Let’s kick off this column with Vesto Slipher and Fritz Zwicky and Plinus Moody!

No, it’s not another column about interesting college football player names. It’s a compendium of things learned from a book I got as a Christmas gift.

The book is “A Short History of Nearly Everything.” It was written by Robert Redford. Well, okay, not really. Its author is the wonderfully witty Bill Bryson, who must look a lot like Robert Redford, since Bob portrayed Bill in the filmization of Bill’s book “A Walk in the Woods.”

(This is only my opinion, but darnit, Bill looks like Bob more than I look like George Clooney, though it still helps if it’s in fading twilight, from about 33 yards away, from behind.)

“A Short History” is a book about science – immensely simplified, but real, science. Although I got it – as in, received it – I mostly don’t get it – as in, comprehend it. But I asked for it specifically, so I can only blame myself for not getting what I got.

What does this have to do with Vesto Slipher, Fritz Zwicky, or Plinus Moody? Oh, AND Elvis. Yes, THE Elvis. Well, they’re science-y types mentioned in the book. Wait, the first three are. Elvis is mentioned, because, well, read on.

Plinus Moody: Described as “a Massachusetts farm boy,” Plinus pops up for a single mention in a section of the book describing the growing importance of fossils in scientific thought during the early 1800s. Plinus is credited with finding some dinosaur bones and fossilized footprints near South Hadley, Mass. Some of those bones are still preserved at Yale University’s Peabody Museum (named for Hector J. Peabody, the time-traveling cartoon dog from the old “Rocky and Bullwinkle” show.*)

(*Not really.)

Googling Plinus Moody doesn’t result in a lot of hits. But the first link that popped up was a YouTube video of a song called “Plinus Moody,” by a band called wordsSHIFTminds. It’s a ditty of somewhat repetitive electronica; reminds me a little of a small child saying “Dad! Dad! Dad! Dad! Dad! (etc etc etc etc etc.)” The video actually isn’t one —it’s just a static view of a piece of op art.

As of today, this video is not a hit; it’s has been viewed three times, twice by me. However, I wonder what would happen if you, and everyone in your household, and every other reader, and everyone in their households, were to click on it?! Maybe we could get “Plinus Moody” trending!!

Fritz Zwicky: An astrophysicist of “abrasive personality and erratic talents, “says Redford-Bryson. He was the first to employ the term supernova, and did some of the earliest work relating to dark matter, which is something incomprehensible that incomprehensibly exists somewhere incomprehensible. Zwicky never won Mr. Congeniality awards from his colleagues; Redford-Bryson says; they considered him an “irritating buffoon.” (To prove his manliness, he liked to spontaneously drop to the floor and do one-armed push-ups. ) He developed an historically important presentation — the one that introduced “supernovae” — with a fellow astrophysicist named Walter Baade. But they weren’t exactly bosom buddies; for example, Zwicky would call Baade, who was German, a Nazi, which Baade wasn’t. AND he once told Walter he would kill him. Which couldn’t have made Baade very eager to go to the office the next day.

Vesto Slipher: I would include Vesto on a list of interesting college football names if he’d played college football! Alas, he was merely a brilliant astronomer who laid the groundwork for crucial concepts such as the Doppler shift, the fundamental motions of the cosmos, and why Shakira’s hips don’t lie.

An excellent Vesto factoid: He was a Hoosier! He was born in Mulberry, Indiana, and got his doctorate from Indiana University. If you know where Mulberry, Indiana is WITHOUT GOOGLING, send me a self-addressed, stamped envelope and, oh, say, $10. You’ll get back a Major Award with a value of at least $3!!!

What about Elvis? Well, it has to do with atomic particles, and how many untold trillions there are, and how they “circulate” throughout the universe. And they’re recyclable! Thus, some of your atoms used to be part of Sacajawea, and Mozart, and Harriet Tubman, and Plinus Moody. However, atoms require decades to get about, so you, as Redford-Bryson puts it, “are not yet one with Elvis Presley.” But Slipher passed away 8 years sooner, so maybe, presto, you’re part Vesto!!

Trending Video

Recommended for you