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Hieronymous Alloy
Jan 30, 2009


Why! Why!! Why must you refuse to accept that Dr. Hieronymous Alloy's Genetically Enhanced Cream Corn Is Superior to the Leading Brand on the Market!?!



Morbid Hound

Welcome goonlings to the Awful Book of the Month!
In this thread, we choose one work of literature absolute crap and read/discuss it over a month. If you have any suggestions of books, choose something that will be appreciated by many people, and has many avenues of discussion. We'd also appreciate if it were a work of literature complete drivel that is easily located from a local library or book shop, as opposed to ordering something second hand off the internet and missing out on a week's worth of reading. Better yet, books available on e-readers.

Resources:

Project Gutenberg - http://www.gutenberg.org

- A database of over 17000 books available online. If you can suggest books from here, that'd be the best.

SparkNotes - http://www.sparknotes.com/

- A very helpful Cliffnotes-esque site, but much better, in my opinion. If you happen to come in late and need to catch-up, you can get great character/chapter/plot summaries here.

For recommendations on future material, suggestions on how to improve the club, or just a general rant, feel free to PM the moderation team.

Past Books of the Month

[for BOTM before 2018, refer to archives]

2018
January: Njal's Saga [Author Unknown]
February: The Sign of the Four by Arthur Conan Doyle
March: Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders
April: Twenty Days of Turin by Giorgio de Maria
May: Lectures on Literature by Vladimir Nabokov
June: The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe
July: Warlock by Oakley Hall
August: All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriott
September: The Magus by John Fowles
October: I'll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara
November: Arcadia by Tom Stoppard
December: Christmas Stories by Charles Dickens

2019:
January: Roadside Picnic by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky
February: BEAR by Marian Engel
March: V. by Thomas Pynchon
April: The Doorbell Rang by Rex Stout
May: Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
June: 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus by Charles C. Mann
July: The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach
August: Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds by Charles Mackay
September: Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay
October: Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado
November: The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett
December: Moby Dick by Herman Melville

2020:
January: The Jungle by Upton Sinclair
February: WE by Yevgeny Zamyatin
March: The Autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini by Benvenuto Cellini
April: The Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio
May: Black Lamb and Grey Falcon by Dame Rebecca West
June: The African Queen by C. S. Forester
July: The End of Policing by Alex S. Vitale
August: The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood, of Great Renown in Nottinghamshire, by Howard Pyle
September: Strange Hotel, by Eimear McBride
October:Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things (怪談)("Ghost Stories"), by Lafcadio Hearn
November: A Libertarian Walks Into a Bear: The Utopian Plot to Liberate an American Town (And Some Bears) , by Matthew Hongoltz Hetling



Current: Ignition!: An Informal History of Liquid Rocket Propellants by John Drury Clark

Book available here:

https://www.amazon.com/Ignition-Inf...k/dp/B076838QS2

Apparent free ebook: http://www.sciencemadness.org/libra...ks/ignition.pdf

About the book

quote:

In a comment to my post on putting out fires last week, one commenter mentioned the utility of the good old sand bucket, and wondered if there was anything that would go on to set the sand on fire. Thanks to a note from reader Robert L., I can report that there is indeed such a reagent: chlorine trifluoride.

. . . Iíll let the late John Clark describe the stuff, since he had first-hand experience in attempts to use it as rocket fuel. From his out-of-print classic Ignition! we have:

ĒIt is, of course, extremely toxic, but thatís the least of the problem. It is hypergolic with every known fuel, and so rapidly hypergolic that no ignition delay has ever been measured. It is also hypergolic with such things as cloth, wood, and test engineers, not to mention asbestos, sand, and water-with which it reacts explosively. It can be kept in some of the ordinary structural metals-steel, copper, aluminium, etc.-because of the formation of a thin film of insoluble metal fluoride which protects the bulk of the metal, just as the invisible coat of oxide on aluminium keeps it from burning up in the atmosphere. If, however, this coat is melted or scrubbed off, and has no chance to reform, the operator is confronted with the problem of coping with a metal-fluorine fire. For dealing with this situation, I have always recommended a good pair of running shoes.Ē

https://blogs.sciencemag.org/pipeli...e_you_this_time

Leperflesh posted:


