MT VOID 03/13/15 -- Vol. 33, No. 37, Whole Number 1849

MT VOID 03/13/15 -- Vol. 33, No. 37, Whole Number 1849

@@@@@ @   @ @@@@@    @     @ @@@@@@@   @       @  @@@@@ @@@@@ @@@
  @   @   @ @        @ @ @ @    @       @     @   @   @   @   @  @
  @   @@@@@ @@@@     @  @  @    @        @   @    @   @   @   @   @
  @   @   @ @        @     @    @         @ @     @   @   @   @  @
  @   @   @ @@@@@    @     @    @          @      @@@@@ @@@@@ @@@

Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
03/13/15 -- Vol. 33, No. 37, Whole Number 1849

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 or posted will be assumed authorized for inclusion unless otherwise noted. To subscribe, send mail to To unsubscribe, send mail to

Super Pi Day:

Celebrate Super Pi Day tomorrow at 9:26:53.

That is, the time will be 3/14/15 9:26:53, the first ten digits of pi.

R.I.P. Sir Terry Pratchett (28 April 1948-12 March 2015):

Announced on his Twitter account @terryandrob with three Tweets by his assistant, Rob Wilkins:


Terry took Death's arm and followed him through the doors and on to the black desert under the endless night.

The End.

Verification (comments by Mark R. Leeper):

A readout from my doctor said my surface area is 2.07 square meters. I wonder how they figure that and if I could verify that.

P.S. For honesty's sake I should add that I know that that it actually cannot be true. My knowledge of fractals tells me I have infinite surface area. And you do too. [-mrl]

The Mote in Kirk's Eye (comments by Mark R. Leeper):

Am I the only one who is irritated by the original "Star Trek"'s attitude about racism? The series takes place in the 23rd century when racism has mostly been expunged from the human race. In "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield" Kirk lectures the Cheron native on their racism. What bothers me about this? Right under his nose Leonard McCoy is always making racial insults, calling Spock "green-blooded, "pointy-eared" and "inhuman." Kirk knows about it and never gives any sign that it might be inappropriate. Apparently if Spock is not fully human or if McCoy is a close friend, Kirk does not want to get involved. [-mrl]

The Nut on the Sphere Above the Ring (comments by Mark R. Leeper):

As I have mentioned in the past, as much as I like being retired there are two giant disadvantages to retirement. One is that I have gotten really, *really* out of touch with technology. Oh, I have a nice Mac computer on my desk. I suppose I am in touch with some technology. But I have fallen way behind the technology that most ten-year-olds are carrying in their pockets. I don't own a telephone that does not have a cord into a wall.

The other disadvantage is that when I was working there was always somebody who was paid to make certain that I was making the best use of my time. I suppose that how much this bothers somebody will vary from person to person. I never gave it much thought until I retired but I really want my usage of time to be validated. I review films so I may occasionally see a movie while the sun is still over the yardarm, but I always feel a little guilty to doing. I guess that would be called Wasted Time Syndrome.

What I find is that a good way to fight off Wasted Time Syndrome is to be constantly taking courses. If you don't need to get certified that you know some information you can learn a lot cheaply or free of charge, which is even better. Our library system has hundreds of Teaching Company courses and we can borrow them cheaply.

I recently finished Michael Wysession's course THE WORLD'S GREATEST GEOLOGICAL WONDERS. The professor finishes the course with one (half-hour) class on extra-terrestrial geological wonders from our solar system. The planet that has some of the most mathematical sites--the ones that appeal to me--is probably Saturn.

Galileo discovered the rings of Saturn, of course. These rings made that planet most unique of all planets as far as Galileo could see from his primitive telescope. But most people who know a little astronomy know about the rings and they are made of debris or rock and ice. But perhaps the most interesting feature is what looks like a giant hex-nut at the north pole of the planet. Not that many people know about that one.

