24 May 2006
SETI League
PriUPS Project


Barns and Nobelium

Roger Nichols is a columnist who writes about issues in the audio industry.  As a long-time participant in that field, I find myself reading his columns.  They are usually interesting and thought provoking.  One, however, was reply provoking.  It was published in EQ Magazine in May of 2000, and was entitled The Industrial Resolution.  My reply was engendered by his tongue-in-cheek terminal paragraph:

Now you know everything about console faders. Next month we will cover the Neutron capture cross sections of trans-Uranium elements and why the increments are measured in Barns.

(This is the unedited version from his web site, not what I recall reading in the print version to which I have no access at the moment.  I believe the last word in that version was "elements," which makes the following even more appropriate.)

I don't recall having any great wisdom to impart regarding the content of the article itself, but I had to title the email to him "Barns and Nobelium."  At the time, I felt this was the single most clever email Subject line ever to cross the internet.  Perhaps there have been subsequent ones created by some spammer's randomizer, but at the time I was very proud of it.

And I'm still very proud of it!  A literary nuclear pun!  I'm not an atomic scientist, but Nichols is, or at least was, and would have gotten it.  (Nobelium, you see, has an atomic number of 102, and so is trans that of uranium, 92.)  But Roger Nichols, a prolific and connected dude, never even acknowledged my email.  Not privately, not publicly.  Now that I have my own blog, not only can I tout my supernal cleverness, but, with the force of an electron-positron annihilation, I can and hereby do emit a hearty "Harumph, Mr. Nichols."

I feel better, now, thank you.

Follow-up 15 April 2011

I was surprised to find out that Roger Nichols was a ham radio operator, just as I am.  His call letters were KE4BDA.  I found out in the least pleasant way possible, in his obituary on the ARRL web site.  He died on 09 April, which death was duly noted in several audio publications a few days before this follow-up.  We have lost a number of audio industry notables this year (2011), including Dr. Sidney Harman on 12 April, Bruce Jackson on 29 January, and Bear (Owsley Stanley) on 13 March.

The System continues to mock us.

Richard Factor