I started reading "Ignition!: An Informal History of Liquid Rocket Propellants" which is actually a fun and not very technical book written by a steely eyed missile man who spent his career experimenting with rocket fuels, which is exactly as insane and life-threatening as you'd imagine. Forward by Isaac Asimov. It's been out of print for decades but Rutgers University Press finally agreed to reprint it due to popular demand. What books are y'all reading right now?

https://twitter.com/DJSnM/status/95...5251732480?s=20


This book was long out of print, to the point that physical copies were selling for multiple thousands of dollars on Amazon (still are, in fact: https://www.amazon.com/Ignition-inf.../dp/0813507251/)

About the Author

quote:

John Drury Clark, Ph.D. (August 15, 1907 Ė July 6, 1988) was an American rocket fuel developer, chemist, and science fiction writer. He was instrumental in the revival of interest in Robert E. Howard's Conan stories and influenced the writing careers of L. Sprague de Camp, Fletcher Pratt, and other authors.[1]

. . .

From 1949 to his retirement in 1970, Clark developed liquid propellants at the Naval Air Rocket Test Station at Dover, New Jersey (after 1960, this became the Army's Liquid Rocket Propulsion Laboratory of Picatinny Arsenal). His title there was chief chemist.[1][2]

In 1962 he married artist Inga Pratt, widow of Fletcher Pratt.[1][5]

He was the author of Ignition! An Informal History of Liquid Rocket Propellants (Rutgers University Press, 1972), based on his experiences in the field,[1] which he dedicated to his wife Inga.[5] It chronicles the development of liquid rocket fuel technology through both technical explanations of the work scientists performed and also anecdotes about the people involved and the often humorous incidents which took place. Copies of the original edition, now out of print, are rare and sell for over $400.[6] In May 2018 Rutgers University Press began publishing Ignition! An Informal History of Liquid Rocket Propellants again.[7]

. . .

Clark first encountered Robert E. Howard's fantasies of Kull, Conan and Solomon Kane in the magazine Weird Tales. He became an avid fan, and together with Miller he worked out an outline of Conan's career and a map of the world in Howard's invented Hyborian Age in early 1936 from the then-published stories. Miller sent this material to Howard, whose reply confirmed and corrected their findings. Their map became the basis of those that later appeared in the book editions of the Conan stories.[1] Their revised outline, "A Probable Outline of Conan's Career" was published in the fanzine The Hyborian Age in 1938.

Thus established as an authority on Conan, Clark was invited to edit and provide introductions for the first book editions of Howard's Conan stories, published by Gnome Press in the 1950s.[1] Expanded versions of his and Miller's essay on Conan, retitled "An Informal Biography of Conan the Cimmerian", appeared in the Gnome volume The Coming of Conan in 1953 and (revised by de Camp) in the fanzine Amra, vol. 2, no. 4, in 1959. It was the source of the linking passages between the individual Conan stories in both the Gnome editions and the Lancer paperback editions of the 1960s.

Clark and Miller's Hyborian Age map, together with Howard's own original, are the basis of those published in the Gnome, Lancer, and later editions of the stories.

Pacing



Read as thou wilt is the whole of the law.

Please post after you read!

Please bookmark the thread to encourage discussion.


References and Further Materials


This blog is similar in tone and references this book a lot:

https://blogs.sciencemag.org/pipeli...t%20work%20with



Suggestions for Future Months

These threads aren't just for discussing the current BOTM; If you have a suggestion for next month's book, please feel free to post it in the thread below also. Generally what we're looking for in a BotM are works that have

1) accessibility -- either easy to read or easy to download a free copy of, ideally both

2) novelty -- something a significant fraction of the forum hasn't already read

3) discussability -- intellectual merit, controversiality, insight -- a book people will be able to talk about.

Final Note:

Thanks, and we hope everyone enjoys the book!

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Hieronymous Alloy
Jan 30, 2009


Why! Why!! Why must you refuse to accept that Dr. Hieronymous Alloy's Genetically Enhanced Cream Corn Is Superior to the Leading Brand on the Market!?!



Morbid Hound

I'm already like halfway through this and it's a joy to read.


