This one is personal: Brewster Rockit has been riffing on the recent discovery of a 3.7 billion year old bacterium.
The discovery was not of an actual 3.7 billion year old bacterium itself, but of its fossil, or, to be even more accurate, the discovery of a bed of such fossils, in the recently-exposed rocks of Greenland.
I still find the notion of fossilized bacteria mind-blowing. More typical, in the public mind, would be two examples of cartoons I saw this week in which kids blithely walked over small stones that, in a cross-section of the earth, we saw were actually the tops of entire dinosaur skeletons.
Well, you never know. About all sorts of things.
One of the things I warned a son about, as he headed off to college with a car, was that there would always be someone around with a good idea of how to have some off-campus fun at any given moment. As owner of a car, he'd find an endless supply of those opportunities, but he needed to bear in mind that -- his being a competitive college -- those people with good ideas for fun at a given moment would be investing their other hours in work and study.
He could find himself in serious academic trouble if he did not also set aside most of his time for academics, and, given that he graduated with solid grades, either he paid attention to my advice or he didn't need it.
Very high on the list of people I knew with good ideas of how to have fun was my friend Jack Sepkoski.
Jack was one of the funniest and more inventive people I've ever known, but that was about what I knew of him at the time: He was a blast to be around, not simply because he was fun, but because the hilarious things he said were grounded in a very intelligent sense of humor.
It was a quarter century or so later, when I had to track him down for an informal reunion of friends, that I learned he was more than "very intelligent" and was, in fact, a pioneer in paleontology on a couple of levels including examining fossilized one-cell life which, until that moment, I didn't realize was even possible.
That's him, conferring with his University of Chicago associate, David Raup, either of whose names merits a "wow" from those within the discipline.
Which dovetails nicely with yesterday's discussion of heroes to this extent: Real geniuses, like real heroes, don't always announce themselves.
In fact, what Jack is wearing in that pic is pretty much how I remember him -- corduroy coat and all.
No pocket protectors, nor did he constantly prattle on in a pretentiously "intelligent" fashion, nor was he prissy and demanding and spoiled.
He was just a regular guy, except for the part where he was way far more intelligent, or at least way more focused, than anyone else in our crowd.
Unfortunately, he wasn't immortal and he died at 50, shortly after I got in touch with him but before we got to sit down and catch up.
He'd have gotten a good laugh out of this week's Brewster Rockit arc, though.
Real genius includes having both the room and the capacity for some breadth of interest and joy, eccentric twits like Sir Isaac notwithstanding.
And speaking of fossils
Today's F-Minus also touches off a memory of ancient things, but this one may be more universally amusing.
The joke that this time-traveling stock tip is way too late can be readily explained, if you're willing to impose my own experience: It actually arrived in a timely fashion but since then has been sitting in the tray buried, fossil-like, under the spam and the frauds and the announcements of luncheon specials.
Who still uses these outdated technologies? You might be surprised.
We still had police departments faxing us their activity logs at my last paper, and finally persuaded them to send them as electronic text so we didn't have to re-type them. That was eight or nine years ago and I don't know how many people still use fax machines, but they are only one of a number of fossilized objects that once bore a great deal more relevance.
In fact, they were revolutionary.
And they once were new, as well. I remember when I was a business reporter and had to leave the building, cross the street and borrow the fax machine at the office supply store because we didn't have one yet, at a daily paper with some 150 employees.
That was about when I wrote this, which you may find amusing in its own ancient, fossilized way. If nothing else, consider the conclusion at right.
This was the beginning of "doing more with less."
(Pay no attention to the cartoon at lower left)