literature

Invictus – The Emancipation of Humanity

There is a poem by the Victorian poet William Ernest Henley known as “Invictus”, which is latin for “unconquered”. It goes like this, (I’ve actually memorized it)

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.

Now, here is a derivation of an expression for the escape velocity of a planet, (I ripped it off of Wikipedia because using MathML or Latex to write it all myself on wordpress is hell)

F = G\frac{Mm}{r^2}.\\\\    dW = G\frac{Mm}{r^2}\,dr.\\\\    W = \int_{r_0}^{\infty} G\frac{Mm}{r^2}\,dr    = G\frac{Mm}{r_0}. \\\\    \tfrac{1}{2}m v_0^2 = G\frac{Mm}{r_0},\\\\    v_0 = \sqrt\frac{2GM}{r_0}.\\\\

Now if I were to give this derivation a name, I would call it ‘Invictus’. Think about it. We emerged long ago as a collection of nomadic tribes in Africa. As a young species, the sky was inaccessible to us. We envied the birds and their ability to elegantly glide through the air and soar through the heavens (in fact, I think we still envy the birds, at least I do). Even more inaccessible was the serene and beautiful white orb that appeared in the skies on a clear night, which we call the moon. Rising up into the heavens like the birds seemed impossible. We were thrown into a gravitational prison cell, that was ‘black as the pit from pole to pole’… and yet our soul was unconquerable.

We developed the scientific method and found out that Nature had laws and these laws could be understood by experimentation and mathematical reasoning. Sir Isaac Newton published the Principia that created a launchpad for our species. It enabled us to decrypt the mysteries of the heavens… and emancipate ourselves. At the launch of Sputnik, we proved that we were Invictus. All of this was possible because of this derivation and the science that lay behind it.

The place on the Moon where humanity first landed is called the Sea of Tranquility. Whenever I look at the Moon it seems astonishing, almost incredulous to me that tiny creatures like us have actually set foot on that beautiful shiny-white world that harmoniously orbits our planet. And yet, we did set foot on it… and by doing so we proved that our species was unconquered by gravity.

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The Awesomeness of Mark Twain

Mark Twain was one of the most awesome, hilarious, ingenious and original people in modern history. I’ll discuss a few of his funniest or most favourable aspects.

Originality

One of the things I like about Mark Twain is his originality. He didn’t bow to popular belief or peer pressure and change his opinions accordingly. His opinions were his alone. As an example, read his comments on Da Vinci’s the Mona Lisa…

To me it was merely a serene and subdued face, and there an end. There might be more in it, but I could not find it. The complexion was bad; in fact, it was not even human; there are no people that color.

At the start of the novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, he wrote:

Persons attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted; persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished; persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot.

I don’t understand the motive behind this statement, but I’m guessing this was actually a challenge to attempt all the things he warned not to do.

Premature Obituary

On June 1, 1897, the New York Herald, a widely read and popular daily American newspaper wrote an article in which it stated that Mark Twain was on the verge of death and that his thinking facilities had already been completely compromised. Ironically, Mark Twain was alive and well at the time. In fact, it was Mark Twain’s cousin J.R Clemens who was severely ill and had probably been the cause of the New York Herald‘s mistake. In an article titled “Mark Twain Amused” published the very next day in another newspaper, the Journal, Mark Twain made history by writing this ingenious comedic masterpiece:

“The report of my death was an exaggeration.”

This statement has been misquoted in many ways but, in my opinion, the original is still the funniest and most befitting.

 

Hatred for Jane Austen

One of the aspects of Mark Twain I like the most was his hatred for Jane Austen and the hilarious way in which he expressed it. Here are a few of his quotes that illustrate how much he detested Jane Austen and her works:

“Jane Austen? Why I go so far as to say that any library is a good library that does not contain a volume by Jane Austen. Even if it contains no other book.”

“Everytime I read ‘Pride and Prejudice’ I want to dig her [Jane Austen] up and beat her over the skull with her own shin-bone.”

“She makes me detest all her people, without reserve. Is that her intention? It is not believable. Then is it her purpose to make the reader detest her people up to the middle of the book and like them in the rest of the chapters? That could be. That would be high art. It would be worth while, too. Some day I will examine the other end of her books and see.”

Perhaps it’s because I, too, share his prejudice towards Jane Austenish literature, but I find his statements to be humorous.

Interest in Science

Yes. Mark Twain was interested in science too. As I mentioned in a previous post, Mark Twain was a close friend of Nikola Tesla. Mark Twain also patented three inventions including the Elastic-Clasp Brassiere Strap which is used nowadays in women’s bras. In addition, Mark Twain also wrote one of the first novels related to time travel called A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court.

Here is a letter Mark Twain wrote to Nikola Tesla. I’m dead serious…

Letter Mark Twain Tesla

 

This is beside the point but to be frank, I don’t think Tesla ever invented a “destructive terror” but still, he invented lots of other great things that have shaped the modern world.