphorus.

So the amount of radiation given off by a silicon-32 sample will be cut in half in 170 years because in 170 years only half fill still be silicon-32. Give it another 170 years and it will be cut in half again.

Each time a decay happens, it is a discrete event. If you had just 16 atoms of silicon-32 there would be just 16 events of decaying of silicon-32 atoms--we expect half in the first 170 years--and the amount of radiation given off would be a step-function going downward. But since you probably have a very large number of silicon-32 atoms it is a step function with lots and lots of very tiny steps and it looks very much like a smooth function. In fact, it is behaving like an exponential function.

The formula for the amount of radiation at time Y years emitted is simply:

R(Y) = R(0) * (1/2)^(Y/170)

Who says physics is complicated? That is all fairly easy.

Let me just let you enjoy the simplicity for a moment.

Happy now? Okay, it is time to pull the rug out. All that is just really, really close to being true. But something else is happening. There are some statistical variations in this data that cannot be ascribed to random fluctuation. That might be a little surprising. But there is a device that can predict the fluctuations from this nice exponential curve before they even happen. This device is one you have almost certainly seen before. It is a calendar. The radiation seems to be lower than expected in January and higher than expected in July. That is not supposed to happen. But a team of scientists have measured the phenomenon and discovered seasonal variation in radiation from multiple isotopes of which silicon-32 is one.

Now the first thing one would suspect hearing this assertion is that the discrepancy is due to laboratory temperature variation or something silly like that. That is apparently not the case. There is apparently some (very small) influence on the decay of and the radiation emitted by radioactive isotopes and it is coming from the sun.

A paper entitled "Analysis of Gamma Radiation from a Radon Source: Indications of a Solar Influence" has been published P. A. Sturrock, G. Steinitz, E. Fischbach, D. Javorsek, II, J. H. Jenkins. Members of the team are from Purdue, Stanford, the Israel Geological Survey, and Edwards AFB. The paper says that the interference is cyclical and the cycle is the year.

I cannot tell you much beyond that, but that in itself is fairly surprising. Something about summer makes silicon-32 emit radiation more and winter makes it emit less. It does not make sense, but there you have it. [-mrl]

POODLE SPRINGS (letter of comment by Kip Williams):

In response to Evelyn's comments on POODLE SPRINGS in the 08/09/13 issue of the MT VOID, Kip Williams writes:

Chandler wrote something like the first sixteen pages of it, and I don't think he left any notes apart from (IIRC) saying he expected the marriage would fizzle before the end of the book. Parker, like many moderns who try to fill in for famous writers, can get their description right, and dress the character all dressed up and wind them up and set them down to run, and then they just slowly lose the momentum of the first pages and grind to a stop before the text ends.

The only fake Chandler that ever came credibly close to measuring up to the original was GUN, WITH OCCASIONAL MUSIC by Jonathan Lethem, and that's because in addition to the character and the setup and the situation, he also had the overwhelming feeling of loss and futility that haunts Marlowe. Compared to his feat, most of these other writers seem on a par with fanboy artists who only ever draw their creations striking a pose, with their name carefully lettered below (and of course, an exclamation point!). [-kw]

ENDER'S GAME Boycott (letter of comment by Dan Kimmel):

In response to Dale Skran's comments on the ENDER'S GAME boycott in the 08/09/13 issue, Dan Kimmel writes:

I'm with Dale. Attempting to punish Card by rendering him unemployable is nothing less than creating a new blacklist. The answer to bad speech (Card's homophobia) is *more* speech. Use it as a teaching moment. As Card has already admitted--in an entirely self-serving statement--he's lost the debate on gay marriage. Boycotting the film won't hurt Card much, if at all, as he's already been paid, but it will harm lots of innocent people. Indeed, Lionsgate--chief producer of the film--has long offered benefits to their employees in same sex relationships. (And, in response to the incipient protest will be doing a benefit screening of the film for a gay cause.)

As someone who has written about the Hollywood blacklist of the 1940s and 1950s I find it abhorrent to take away someone's livelihood because you disagree with his views. Those trying to purge "Reds" in Hollywood were no less self-righteous than "Geeks Out." You can read my longer blog post on the subject at: .

