Posted tagged ‘fire’

A Monday Morning pick-me-up.

March 16, 2008

So, my sister sends me this link.

I watch it, despite the sense of instant lame-hood when I find myself tapping toes to a Billy Joel song.

But then I asked myself, in all this fire we didn’t start, how much of what the Hon. Mr. Joel sees as incendiary in the last half century or so falls under the heading of science?

Even stretching it pretty far to tech/engineering, I make it 16 images/ideas out of 120 in the song. And I only get that far by counting the Studebaker, just because I like the engineering ideas in that car. (The Edsel didn’t make the cut, even as an example of a negative elenchus.)

Out of my 16, five connect to space flight, (and I counted a sixth for Robert Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land, and a seventh for the aerospace/political significance of the U2, just possibly the coolest airplane ever built. (Care to dissent, James Fallows?). The rest are a motley mix of gee whiz and bad news: H-bombs to vaccines to dacron, to my man Albert Einstein.

All in all, I actually think that Billy Joel and his unbelievably dedicated illustrator have caught the central fact of American science interest pretty well: the boffins are good for entertainment, for killing folks, for healing folks, and for gadgets.

Watch the video. It’s fun, and in the end, deeply troubling as well.

And you’ll curse me all day as the tune will not leave your head.

Image: Unknown artist, “The Great Fire of London with Ludgate and old St. Paul’s,” 1670. Source: Wikimedia Commons. One of my favorite fun facts: When Old St. Paul’s burned in the Great Fire (1666), the sixty tons of lead in its roof melted and flowed — a river of glowing metal — from the cathedral precincts a few hundred yards down hill into the Thames. A torrent of lead. Now that’s a conflagration — and in fact it is believed that the blaze turned into a true firestorm by late in the first day of the disaster.