The Genius of "Teeny Ted": A Brief Review of the World's Smallest Book
Recently two brothers named Chaplin created the smallest book in the world. Their tiny tome, Teeny Ted from Turnip Town, is etched on a microchip narrower than the width of a human hair. Malcolm Douglas Chaplin did the writing, Robert Chaplin did the etching, and the good people at Guinness confirmed them as world record holders.
I am about to violate my professional ethics by reviewing this book without having read it in its entirety. That’s because I could not physically have done so. The Chaplins are selling copies of the original microchip at $10,000 a pop; even if I could afford the asking price (or obtain galley copies, which appear to be scarce), the engraved words would be indecipherable under a standard microscope.
Thanks to The Huffington Post, though, excerpts are available. Here’s the text of one page:
From Turnip Town
Was Standing in the Street
Singing his Favorite
Turnip Tune And
Tapping With His Feet.
My response can be summed up in the world’s smallest review:
Allow me to expand a little, however. When I worked in book publishing as an editor, I was often tasked with sifting through the slush pile. This backlog of unsolicited manuscripts (a literal pile) was dominated by would-be children’s books—some composed via typewriter, some illustrated by the author’s grandchild or pet, a few lettered by hand in the dense, ingrown penmanship of the deranged. The rhymes (they all rhymed) were shaky. The plots were nonexistent. The postage on the envelopes dated from the Reagan era, but the senders had flouted the Postal Service no less cheerfully than they’d ignored our press’s ban on unsolicited submissions.
In other words, these manuscripts were essentially Teeny Ted. The difference between their authors and the brothers Chaplin is that the brothers Chaplin inscribed their opus, not on a sheaf of scrap paper, but on a microchip.
In so doing, they balanced it squarely on the hair-thin line between madness and genius.
The sheer teeniness of Teeny Ted’s world raises giant-sized questions. Why does the world’s smallest book focus so obsessively on turnips? At that infinitesimal scale, what possible significance could turnips hold? “Turnips All Around,” Ted informs us. “Turnips Are the Way of Life Here in Turnip Town.” His explanation explains nothing. Is Turnip Town a children’s-book dystopia like those in The Giver and The Hunger Games? Do the proles farm turnips, eat only turnips, worship turnips? Is Ted’s “Favorite / Turnip Tune” the compulsory morning anthem? Does our hero long to escape? Is the microchip engraving his ingenious cry for help? What impact can his words hope to make—what impact can our own make, being just as teeny in the eyes of the indifferent universe?
In its way, Teeny Ted is as private and eccentric a statement as Cheval’s Palais idéal or that novel with no letter “e.” The question What does it mean? takes a backseat to the question: Why does it exist at all? This literary oddity, this marvel of engineering—its poetry cut in interlocking block letters like so many angels dancing on the head of a pin—is guaranteed to astonish, unsettle, provoke. That is, until someone surpasses its Guinness record, at which point it will become a kids’ book about turnips.
[Image detail of Teeny Ted courtesy Huffington Post.]
The Spilhaus Projection may be more than 75 years old, but it has never been more relevant than today.
- Athelstan Spilhaus designed an oceanic thermometer to fight the Nazis, and the weather balloon that got mistaken for a UFO in Roswell.
- In 1942, he produced a world map with a unique perspective, presenting the world's oceans as one body of water.
- The Spilhaus Projection could be just what the oceans need to get the attention their problems deserve.
It's just the current cycle that involves opiates, but methamphetamine, cocaine, and others have caused the trajectory of overdoses to head the same direction
- It appears that overdoses are increasing exponentially, no matter the drug itself
- If the study bears out, it means that even reducing opiates will not slow the trajectory.
- The causes of these trends remain obscure, but near the end of the write-up about the study, a hint might be apparent
Through computationally intensive computer simulations, researchers have discovered that "nuclear pasta," found in the crusts of neutron stars, is the strongest material in the universe.
- The strongest material in the universe may be the whimsically named "nuclear pasta."
- You can find this substance in the crust of neutron stars.
- This amazing material is super-dense, and is 10 billion times harder to break than steel.
Superman is known as the "Man of Steel" for his strength and indestructibility. But the discovery of a new material that's 10 billion times harder to break than steel begs the question—is it time for a new superhero known as "Nuclear Pasta"? That's the name of the substance that a team of researchers thinks is the strongest known material in the universe.
Unlike humans, when stars reach a certain age, they do not just wither and die, but they explode, collapsing into a mass of neurons. The resulting space entity, known as a neutron star, is incredibly dense. So much so that previous research showed that the surface of a such a star would feature amazingly strong material. The new research, which involved the largest-ever computer simulations of a neutron star's crust, proposes that "nuclear pasta," the material just under the surface, is actually stronger.
The competition between forces from protons and neutrons inside a neutron star create super-dense shapes that look like long cylinders or flat planes, referred to as "spaghetti" and "lasagna," respectively. That's also where we get the overall name of nuclear pasta.
Caplan & Horowitz/arXiv
Diagrams illustrating the different types of so-called nuclear pasta.
The researchers' computer simulations needed 2 million hours of processor time before completion, which would be, according to a press release from McGill University, "the equivalent of 250 years on a laptop with a single good GPU." Fortunately, the researchers had access to a supercomputer, although it still took a couple of years. The scientists' simulations consisted of stretching and deforming the nuclear pasta to see how it behaved and what it would take to break it.
While they were able to discover just how strong nuclear pasta seems to be, no one is holding their breath that we'll be sending out missions to mine this substance any time soon. Instead, the discovery has other significant applications.
One of the study's co-authors, Matthew Caplan, a postdoctoral research fellow at McGill University, said the neutron stars would be "a hundred trillion times denser than anything on earth." Understanding what's inside them would be valuable for astronomers because now only the outer layer of such starts can be observed.
"A lot of interesting physics is going on here under extreme conditions and so understanding the physical properties of a neutron star is a way for scientists to test their theories and models," Caplan added. "With this result, many problems need to be revisited. How large a mountain can you build on a neutron star before the crust breaks and it collapses? What will it look like? And most importantly, how can astronomers observe it?"
Another possibility worth studying is that, due to its instability, nuclear pasta might generate gravitational waves. It may be possible to observe them at some point here on Earth by utilizing very sensitive equipment.
The team of scientists also included A. S. Schneider from California Institute of Technology and C. J. Horowitz from Indiana University.
Check out the study "The elasticity of nuclear pasta," published in Physical Review Letters.
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