Bang! Flash! Blackness. Something blew down the street about 11:00 last night, and the power went out. You think: should I call them? They probably know. Something’s going AHHH-OOOOH-GAAHHH and lights are popping up on a big board. Repair crews leap from bed and throw themselves down poles to the repair vehicles, roaring away with the theme from “Emergency!” playing in their heads.



 Well, so you’d like to think.

My neighbor called last night when the juice stopped, and they said yes, we know. It will be fixed at 1:50. Not by 1:50; at 1:50. That either suggests an extraordinary amount of confidence in the precision of their repairman’s estimates, or a sop to thrown to the customer. If it doesn’t come on at 1:50, who knows? We’ll be asleep. If it comes on early - conforming to Montgomery Scott’s Axiom on Miracle-Worker Reputation Acquisition - then they’re AWESOME.

At least I got to use the flashlight I discussed in last week’s column. The one that doubles as an X-Ray machine. It’s illegal to point it towards the Hubble because it’ll overexpose the pictures. When the cops showed up I could point at at the troublesome junction box at the end of the block. The cop was impressed but said that his flashlight might be smaller but it was just as powerful. So there we are, standing in the middle of the street, ankle-deep in snow in the early hours of April 23rd, talking about flashlights. It’s an odd world.


SCIENCE! Scientific American has a piece called “The Physics of Fred Flintstone’s Flaming Feet,” perpetuating the culture’s eternal fascination with that cartoon. It wasn’t very funny. People loved when they were kids because they were kids. Okay, so it had Ann Margrock. There’s that. There’s the naming convention, which was just hilarious! All names have mineral componants! Because if that’s the dominant raw material in your society, that’s what you name everyone after.

I know, this is heresy. The Flintstones are beloved. It’s just not very good. Compare the first ten years of the Simpsons to the entirety of the Flintstones and it’s like comparing Cheever short stories to a Dick and Jane primer.

No? Really? Quote one line from the Flintstones that isn’t “Willlllmaaaaa.”

Anyway, here comes the science:

Most of the car’s mass is going to be bound up in the huge rock rollers at the front and back. Let’s assume that they are granite. If they were one and a half meters long and 80 centimeters in diameter—like huge stone rolling pins—they would be about 360 kilograms (~795 pounds) each. But that’s not all pressing down on the road Fred has to stop on. Fred himself is a hefty fellow, maybe 95 kilograms (210 pounds). For the sake of estimation, we could assume the rest of the car, made of tarp and wood, weighs and additional 50 kilograms (110 pounds). So all in all Fred must use his heels to stop an 865-kilogram (1910 pound) rockmobile.

And so on. You’ll have to read the piece to figure out whether Fred could stop the car, or whether his flesh would be burned and abraded so severely he would never walk again. At least the article noticed something that bothered me since FOREVER:


All this is assuming of course that the car itself would hold together for more than a few feet. As an engineer, I have no idea how a forward-moving car keeps a rear wheel on that has no backstop.


c. Hanna-Barbera

c. Hanna-Barbera


Exactly. Then there’s Gazoo!  Gazoo was life! Bringing Life to our Life Participants!




It’s good that the people who worked on these projects are given their due, but it seems as if we sometimes mistake the ephemeral products of mass culture for something that means much, much more than it does. It’s just a cartoon.

Now, the Jetsons, that’s a different matter. It's much more important, and not just because I liked it more.

DISNEY The more things change, the more they stay the same. Partly because they haven’t changed much at all. Here’s a big collection of Disneyland then-and-now images.

Did you know that the forced-perspective trick makes the castle seem farther away when you enter? Main Street seems to stretch into the distance. When you’re heading towards the exit, tired and eager to leave, Main Street seems shorter.

And when you’re inside a video game, well, the view is much different: a TRON Easter Egg that reminded everyone who made the movie. (Via reddit.) You'll never see the movie the same way again!

Actually, you'll probably never see the movie again anyway, so never mind.