It has some of the same charm that the James Herriott stories did -- that sense that these are stories this guy has been polishing over drinks with his friends for forty years and is only just now finally bothering to set them down.

Hubbardologist
Jan 19, 2007

Secretly force socialism, communism and imperialism types of government onto the people of the United States of America.



Oh, I'm definitely in. Lowe's Things I Won't Work With posts were a huge draw for me as an undergrad learning OChem.

Crossposted over to the Dangerous Chemicals thread in PYF, where there may be some interest as well.

Anias
Jun 3, 2010

It really is a lovely hat


Always glad to see new readers. This book is deeply fun to read, even if you know basically nothing of chemistry, and it only gets better the more you know. Give it a spin and enjoy.

Vincent Van Goatse
Nov 8, 2006

Don't be so gloomy. After all it's not that awful. Like the fella says, in Italy for thirty years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance.


Smellrose

Read this many times. Truly excellent, both for its content and Clark's style.

Hieronymous Alloy
Jan 30, 2009


Why! Why!! Why must you refuse to accept that Dr. Hieronymous Alloy's Genetically Enhanced Cream Corn Is Superior to the Leading Brand on the Market!?!



Morbid Hound

quote:

Handling liquid hydrogen, then, has become a routine job, although it has to be treated with respect. If it gets loose, of course, it's a ferocious fire and explosion hazard, and all sorts of precautions have to be taken to make sure that oxygen doesn't get into the stuff, freeze, and produce a murderously touchy explosive. And there is a delightful extra something about a hydrogen fire ó the flame is almost invisible, and at least in daylight, you can easily walk right into one without seeing it.

Selachian
Oct 9, 2012



Not really related to this book, but ... you may be familiar with Isaac Asimov's Black Widowers stories, which feature a men's dinner club that solves mysteries (or rather, they argue about mysteries until the waiter steps in and solves it for them). One of the Widowers is an industrial chemist named James Drake, and after reading the introduction, I have to wonder if Asimov based Drake on Clark.

HopperUK
Apr 29, 2007

Clear off, fatso, this is a respectable establishment




I remember a friend of mine asking me, about one of these substances, "How do you have something you can't have, because it explodes itself out of existence?"

Gnoman
Feb 11, 2014

"What we therefore hath joined together, let Gnoman put asunder..."


It is fairly interesting to see how early the complex fuels arose, given that the most famous early rocket (the German A-4/V2) was so simple.

TheAardvark
Mar 3, 2002


I'm about a third through having started yesterday. I am really impressed with this book. I can't remember names for poo poo, let alone chemical compounds, but Clark threads the needle and makes pages of specific chemicals and mixtures fly by in a way that it doesn't feel like I'm missing something not having a phd in chemistry.

AngusPodgorny
Jun 3, 2004

Please to be restful, it is only a puffin that has from the puffin place outbroken.

This is a fun book. It's a serious history about all the labs involved and all the chemical compounds, mixed with anecdotes about mad scientists:

quote:

We were all gathered around waiting for the balloon to go up when Uncle Milty warned, "Hold it--the acid valve is leaking!"
"Go ahead--fire anyway!" Paul ordered.
I looked around and signaled to my own gang, and we started backing away, like so many cats with wet feet.

FlowerRhythmREMIX
Nov 4, 2011

GAMING is praxis!





I picked this up and read through the first chapter. I forgot about how much difficultly I had in my high school chemistry classes.

I don't have the excerpts on hand at the moment, but there was an interesting note where the gist was, "Scientists realized you could tun gases into liquids so they spent a century figuring out how", and I thought it was so novel that there was a period where curiosity was the prevailing reason to figure out how to do something, and it wasn't led out of a desire of venture capital or militaristic demand...

...and then I got to the end of the chapter, where funding of liquid propellant came from the military.

AngusPodgorny
Jun 3, 2004

Please to be restful, it is only a puffin that has from the puffin place outbroken.

You can be heartened by the fact that sometimes the scientists just wanted to waste military money:

quote:

One is led to suspect that some of the fancier amines were synthesized, not because there was any reason to believe that they would be an improvement on the ones they already had, but to demonstrate the virtuosity of the bench man, who wanted to prove that he could do it.

