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The Metal Men

comic book cover
When I was growing up reading comic books, I keenly remember the Metal Men. The DC comic was created by writer Robert Kanigher, penciller Ross Andru, and inker Mike Esposito and featured genius scientist Will Magnus and his six artificially intelligent androids.

metal men intro
The team leader was Gold, the muscle was Iron. There was hot-tempered Mercury, dim-witted Lead (he was dense, get it?), insecure Tin (the tin cry, science is so damn funny), and, the sole female in the team, lustrous Platinum. Platinum was in love with Dr. Magnus and thought she was a real woman (creepy, considering Dr. Magnus created her like that). Besides having personalities that matched their namesake elements, each android had abilities that also matched their names. For example, Iron was strong and Lead could shield against radiation. Mercury, being a liquid at room temperature, could pass through small openings. Gold, Platinum, and Tin were malleable and ductile.

Dr. Magnus flustered
To my delight, each one of their adventures was like a little chemistry lesson. Like when they battled with the sinister Gas Gang!

comic book cover
I remember the major thing that really irked me about the Metal Men was the choice of symbols on their chests. Instead of using the symbols found on the periodic table of elements, which are, ahem, the official symbols determined by the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry, the symbols that were chosen instead are alchemical symbols. And even then, only four of the six symbols are correct:

  • Gold, okay (☉ is the symbol for the Sun)
  • Mercury, okay (☿ is the symbol for, uh, Mercury)
  • Iron, okay (♂ is for Mars)
  • Tin, okay (♃ is for Jupiter)
  • Lead, not okay (♄ is for Saturn, not L)
  • Platinum, not okay (☽☉, not P)

The first five metals are associated with those seven classical “planets” that were visible to the naked eye, with only silver and copper not chosen for some reason. I am guessing that the letters L and P were used for Lead and Platinum, respectively, because they were much easier to draw and, in the case of Platinum, wouldn’t be confused with the symbol for Gold. Anyway, Platinum did not display her symbol on her curvaceous chest. I can only imagine how the use of ☽☉ would have worked out if she did.

If they had used the IUPAC symbols found on the periodic table, the symbols would have been:

  • Gold (Au, from the Latin aurum)
  • Mercury (Hg, from the Latin hydrargyrus or “water silver”)
  • Iron (Fe, from the Latin ferrum)
  • Tin (Sn, Latin stannum)
  • Lead (Pb, Latin plumbum)
  • Platinum (Pt, Spanish platina or “little silver”)

Happy Towel Day 2016!

Today is Towel Day. Happy Towel Day!

The Galactic Hitchhikers have tallied the contest votes and have declared a winner!

You sass that hoopy Lisa Orozco? Our very own Lisa has been chosen to represent Earth as our new and shiny Towel Day Ambassador! Lisa will be assisted by Stefan Gemzell, representing Sweden and Norway, and Andrew Pithie, representing the UK and the Commonwealth.

Congratulations, you froods! Don’t Panic!

As Douglas Adams reminds us in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy:

A towel, it says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have. Partly it has great practical value. You can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapours; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a miniraft down the slow heavy River Moth; wet it for use in hand-to-hand-combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (such a mind-bogglingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can’t see it, it can’t see you — daft as a brush, but very very ravenous); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.

More importantly, a towel has immense psychological value. For some reason, if a strag (strag: non-hitch hiker) discovers that a hitchhiker has his towel with him, he will automatically assume that he is also in possession of a toothbrush, face flannel, soap, tin of biscuits, flask, compass, map, ball of string, gnat spray, wet weather gear, space suit etc., etc. Furthermore, the strag will then happily lend the hitch hiker any of these or a dozen other items that the hitch hiker might accidentally have “lost.” What the strag will think is that any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still knows where his towel is, is clearly a man to be reckoned with.

Anatomies

I was familiar with Hugh Aldersey-Williams’ previous book Periodic Tales, so when I saw his new book Anatomies at our neighborhood library I was eager to read it. This time, the author offers his entertaining blend of science, history, and culture on the subject of the human body.

Aldersey-Williams tells an engaging narrative that spans from ancient body art to modern plastic surgery. He witnesses the dissection of a human body, tries his hand at drawing in an art class, and visits a morgue. His stories do not just come from science and medicine, but also from the works of artists, writers, and philosophers throughout history: Rembrandt to Frankenstein, Descartes to 2001: A Space Odyssey. Like a good friend having a conversation over coffee, he shows how attitudes toward the human body are as varied as our postmodern culture, as he talks about fig leaves, shrunken heads, Einstein’s brain, bloodletting, tattooing, and fingerprinting, as well as other things.

I bought a copy for my own library.

Periodic Tales

Hugh Aldersey-Williams offers an interesting look at the periodic table of the elements and the little-known stories behind their discoveries and properties. Besides a handful of common ones like copper, iron, silver, and gold, most of the elements remain mysterious. A lot of us do not know what most of them look like or of what use they are to us. Periodic Tales is a book of science and superstition, explorers and scholars, and the various ways the building blocks of matter make their way into our language, history, and culture. Aldersey-Williams takes us on a journey through artists’ studios and factories, cathedrals and ore mines, and shares with us the true stories of the elements.

Teach Like A Champion

I was shown this book Teach Like A Champion during one of my staff development meetings. The book lists teaching techniques to help teachers (especially those in their early years) become effective in the classroom. Unlike many books with a similar intent, this book offers specific and concrete techniques. At the end of each chapter are training activities to help you further reflect and apply the ideas to your own practice. The book comes with a DVD containing 25 video clips of teachers demonstrating the techniques in their classroom. I was impressed enough with the book to go buy my own copy.