July 5th, 2005

krazy koati

Or nothing at all

It's been another month and I've gotten another phone bill, and this time it looks like I just haven't made any calls at all. That's not so unusual, for me anyway, although I'm kind of disturbed that there don't appear to be any ordinary service charges. As a result my charges for this month are zero. Last month I owed 35 cents, and the least I could pay was S$1.00, so I'm in this spot right now where they credit me to 65 cents. They're not paying it back, mind you, just holding it against future charges, if I ever have them. I'm feeling mighty unnerved by this, and feel like there's sure to be trouble for me. But I've looked over the bill a couple of times and I can't figure out what else to do with it except let it be. It's very discomforting.

A talk about Bose-Einstein condensates and how they're made -- rather fortuitously timed -- didn't get into the fresh-off-the-scientific-press results, but included something I never knew existed. Under the right conditions a drop of condensate can be driven from where it's slightly self-repellant to self-attractive, in which case it contracts ... and explodes, like a supernova, with a little remnant left behind. Wow. The following talk about chemistry and society was maybe more interesting, though. It started with a Carl Barks Donald Duck comic and noted what everyone knows chemistry is the science of making colorful liquids explode.

Trivia: Benjamin Franklin was the first person living outside Britain to receive the Royal Society's Copley Medal, principally for his invention of the lightning rod. Source: Benjamin Franklin: An American Life, Walter Isaacson.

Currently Reading: The Battle for Twelveland, Charles Whiting. This slightly cross-genre-titled book is about Allied, mostly British, intelligence services in World War II. Outside Bletchley Park there's a lot of agents parachuting into Axis territory and lasting as much as hours before being killed, or extraordinarily looney schemes to kill Adolph Hitler, to the point I wonder when someone's going to set a comedy at the Office of Strategic Services. Everyone's heard about the Incendiary Bat Squadron they masterminded, but until this book I'd thought the Berchtesgaden Porn Drop of 1943 was just one of the many loopy ideas sent in to the People's Almanac as schemes to win a world war without a military. Nope. Their thinking was this would somehow unbalance Adolph Hitler -- certainly we needed him to be less predictable -- and make winning the war easy. Tragically, the book doesn't say what schemes were considered but rejected in favor of the Porn Drop. The OSS's successor agency, of course, would bring us 45 proud years of assassinating Fidel Castro.