Not only is there at the South Pole a hurricane with an eye 8000 miles in diameter, the other pole also has a hurricane in the shape of a giant hexagonal storm, about 15,000 miles on a side and twice that diagonally (if I know my hexagons, But it is speculated that it is not rotating with respect to the planet. It is not known how fast Saturn rotates--and it is the only one of the (traditional nine) planets for which the rate of rotation has never been established. So the axis of the planet goes through a round storm at the South Pole and a hexagonal storm at the North Pole. And, of course, around the axis are the equatorial rings.

The hexagon was first discovered by Voyager 1 and 2 in 1980 and 1981, but still most people do not know about the phenomenon. For most of the time since the discovery the hexagon has been in shade due to the tilt of Saturn's axis. It has been in Saturn's equivalent of our Arctic Circle.

The question to ask, however, is why does it form so nearly perfect a hexagon. Apparently there are six rotating jet streams, each holding a wall of the hexagon. But it seems to me that the real mystery would be the perfect regularity of the figure. Why are the sides so close to being the same length? And it would not be so nice a figure if it were an octagon or a heptagon. As I said above the long diameter of a hexagon is just twice the length of one side. Why is the shape so stable? Some crystals have very regular geometric shapes. Storms have very chaotic shapes. I would have thought it would be very unlikely that storms would form into so perfect a geometric figure. But if an advanced civilization wanted to leave a message for our solar system saying "You are not alone" it would be hard for them to pick a more flamboyant billboard than the one they have.



WALTER (film review by Mark R. Leeper):

CAPSULE: In what is more an extended situation than an actual story we meet Walter, a ticket taker at the local multiplex who happens to be the Son of God--not Jesus, but another son who has been given the responsibility to judge all people and for each decide if they art to be consigned to Heaven or Hell. Walter runs into problems when he is asked by one of the already dead to be judged for Heaven or Hell. While the story develops only very slowly we see several strange people in Walter's life. Rating: high +1 (-4 to +4) or 6/10

Walter (played by Andrew J. West of "The Walking Dead") is one of those people who rarely get noticed. He just is a very conscientious minor employee at the local movie theater, always fastidiously dressed in a bright red vest. But what few people know is that as one of the sons of God he has been given the task of judging the people he comes in contact with. One look and he can decide either "Heaven" or "Hell." Walter does what he can to hide any personality he might have hiding behind his vest and following every rule of the management. We first see him waking up to three alarm clocks so he is triply sure to wake up on time. And every morning Walter's mother (Virginia Madsen) has written a note saying his white shirt has been pressed and asking him how many eggs he wants for breakfast. She hovers over Walter, being smotheringly protective and determined to feed Walter eggs. She is just one of several weird people in Walter's life including Dr. Corman (William H. Macy). Corman is a psychiatrist with rather unusual procedures. He seems to be doing very little for Walter. One hopes he can pull a person out of the repressed being that is Walter. New to Walter's life is Greg (Justin Kirk) a ghost who needs a judgment (either up or down) from Walter before he can move on. Walter who usually decides eternal fates at a glance is surprisingly reticent to judge Greg.

There are some peculiar touches in the screenplay. The narrative seems to be shaped like a wagon wheel with Walter at the center. Walter is rarely off-stage, but is in nearly every scene of the film. And with the exception of the staff of the multiplex, few people that Walter knows interact with each other. Walter just keeps having scenes one-on-one with the other people in his life.

One wonders a little at the premise of the film. How does Walter remember not to judge the same person twice? What happens to the billions of people with whom Walter never comes in contact? Who judges them? Why would Walter treat so important a task so randomly and callously? It calls up memories from the Nazi death camps of WWII. There is also some wit, very little that is laugh-out-loud funny but some nice little jabs. One is an image surely inspired by the film AMERICAN BEAUTY.

