Tuesday, November 19, 2013

People, lend me your earbuds ...

Seven score and 10 years ago a president stepped out on a field in Pennsylvania and gave a speech. Presidents have been giving speeches throughout the 11 score and 17 years of our country's history. To date they've given an estimated 140 score (seven score score?) --

Okay okay, I'll stop keeping score. The point is that among all of those presidential addresses a scant few have been memorable and Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address arguably tops them all.

Which shows how much I know. I would have thought the address was doomed from the start.

"Four score and seven?" Mister President, you're losing the audience already. They won't be listening to you. They'll be doing the math (Four score ... let's see, score means 10 ... no, 144 ... no, that's a gross ... oh, yeah, 20 ... let's see four times 20 is zero carry the zero, eight, eight zero ... 80 ... oh, and seven ... 80 plus seven ... 87!) by which time you'll be saying "... shall not perish from the earth." And speaking of your ending, Sir, that last sentence has 56 words in it! If you want to achieve any understanding of your speech, we'd better distribute copies."

At that point Abe would stroke his beard and say, Young man, I believe General McClelland is looking for a speechwriter.

But think about it. Even though nearly everyone within walking distance of Gettysburg may have been standing on that battlefield turned cemetery, relatively few people heard the speech. Everyone else read it in newspapers throughout the country. The speech was now what we would call an op-ed. Then, in memorized recitations by generations of students and many others, it once again became a speech.


We see Lincoln's name on a myriad of things, but it must be a heady experience having one’s name on a building block of the universe. In this case In this case I'm referring to the Higgs boson, which gives particles mass. For his role in developing the theory of the so called "God particle," Peter Higgs recently was awarded the Nobel Prize.

Although it doesn't rise to the significance of the Higgs, I have long been aware of a similar phenomenon involving the Quinn Particle.

The Quinn Particle is the one that inevitably finds its way into my eye. It’s that piece of something underneath the pane of glass I'm trying to cut, so that when I press down with the glass cutter the pane cracks in a jagged line. The Quinn Particle is the grit hiding on my car’s wax job, scratching the surface when I go to buff it.

I could give you scores of examples.

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