The Corner

Everybody’s a Critic

Really. Who let all these nit-pickers in?

Mr. Derbyshire — You said that: “If the temperature anywhere inside the earth was ’several million degrees,’ we’d be a star.” We wouldn’t, though. Wrong composition, and not big enough …

[Me]  Feugh! At those temperatures Earth would look a darn sight more star-like than planet-like, at least for the few minutes it existed. And I bet our light elements, sparse as they are, would seek each other out and fuse like gangbusters.

(A different reader suggests that if the Earth’s interior were at those temperatures, we could drill holes, feed fibre-optic cable down, and light our cities for free!)

And then this wisenheimer:

Mr. Derbyshire — Median length of a Chinese dynasty only 45 years? Surely you jest.

[Me]  Nah-uh. I copied the list of 32 imperial dynasties (starting from the First Emperor — where else should I start?) to a spreadsheet from Appendix A of Mathews’ Chinese-English Dictionary. I added one more: Median comes out neater with N odd, and the guy thought he’d established a dynasty, whatever Mathews says. Then I sorted by duration and read off number 17, which was the Wei Dynasty (A.D. 220–265). The mean duration of a dynasty, by the way, is 87.4 years.