The film was helmed by first-time director Anna Mastro from a script by Paul Shoulberg. In spite of a somewhat static plot, this film has ideas enough to keep the film intriguing. I rate WALTER high +1 on the -4 to +4 scale or 6/10. WALTER will be released to VOD on March 13, 2015, as well as playing on screens in New York and Los Angeles.

Film Credits:

What others are saying:


THE MARTIAN by Andy Weir (copyright 2011 Andy Weir, 2014 Random House, 2013 Podium Publishing, 10 hours 53 minutes, narrated by R.C. Bray) (excerpt from the Duel Fish Codices: an audiobook review by Joe Karpierz):

I'd been hearing quite a bit about THE MARTIAN, but for some reason was reluctant to dive into it. I'd never heard of Andy Weir, and while I don't mind jumping into works by an author I don't know, this time I hesitated. Then, Amazon was offering the e-book for cheap, and as a bonus they were also offering, through Audible, the audiobook with the Whispersync capability (more about that later). I took that as a sign, made the purchases, and dug in.

And, like my hip replacement surgery back in 2013, wished I'd done so a lot sooner.

Mark Watney is an astronaut on the Ares 3 Mars mission. It is Sol 6--the sixth day the crew was on the planet's surface, when a fierce sandstorm hit. The crew is given the word to scrub the mission and evacuate the planet. If they stayed through the sandstorm, their ascent vehicle would be wrecked and they would be unable to leave. In the process of getting back to the ascent vehicle, Watney is struck by a flying piece of equipment. His spacesuit is pierced and he can't get to the vehicle. An attempt is made to retrieve his body, but the crew has to leave before they can get to him. They leave his corpse on the Martian surface.

Except, as you might guess, Watney wasn't dead. His suit was breached in such a way that the hole was plugged just right by the equipment that pierced it. He got back to the hab, and the story takes off from there.

Watney is a botanist and an engineer--a convenient combination if you're going to be stranded on the surface of a planet all by yourself and you're trying to figure out how to survive until the next manned mission to Mars more than a year later. As a botanist you have a shot at figuring out how to feed yourself for over a year, and as an engineer you have a shot at figuring out all the rest of the problems that you would encounter along the way. Where is the air going to come from? Where's the water going to come from? How am I going to make do with what I have? How am I going to get to the landing site of the next mission? And just how am I going to survive everything that Mars throws at me?

What follows is the story of one man against a planet. One man trying to survive anyway he can to get to go home--even when no one else knows he's alive. It's a fascinating look at what one ingenious person can do when the odds are against him. But lest you think that the entirety of this story follows Watney around on the surface of Mars trying to survive--well, it doesn't. I will have to admit that I thought that was going to be the case, and that it would be pretty boring. Then, when I was least expecting it, Weir does take us to Earth, to follow the exploits of the people who are involved in trying to get Watney back home--once they find out that he's alive. The third leg of the barstool is the crew of Ares 3--those folks who left Watney behind.

This really is the story of how humanity can work together when it is targeted on a common goal. It's a celebration of how we really can accomplish things if we put away our petty differences and get down to the task at hand. Each leg on the aforementioned barstool has a role to play, and each leg plays it well, although as you might guess not without some difficulty.

Watney is the picture of perseverance, tackling anything and everything Mars throws at him. He does so with humor and sarcasm; I frequently found myself laughing out loud when Watney went into humor mode--and it was often. But he was strong, always strong, even when he made a mistake that could have cost him dearly. The ground personnel on Earth worked like the personnel in those Apollo missions--sometimes flying by the seat of their pants, with no clue how things were going to work out. And finally, the Ares 3 crew, voting to spend another year of their lives to go back and get their teammate, fighting their own problems to get there and get the work done. Yes, it does seem like Apollo 13 all over again.