Gnoman
Feb 11, 2014

"What we therefore hath joined together, let Gnoman put asunder..."


One later chapter discusses purchasing 10 pounds of "play around and find out" chemical at $540 per pound. In 1955 dollars. No pure-science or even industrial program could push like that.

DurianGray
Dec 23, 2010

King of Fruits


I picked this up on a whim a few days ago after finally noticing this thread and I'm really glad I did. I just finished it, and I'm really surprised by how much I managed to at least kind of understand (mostly thanks to the writing, I'm pretty sure) even though I've never even taken a basic chemistry class.

It's really interesting to see how some of his future guesses/predictions about fuels have played out in the forty or so years since this was first published.

I was also both unsurprised and horrified by how apparently lax a lot of safety parameters were back then. Even just the short anecdote of him and some other scientists casually eating lunch in a chemistry lab WHILE processing chemicals just a few feet away (one container of which exploded, of course).

pmchem
Jan 21, 2010




DurianGray posted:

I was also both unsurprised and horrified by how apparently lax a lot of safety parameters were back then. Even just the short anecdote of him and some other scientists casually eating lunch in a chemistry lab WHILE processing chemicals just a few feet away (one container of which exploded, of course).

lol

if: you have done for-real research in a chemistry lab,
and if: you have had a desk of your own in that lab

then: you have eaten food at that desk

it's like a metaphysical certitude

wdarkk
Oct 26, 2007

Friends: Protected
World: Saved
Crablettes: Eaten


This is how artificial sweeteners were discovered IIRC.

Either that or a dude licking his hands.

Antivehicular
Dec 30, 2011

I wanna sing one for the cars
That are right now headed silent down the highway
And it's dark and there is nobody driving
And something has got to give


Every lab on Earth has clandestine food. I once worked in a biotech lab, in the food-safety division that was explicitly working on mycotoxins, and found a bag of Craisins just chilling in a drawer when I was setting up my bench. Of all the foods to risk contaminating yourself for, why Craisins?

Hieronymous Alloy
Jan 30, 2009


Why! Why!! Why must you refuse to accept that Dr. Hieronymous Alloy's Genetically Enhanced Cream Corn Is Superior to the Leading Brand on the Market!?!



Morbid Hound

We'll start the New Year with Curse of Capistrano.

FlowerRhythmREMIX
Nov 4, 2011

GAMING is praxis!





Neat, maybe I'll actually finish that one. I'm slowly working through Ignition, but it's not holding me the way I had hoped.

NGDBSS
Dec 30, 2009








FlowerRhythmREMIX posted:

Neat, maybe I'll actually finish that one. I'm slowly working through Ignition, but it's not holding me the way I had hoped.
I take it you haven't reached the halogens chapter yet. Clark has some choices words there about fluorine in general and chlorine trifluoride in particular, which is best described as hellfire but in real life.

Hieronymous Alloy
Jan 30, 2009


Why! Why!! Why must you refuse to accept that Dr. Hieronymous Alloy's Genetically Enhanced Cream Corn Is Superior to the Leading Brand on the Market!?!



Morbid Hound

Oh, and I gave this book to my father-in-law for Christmas. He's a retired chemistry professor and as told him some of the example quotes from the book he kept chiming in with "oh yeah, we used to do that!" e.g., Apparently the hydrogen flame burners he used to use, you could never tell if they'd actually ignited or not, so you'd just wave something over them to see if they were on; if a pipe cleaner didn't catch fire when waved over the burner, it wasn't on!

FlowerRhythmREMIX
Nov 4, 2011

GAMING is praxis!





NGDBSS posted:

I take it you haven't reached the halogens chapter yet. Clark has some choices words there about fluorine in general and chlorine trifluoride in particular, which is best described as hellfire but in real life.

I donít think I have! Iím about 20% through

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Hubbardologist
Jan 19, 2007

Secretly force socialism, communism and imperialism types of government onto the people of the United States of America.



Yeah I'm stalled at about that point too. Going to push through though! I'm chalking it up to weird holiday times messing with my reading schedule, and finding Clark's writing just a tad bit less interesting than I had hoped.

Might join in the reading of the Zorro book, my only experience with that franchise is the Antonio Banderas movie(s?).

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