Since 2010 has for some of us had rather an excess of bad news, I hope some of you have good news to share. My latest bit of good news was learning that Oxford University Press will be publishing Marjorie Malley's Radioactivity: A History of a Mysterious Science next summer. Since I have been following her career since we met in the spring of 1960, I am glad her forty years of research are finally being summarized for all to read. And for a historical work I think there are no better publishers, so I am very happy for her. In any case the description given by the publisher - which I should normally hesitate to quote in its entirety because of its length, but do so because it is after all intended to sell the book - is as follows:
quote:This is the story of a new science. Beginning with an obscure discovery in 1896, radioactivity led researchers on a quest for understanding that ultimately confronted the intersection of knowledge and mystery.
Mysterious from the start, radioactivity attracted researchers who struggled to understand it. What caused certain atoms to give off invisible, penetrating rays? Where did the energy come from? These questions became increasingly pressing when researchers realized the process seemed to continue indefinitely, producing huge quantities of energy. Investigators found cases where radioactivity did change, forcing them to the startling conclusion that radioactive bodies were transmuting into other substances. Chemical elements were not immutable after all. Radioactivity produced traces of matter so minuscule and evanescent that researchers had to devise new techniques and instruments to investigate them.
Scientists in many countries, but especially in laboratories in Paris, Manchester, and Vienna unraveled the details of radioactive transformations. They created a new science with specialized techniques, instruments, journals, and international conferences. Women entered the field in unprecedented numbers. Experiments led to revolutionary ideas about the atom and speculations about atomic energy. The excitement spilled over to the public, who expected marvels and miracles from radium, a scarce element discovered solely by its radioactivity. The new phenomenon enkindled the imagination and awakened ancient themes of literature and myth.
Entrepreneurs created new industries, and physicians devised novel treatments for cancer. Radioactivity gave archaeologists methods for dating artifacts and meteorologists a new explanation for the air's conductivity. Their explorations revealed a mysterious radiation from space. Radioactivity profoundly changed science, politics, and culture. The field produced numerous Nobel Prize winners, yet radioactivity's talented researchers could not solve the mysteries underlying the new phenomenon. That was left to a new generation and a new way of thinking about reality.
Radioactivity presents this fascinating history in a way that is both accessible and appealing to the general reader. Not merely a historical account, the book examines philosophical issues connected with radioactivity, and relates its topics to broader issues regarding the nature of science.
In other matters relating to Ornery, I should like to extend special thanks to such members as Aris Katsaris, Hannibal and Mostafa who take the trouble to share their thoughts with us in what is for them a foreign language. For those living in the United States somewhere like Omaha, it can be difficult to imagine the experience of those who live in places where, as an acquaintance from the Balkans remarked, every valley speaks a different language. And it is hard for those who speak other languages to try to present their ideas to a largely university-educated and professional audience in another country, and we should be grateful to them for taking the trouble to do so and to make Ornery less insular.
"I didn't know Aris Katsaris and Hannibal's first language was not English! Where are they from? "
This is a testament to both guys intelligence and fine command of a second language, but also to the poor language skills of the average American that make it possible for both men to "pass", so to speak. Especially in the case of Hannibal (no offense, homey), who often makes slight tell-tale errors in idiom and syntax that, in contrast with his general intelligence and erudition, should have made that clear. Aris makes fewer of these errors but also uses English from time to time in an ever-so slightly stilted way that a man of comparable intelligence whose native tongue is English would not.
Again, this is not in any way a knock on either fellow Ornerian (again, Hannibal, really. I know I sometimes get into it with you, but this ain't one of those times. I don't speak, let alone write, any language I wasn't immersed in for years at anywhere near your level of English). It's a knock on the average American.
Then again, maybe it's just me and Carlotta a) has been away for a while (welcome back BTW) and so hasn't noticed, b) has other things commanding her attention and isn't a language professional like myself to be so attuned to these things, and c) pays less attention to how someone says things and more to what they have to say.