This is very much a "hard" science fiction story. There's lots of science here. Weir did his research, and uses it to explain, through the logs entries that Watney makes, just how Watney gets through every situation he finds himself in. Yep, the grand tradition of the infodump is in full swing here, and that may turn some people off. But this is "science" fiction in the original sense of the term. It's problem-solving science fiction, and darn it, even with all that, it's one compelling, gripping story. I found myself caring very deeply about what was happening to Watney, and I looked forward to how he was going to get out of each and every problem he found himself in. I read one quote that used the term "MacGuyver on Mars". Yep, that was it alright.

R. C. Bray was probably the best narrator I've heard to date in any audiobook I've listened to, with the possible exception of Wil Wheaton narrating a John Scalzi novel. He was emotional, vibrant, and was *never* boring to listen to. He made Watney's jokes come alive. He was simply outstanding. I'm sure some of that was the source material, but the narrator still has to put his/her stamp on the book. Bray did an outstanding job.

Whether you listen to or read this book in the traditional manner, I think you'll enjoy it. I know I did. And I think I may just pick up the next Weir novel when it comes out. [-jak]

MATHEMATICS AND THE IMAGINATION by Edward Kasner and James R. Newman (book review by Greg Frederick):

This is an older book that was originally published in 1940. So there are no references to digital electronic computers in it, for example. But since its subject is mathematics it still holds real value even to a modern day reader. The topics covered include: the concept of infinity, transfinite numbers, pi, Euclidian geometry, math puzzles, chance and probability, rubber sheet geometry (non-Euclidian geometry), topology, limits, series, analytic geometry, complex numbers, and the calculus. Mathematics has some ideas in it that come from ancient times and it has been growing and developing throughout human history. What grade school and high school students learn about math today can be hundreds to thousands of years old depending on the area of mathematics. The authors describe the historical development of the topics covered. The book has excellent graphics that illustrate math concepts such as in differential calculus, that a derivative is really the slope (rate of change) of a function curve at a point of tangency. Another good illustration shows how complex numbers are represented on the complex plane. Also, a topology illustration shows how a non-simply connected manifold can be converted into a simply connected manifold by cutting. And for the layman, detailed step-by-step processes demonstrate the solution and simplification of many math equations. This book provides good insight into these interesting fields of math. [-gf]

SHERLOCK (letter of comment by Robert Mitchell):

In response to Evelyn's comments on SHERLOCK in the 03/06/15 issue of the MT VOID, Rob Mitchell writes:

[You wrote: "Sherlock" was fine fare the first two seasons, but then completely fell apart (IMHO).]

In my humble opinion, too. The first episode of the third season (the wedding) was marginally acceptable but a bit discomforting for the odd characterization of Holmes and the impossible crime/solution. The series went way downhill with the subplot of Mary's background, and I almost threw my shoe at the TV when Holmes dealt with the villain at the end of the third episode--"That's something Holmes would *never* do!" I ranted.

I later described my feelings about the third series as, "SHERLOCK spent the first two seasons amassing a lot of credibility, respect, and good feeling for the clever way it brought the Holmes canon into present day. It then squandered all that credibility, respect, and good feeling in the third season, presenting a character that was barely recognizable as Sherlock Holmes and in some cases, diametrically opposite of what Holmes stands for. I will start watching the 4th season, but with the same suspicion and doubt with which I started the 1st season. Let's hope that fourth season returns to the excellence of the first two." [-rlm]

Hugo Nominations (letters of comment by Philip Chee, Kevin R., Steve Coltrin, and Paul Dormer):

In response to Dale Skran's comments on the Hugo nominations in the 03/06/15 issue of the MT VOID, Philip Chee writes:

[Dale said, "My nominations for Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form) are ... CAPTAIN AMERICA: WINTER SOLDIER directed by Anthony and Joe Russo).]

CAPTAIN AMERICA: WINTER SOLDIER has three, three!!! SHIELD Heli-carriers, and Cap has a shield made of unobtainium, and Falcon has his spiffy jet wings, but calling this science-fiction is really stretching it.

