Mendeleev, Vodka, Peas and Quizzes

February 8, 2016 | Posted by Lesley Jakobsen | HISTORY |

Dmitri Mendeleev (born on this day in 1834) was real good at chemistry.  Mendeleev  neatened up the nascent Periodic Table and so facilitated the discovery and proper classification of further elements.  He saw it all in a dream which may, or may not, have owed something to 40% vodka.   I was not real good at chemistry.  I had Mendeleev with his Hydrogen and Helium confused with Gregor Mendel with his flies and peas.  But I did learn this one thing which has held me in surprisingly good stead in quizzes.  It is a mnemonic for the first twenty elements –   two scientists who worked together late…

Continue Reading →


Sir Richard in Space (Image by Arnfinn Christensen)

Neal Stephenson Now, before we start… there anyone here who has not read Stephenson’s “Cryptonomicon”, “Snow Crash”, “The Baroque Cycle” and “The Diamond Age”?  If so, please just take some time. Go out and beg, buy, borrow or download them…all of them…and read them while the rest of us wait….. Welcome back.  As promised, the rest of us waited here because we  wanted to be sure that everyone has read the best of Stephenson before we proceed.  If the first Stephenson I met had been “Seveneves” (or “Anathem” for that matter), I just might never have read Stephenson again  – and that would be…

Continue Reading →

Human Accomplishment

(Charles Murray) A subversive book which purports to rank the top 20 men and women (mostly men) in the arts and sciences on the basis of historiometry. Awash with Bell curves, Lotka curves, and arbitrary methodology, it fascinates but does not convince: one imagines  oneself drawing a silly graph on the blackboard and quoting J. Evans Pritchard.      

Continue Reading →

Edge of Darkness

(Dir. Martin Campbell) (1985) Northern copper Ronnie Craven has picked up his daughter Emma from college and taken her home to eat ratatouille when a loony ex-con and informer jumps out of the bushes and shoots her dead, presumably meaning to kill the father. After (whilst still in?) the shock of this outrage, Craven starts to manifest numerous delusions, probably stemming from post traumatic stress disorder.  For example, he thinks he’s a tree!  He still converses with Emma.  He thinks the murder-gone-wrong was nothing more than a front for a vast, labyrinthine conspiracy by the dark forces of global nuclear…

Continue Reading →

© Copyright 2014 The Varnished Culture All Rights Reserved. TVC Disclaimer. Site by KWD&D.