Oh, and Dale is wrong on one thing. While it's not there in ENDER'S GAME Card's homophobia does pop up in at least some of his books, as in his mainstream thriller LOST BOYS. [-dk]

And Evelyn writes:

In my review of Card's 1997 book PASTWATCH: THE REDEMPTION OF CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS, I wrote:

I also thought it ironic that, given that one of Diko's co-travelers thinks the native American cultures superior, he nonetheless makes a speech (on page 183) about how mating without marriage is a repudiation of the community. The Americans he is so eager to save didn't necessarily feel this way. Why does Card insert this? To preach at the reader. Which is why I find the thoughts (on page 187) of a character thinking about the expulsion of the Jews from Spain particularly ironic: "No, the Jews had to be expelled because as long as the weaker Christians could look around them and see unbelievers prospering, see them marrying and having children and living normal and decent lives, they would not be firm in their faith that only in Christ is there happiness. The Jews had to go." I wonder how many other readers realize that Card has hit on the real reason that many people are against same-sex marriages. I wonder if Card realized it. [-ecl]

FORBIDDEN PLANET and THE INVISIBLE BOY (letter of comment by Greg Frederick):

Thanks for including those podcast links. I was listening to the Martian Drive-In one and heard about the connection between THE INVISIBLE BOY and FORBIDDEN PLANET. I have seen both films, FORBIDDEN PLANET many times and THE INVISIBLE BOY probably only once all of the way thru. But I must have not paid attention to the sequence when the boy asks about Robbie. And his father tells him this story about a professor (but the father seemed not to be convinced that this story was really true) who may have built a time machine and traveled to the future (300 years into the future) and came back with a robot in separate parts. So, THE INVISIBLE BOY is a direct sequel to FORBIDDEN PLANET. That is very interesting. [-gf]

Mark replies:

That's true. The two films had the same producer, Nicholas Nayfack, and the same two writers, Irving Bloch and Cyril Hume. And while it has the feel of a last-minute addition to THE INVISIBLE BOY, they have a fairly sophisticated idea to tie the two stories together and make THE INVISIBLE BOY a sort of sequel to FORBIDDEN PLANET. It is hard to imagine another film and its sequel that are so different. I guess it is true of THINGS TO COME and its shabby supposed sequel THE SHAPE OF THINGS TO COME. [-mrl]

This Week's Reading (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):

HOAX: HITLER'S DIARIES, LINCOLN'S ASSASSINS, AND OTHER FAMOUS FRAUDS by Edward Steers, Jr. (ISBN 978-0-8131-4159-6) talks about six famous hoaxes. Interestingly, Steers talks a lot about "forging" and "forgeries", but while the hoaxes may include forgeries, they are really something different. For example, for Hitler's diaries, the hoaxer had to forge Hitler's handwriting and signature, but he also had to invent the content. the same is true of all the hoaxes here: they required creativity as well as skill.

The hoaxes are "Oath of a Freeman", evidence that FDR knew ahead of time of the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Hitler diaries, the Shroud of Turin, Piltdown Man, and the missing pages from John Wilkes Booth's diary. And while the hoaxers managed to fool a lot of experts for quite a while, it is usually the creativity part that they get caught on. For example, the evidence in the Pearl Harbor hoax has Churchill and Roosevelt calling each other by their first names--they never did that. The Hitler and Booth diaries had their authors someplace on a day they were known to be somewhere else entirely, or repeating errors made in secondary sources that the (purported) authors would not have gotten wrong. The Shroud of Turin has the proportions wrong for a three-dimensional body projected onto a draped two-dimensional surface.

If all the characters in the hoaxes are hard to keep straight, it is because the hoaxes tended to be designed that way. In order to avoid detection, the hoaxer would use various people (real and fictional) as the purported sources of the items, and try to sell them to A through B, with some assistance from C.

I am fascinated by these sorts of hoaxes, also commemorated in films such as THE HOAX (about the "authorized" Howard Hughes biography) and audio dramas such as "The Salamander Letter" (about the hoaxer of "Oath of a Freeman". So it is not surprising that I liked this book. And in addition, each chapter has a short list of "Suggested Reading" to learn more about the subject of the chapter.

Synchronicity alert: I read the chapter in this book on the Piltdown Man on Friday; on Saturday I watched a documentary about the artist Robert Williams in which he discussed at length his painting about the Piltdown Man. (Also on Friday, someone ordered a copy of THE WOMBLES from me, and then that evening I was listening to a several-weeks-old "History of England" podcast by Peter Crowther, and he mentioned the Wombles!)

FRANKENSTEIN: A CULTURAL HISTORY by Susan Tyler Hitchcock (ISBN 978-0-393-061444-4) is probably good enough for someone who is unfamiliar with the subject, but it does seem to have some errors in the sections I knew something about. For example, Hitchcock says Hammer's CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN takes place in London (it is central Europe), and she says the Rialto had ten showings of the DRACULA/FRANKENSTEIN double feature a day (that would be 26 hours for the films alone--she probably meant five showings of the two films). [-ecl]

                                          Mark Leeper

Quote of the Week:

          The man who lets himself be bored is even more 
          contemptible than the bore.
                                         --Samuel Butler

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