[also LUCY directed by Luc Besson]

Did Nick Fury appear in the mid end-credits scene to offer her a job at SHEILD? [-pc]

Kevin R. replies:

Haven't seen WINTER SOLDIER yet. I plan to rent it from Redbox Real Soon Now. My inner comics fanboy squirms uncomfortably whenever I see S.H.I.E.L.D. typed w/o the periods. They were always there on the STRANGE TALES* covers, and the Steranko issues of the 1968 title**.

Don't Yield! Back S.H.I.E.L.D..!




With regard to novels, Steve Coltrin writes:

[THE MARTIAN by Andy Weir] may or may not be eligible depending on how much it was modified from its original publication. Screw it, I'm nominating it too.

[ON THE STEEL BREEZE by Alastair Reynolds from Ace was] first published in the UK in 2013, so not eligible for this year. [-sc]

But re ON THE STEEL BREEZE Paul Dormer notes:

Under the new extended eligibility rules passed last year, if it was published in the US in 2014, and as it didn't appear on the ballot last year, it should still be eligible this year.

See 3.4.2: [-pd]

Evelyn adds:

The relevant section (apparently with changes passed on LonCon 3 last year) now reads:

3.4.2: Works originally published outside the United States of America and first published in the United States of America in the current previous calendar year shall also be eligible for Hugo Awards.


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

JEFFERSON THE VIRGINIAN by Dumas Malone (ISBN 0-316-54472-8) is the first volume of a six-volume work, "Jefferson and His Time", for which he won the Pulitzer Prize for history in 1975 (after publication of the fifth volume). This volume, though, was published in 1948 and (perhaps) combined with the fact that Malone was born and raised in Mississippi and Georgia probably explains some of the infelicitous terminology he used at times. For example, Malone speaks of the Indian school at the College of William and Mary, which he says "a few redskins still attended." In describing the printing office of the local newspaper, he says, "People often went there to insert notices about runaways, to advertise the sale of 'parcels of likely Virginia-born wenches,' or to offer to the horse-breeding public the service of stallions in their prime." While Malone's quotation marks around the "parcels" phrase might indicate that he is merely giving a sense of Jefferson's time, he later writes about the Exchange, "where planters ... arranged to purchase Negro fellows or some of those likely wenches." Malone lack of quotation marks here seems to indicate a certain insensitivity to how this would sound to at least some modern readers.

Malone's language suffers from changing meanings as well. When he writes that Jefferson kept horses, "as his gay friend Willis did," he merely means that Willis was what we might call a "party animal," not that Willis was homosexual, and similarly for references to "others of their gay friends."

Jefferson, though very intelligent, could be taken in: he thought Ossian ("this rude bard of the North") "the great poet that has ever existed." But Ossian was a literary hoax by James McPherson.

[As for Sally Hemings, there is merely a brief mention of how Jefferson acquired "the noted Hemings family, who were mostly 'bright' mulattoes" from his wife's family's estate. In this case, again, words have changed or lost meaning--"bright" did not mean intelligent, but light-colored. And in an appendix discussing "the Walker Affair," Malone writes, "In [1802] the notorious scandalmonger, James Thomson Callender, gave wide currency to the story about Mrs. Walker, along with a much more unsavory one about one of Jefferson's slaves." The latter was the story of Jefferson and Hemings. Although it took place after the timespan covered in this book, we would find it odd today if there were not at least some reference, particularly as there are many other "forward references."]

JEFFERSON by Saul K. Padover (ISBN 978-0-451-62797-1) was originally written in 1942 and published in this abridged form in 1952. It has many of the same issues that Malone's biography has; for example, early on it talks about "gay Hanover," "even gayer Williamsburg," and how "life was gay," all in three paragraphs. It also skips Sally Hemings entirely (there is a passing reference to John Hemings, half-brother to Sally).

