Wednesday, April 06, 2005

The Smithsonian

The Smithsonian magazine arrived yesterday. This is always bad for my concentration. Each magazine is packed with more story ideas than I could possibly write.

For example, this month has an article on the Hope diamond and its chequered history. The Hope diamond was originally part of the French Blue, the centre piece of the French crown jewels that was stolen in 1792.
The French blue was originally 67 carats, cut from a rough cut diamond of 117 carats found in India in the 1660s The Hope diamond is 45.52 carats. This means that roughly 69 carats were cut from the original and that other diamonds might be related to the Hope. Several other diamonds have claimed descent from the same stone as the Hope, but recent research shows that probably there were no sizable diamonds...

Another article deals with the development of the polio vaccine and the conditions people in New York during the 1920s suffered. Polio has been around since the Egyptians but became a serious problem in the 19th century due to improved sanitation and indoor plumbing. Before that, the theory goes that people were exposed to low levels of the disease and generally developed immunity.
There are other articles on recent Roman finds at Leptis Magna in Libya and the wonderfully evocative mosaics of gladiators that were found there -- as well as the problems of conservation as well the new Indian memorial at Little Big Horn (a place for ghosts if ever there was one) and the Beer emergency in the 1920s and medical beer as a way to circumvent Prohibition.
All worthy of a novel in their own right. Not to mention the half dozen of so ideas from last month's magazine and the month before....
My beloved sister has been sending me this magazine as my birthday present for the last several years. It is always with a sigh of relief, I open the renewal notice. I much prefer the magazine to the National Geographic -- perhaps because the range of articles is wider or perhaps because there is a greater emphasis on history. Whatever the reason, I always consider the time spent reading it, well worth the effort (despite the renewed clamoring of story ideas)

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