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Posts Tagged ‘Soap Box Derby

Brevity is the soul of wit…


Fifteen years ago, educator and humorist Eric Schulman wrote a “The History of the Universe in 200 Words or Less.”  It first appeared in the January/February 1997 issue of Annals of Improbable Research; since then, it has been translated into more than thirty languages:

Quantum fluctuation. Inflation. Expansion. Strong nuclear interaction. Particle-antiparticle annihilation. Deuterium and helium production. Density perturbations. Recombination. Blackbody radiation. Local contraction. Cluster formation. Reionization? Violent relaxation. Virialization. Biased galaxy formation? Turbulent fragmentation. Contraction. Ionization. Compression. Opaque hydrogen. Massive star formation. Deuterium ignition. Hydrogen fusion. Hydrogen depletion. Core contraction. Envelope expansion. Helium fusion. Carbon, oxygen, and silicon fusion. Iron production. Implosion. Supernova explosion. Metals injection. Star formation. Supernova explosions. Star formation. Condensation. Planetesimal accretion. Planetary differentiation. Crust solidification. Volatile gas expulsion. Water condensation. Water dissociation. Ozone production. Ultraviolet absorption. Photosynthetic unicellular organisms. Oxidation. Mutation. Natural selection and evolution. Respiration. Cell differentiation. Sexual reproduction. Fossilization. Land exploration. Dinosaur extinction. Mammal expansion. Glaciation. Homo sapiens manifestation. Animal domestication. Food surplus production. Civilization! Innovation. Exploration. Religion. Warring nations. Empire creation and destruction. Exploration. Colonization. Taxation without representation. Revolution. Constitution. Election. Expansion. Industrialization. Rebellion. Emancipation Proclamation. Invention. Mass production. Urbanization. Immigration. World conflagration. League of Nations. Suffrage extension. Depression. World conflagration. Fission explosions. United Nations. Space exploration. Assassinations. Lunar excursions. Resignation. Computerization. World Trade Organization. Terrorism. Internet expansion. Reunification. Dissolution. World-Wide Web creation. Composition. Extrapolation?

Shulman expanded the exercise into the short book pictured above, A Briefer History of Time (free download here)…  then contracted it again into a sixty-second video slideshow (on the NSF site, here).

Your correspondent has no doubt that readers would, with the benefit of the decade-and-a-half that has passed, revise the account…  but what a place to start!  And what a powerful demonstration of Cicero’s maxim (cribbed by Polonius/Shakespeare, as in the title of this post): “brevity is a great charm of eloquence”…


As we rally those red pencils, we might recall that it was on this date in 1934 that the first “All-American Soap Box Derby” was run in Dayton, Ohio.  (It moved to Akron the following year…)



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