I don't know whether it was the times, but it seems unlikely that today Padover would refer to "dry-humored little Madison," "wise little James Madison," or "the homely little Secretary of State." It's almost as bad as if he were calling Madison "Jefferson's little friend." (It is not helped later when Padover, talking about someone else, says, "Moore [was] hyper-sensitive as very short men are apt to be...")

Padover also mentions Jefferson's love for Ossian's poetry. It was not until 1952 (when this abridgement was first published) that there seemed to be general agreement that Ossian was a hoax.

Writing in 1942. Padover said, "Since 1792, the South and Tammany Hall, regardless of differences and despite occasional separations, have been the two mainstays of the Democratic party." When he was abridging it in 1952 this may still have been true, but the South left the Democratic party fold in the 1960s and has not been back since. Coincidentally, this is also about the time that Tammany Hall disappeared as well. One might almost wonder if Padover jinxed these...

Padover talks about Justice Samuel Chase's impeachment, where the House impeached him 73-32, but the Senate failed to convict him. However, he describes this as "the failure of the Senate to impeach Chase"--a common error, but one depressing to find in an historian's writings.

I find it interesting that in the Federalist-Democrat battle, one side had a major player name Frenno and the other had one named Freneau. (Maybe it's also that Freneau supposedly lived about a mile from where we live now.)

Jefferson quoted Benjamin Franklin as having said that "when he was young and had time to read he had not books; and now that he had become old and had books, he had no time." Maybe the memory of his youth is why Franklin founded the first public lending library in the United States.

I give the full title of NOTES ON THE STATE OF VIRGINIA by Thomas Jefferson, WITH RELATED DOCUMENTS (edited, with an introduction by David Waldstreicher) (ISBN 978-0-312-25713-2) because it turns out to reveal a lot. First, the introduction takes 40 pages of this 230-page book. Second, the "Related Documents" take another 45 pages and include (for example) his draft of the Declaration of Independence, which does not strike me as related to NOTES ON THE STATE OF VIRGINIA at all. Then, after devoting all that space to other documents, Waldstreicher abridges NOTES ON THE STATE OF VIRGINIA, in particular the catalogs of flora and fauna, which is a large part of what I was interested in!

At least Waldtsreicher has left in a lot of Jefferson's speculations that later proved to be false, which is valuable in reminding us that even brilliant people make mistakes. For example, he says that the Peaks of Otter of the Blue Ridge Mountains "are thought to be of a greater height, measured from their base, than any others in our country [Virginia], and perhaps in North America." The tallest of these is about 4,000 high (or about 3,100 feet above its base), while Mount McKinley is 20,237 feet (about 18,000 feet above its base). Even considering the higher base, the Rocky Mountains provide many counter-examples--for example, Pikes Peak at 14,115 feet, or about 7,000 above its base. (It is surprisingly difficult to find a table showing elevation above base for tall mountains.)

Jefferson mentions three caves. By now, of course, there are at least a dozen commercial caves, and lots more that are not open to the public. The ones he mentions include Gap Cave (a.k.a. Cudjo's Cave) (open on a limited basis), Madison's Cave (a.k.a. Madison Saltpetre Cave) (closed), and Blowing Cave (open on a limited basis).

In attempting to explain fossil seashells in rocks at the tops of mountains, Jefferson correctly deduces that even if the atmosphere turned to water of the same mass, there is not enough water to cover all the earth to that height (sorry, WATERWORLD). But he also pretty much dismisses the uplifting of mountains from a lower height, although only to the extent of saying that in all of recorded history, we have never seen any force that could do that.

Regarding the origins of the "Aborigines" (a.k.a. Indians, a.k.a. Native Americans), Jefferson observes that they could have come from either Europe or Asia, but their resemblance to the East Asians would make the latter more likely--except for the "Eskimaux" (a.k.a. Eskimos, a.k.a. Inuit), whom he thinks descended from Greenlanders, and hence from Scandinavians. In all this he says that language would provide good evidence of tribal descent, but so many tribes had their languages obliterated before any records were made of them.

