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Radio Derb Follow-Ups: Putin's Truculent Sneer, GRAVITATION's Grab-Bag
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December 05, 2015, 02:58 PM
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One listener to my November 27th podcast wondered if my choice of Frank Crumit singing "Abdul Abulbul Amir" was inspired by Jerry Pournelle having posted the poem on his November 25th blog.

No, it was a case of great minds thinking alike.  The coincidence is not actually very startling.  People of Jerry's age (82) and mine (70) grew up listening to the radio (or in England, the wireless).  Crumit's rendering was quite commonly heard on popular music request shows like Forces' Favourites.  I assume the same was true in the 1940s-1950s U.S.A., though Jerry says he was directed to the poem by a schoolmaster.

The thing was pretty well known to us in any case.  Any face-off between Russians and Turks naturally brings it to mind.

I always particularly liked the lines:

One day this bold Russian, he shouldered his gun

And donned his most truculent sneer . . .

I would rather like to have a truculent sneer I could don, but I haven't got the face for it.  It comes off looking like I just underwent oral surgery.

Vladimir Putin has a great truculent sneer. Perhaps it's an especially Russian thing.

And then, in regard to the December 4th Radio Derb, several listeners have emailed in to tell me that Misner, Thorne, and Wheeler's Gravitation can be gotten as a PDF file via, if you don't feel like paying $400 and up for a used print copy.

I actually knew this before RD went on the air.'s James Fulford, with his usual supererogatory diligence, apprised me of it, and downloaded a copy of the book into my Dropbox.

So I've been browsing nostalgically.  Gravitation is a marvelous grab-bag of a book.  You can open it almost anywhere and find something interesting, if you have some basic physics and differential geometry.

I remember now how they got me on page 36 with "geometrized units."  The mass of the Sun in centimeters, for example, is 147,700 — less than a mile.