“Peddling Without a License”

The fall of 1956 temporarily separated Lynn and Carl. Sagan began work at the University of Chicago’s astronomy school in Williams Bay, Wisconsin. This is the home of the Yerkes Observatory. Completed in 1897, the forty-inch Yerkes refractor was housed in a brick-and-terra-cotta domed building. It was by then a storied relic.

Williams Bay had a population of barely 1,000. For city-bred Sagan, it presented a culture shock. For the first time in his life, Sagan encountered anti-Semitism. He also ran into trouble with the law. He attempted to raise funds for the Democratic party, asking householders for a dollar each. As Sagan told it,

I spent all morning going door to door. And I got the most amazing responses: “The what party?” or “Shh! the master will hear!” or “Wait right here, young fellow, and I’ll get my shotgun.” Finally I was arrested by the sheriff, who had had innumerable complaints, on the grounds of peddling without a license. They figured I was peddling receipts at a dollar each. And I was remanded to the custody of the observatory director, who I don’t think understood anything about it, but just said to me, “Be a good boy.”

Carl Sagan, 1999, by William Poundstone, p.33

Human Ova, Chicken Ova and Misinformation

From Useless Sexual Trivia: Tastefully Prurient Facts About Everyone’s Favorite Subject*:
“[T]he number of human ova necessary to repopulate the world could fit into a chicken egg.”

The human ovum appears to be roughly spherical:

The diameter of an ovum is ~120 µm. Continue reading Human Ova, Chicken Ova and Misinformation

WolframAlpha says the human ovum is 500 µm. However, several other sources give a number closer to 120:
  • 130 µm*
  • 150 µm*
  • 100 µm*
  • 140 µm*
  • 100 µm*

Ashley Hegi and Progeria

A southern Alberta community is remembering a girl described by teachers as a four-foot-tall teen with a 10-foot-high attitude who defied the odds of a rare genetic disease that causes premature aging.

Ashley Hegi, 17, was one of 53 people in the world — and three in Canada — with Hutchinson-Gilford Progeria Syndrome. There is no known cure, and most children with the condition usually die around age 13.

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Albert Fish

About the age of fifty-five, Fish started to experience hallucinations and delusions. “He had visions of Christ and His angels….he began to be engrossed in religious speculations about purging himself of iniquities and sins, atonement by physical suffering and self-torture, human sacrifices….He would go on endlessly with quotations from the Bible all mixed up with his own sentences, such as ‘Happy is he that taketh Thy little ones and dasheth their heads against the stones.”

Fish believed that God had ordered him to torment and castrate little boys. He had actually done so a number of times.

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“Government is a barrier to innovation and development.”

According to NSF, the federal government funds 57 percent of basic research, compared to less than 18 percent for business, 15 percent for colleges and universities and 11 percent for nonprofits. And business only funds about 6 percent of university-based scientific research — one-tenth the share paid for by the federal government — so a retreat by government could have wide collateral damage to university research.

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