However, Jefferson also thinks the wide disparity of languages in North America indicates that this took place over "an immense course of time; perhaps not less than many people give to the age of the earth." (This is before there was any accurate estimate of the age of the earth.) And the greater disparity of languages in North America, compared with the lesser disparity in Asia, "proves them of greater antiquity of those in Asia." This does not take into account (among other things )the relative amounts of contact between groups in Asia versus those in North America.

Jefferson takes issue with the Abbe Rayanal's statement (in 1770) where he says (apparently in a demeaning fashion), "It is astonishing that America has not produced a good poet, one able mathematician, one man of genius in a single art or a single science." Jefferson makes two arguments against Rayanal. First, America had not existed long enough to be compared with the Greeks, the Romans, the French, or the English. Second, America had produced Washington, Franklin, and Rittenhouse. The first sounds more convincing now than the second--Rittenhouse is best known today for the square in Philadelphia named for him, but time has indeed produced great poets, authors, artists, mathematicians, chemists, physicists, and so on. (Just look at the list of Nobel Prize winners.)

Jefferson spends a lot of time explaining the laws of Virginia (this book was written in 1787), including why Virginia broke from England, and a half dozen ways in which the current state Constitution is flawed (limitation of voting rights, uneven representation, too much similarity between the two legislative houses, too much power in the legislative branch, the ability of the legislature itself to amend the state Constitution, and the ability of the legislature to define its own quorum).

Apparently in early Virginia marriages may be "solemnized ... by the minister of any society of Christians, who shall have been previously licensed for this purpose by the court of the county. Quakers and Menonists, however, are exempted from all these conditions, and marriage among them is to be solemnized by the society itself." I guess Jews or other non-Christians just couldn't get married in Virginia. Also, heresy was still a crime in Virginia, though apparently no longer a capital crime. In his favor, Jefferson felt this law should be abolished--he calls it "religious slavery."

"A foreigner of any nation, not in open war with us, becomes naturalized by removing to the state to reside, and taking an oath of fidelity; and, thereupon, acquires every right of a native citizen..." (This was before the United States Constitution limited the Presidency of the United States to native-born citizens.) Apparently the Founding Fathers had a much more liberal view of immigration than most people today. (Yes, I know conditions have changed. But if people are willing to change these laws, then citing "the Founding Fathers" as an excuse for other laws is a bit inconsistent.)

It is true that Jefferson elaborates on a plan to gradually emancipate all slaves, but this elaboration is so full of appalling racism that one can only conclude that a plea to the desires of wishes of the Founding Fathers should not carry much weight today. He seems to think it self-evident that whites are more beautiful than blacks, but it is more proof be assertion: flowing hair is more beautiful than curly hair, pale skin is more beautiful than dark skin, and so on.

What is truly amazing is that after he has excused America for not producing a great poet or artist because of lack of time rather than lack of innate ability, he then claims that there are no great black poets or artists is because the race is obviously incapable of it. He claims, "I think one could scarcely be found capable of tracing and understanding the investigations of Euclid," while omitting to mention that none of them that he has met were ever given any sort of chance or motivation to do so. In some ways, Jefferson may have been a genius, but in others, he was a horse's ass.

Also, for someone known as an educated man and a scientist, Jefferson is remarkably ignorant of the history of science. He thinks that "Galileo was sent to the inquisition for affirming that the earth was a sphere; the government had declared it to be flat as a trencher, and Galileo was obliged to abjure his error." No--as I presume everyone reading this knows, Galileo got in trouble for saying the earth revolved around the sun, not vice versa. The Inquisition, the Church, and everyone with any education knew the earth was a sphere, particularly since Magellan's crew had circumnavigated it over a hundred years before Galileo. [-ecl]

                                          Mark Leeper

Quote of the Week:

          If I am not for myself, who is for me?
          If I am for myself alone, what am I?
          If not now, when?

Go to our home page