Friday, October 27, 2006

A Farm for Chocolate Cakes

Over at Liber Parma "Ria" proposes an interesting puzzle:
Where on earth might a farm be situated so as to be able to have available all the ingredients to make a chocolate cake?
This gives rise to a large number of interesting questions about the recipe, the required ingredients and tools, cimate, growing conditions, and so on.

I have already commented on it on "Ria's" blogg; but I have a little more to add about the puzzle in itself.

This puzzle is a wonderful thing to ponder. It reminds me of Robinson Crusoe, or the Swiss Family Robinson, or the Danny Dunn story about living on a desert island.

All Chestertonians know GKC's answer to the question "What book would you want on a desert island?" is "Thomas's Guide to Practical Shipbuilding". But not everyone remembers GKC's discussion in Orthodoxy:
Crusoe is a man on a small rock with a few comforts just snatched from the sea: the best thing in the book is simply the list of things saved from the wreck. The greatest of poems is an inventory. Every kitchen tool becomes ideal because Crusoe might have dropped it in the sea. It is a good exercise, in empty or ugly hours of the day, to look at anything, the coal-scuttle or the bookcase, and think how happy one could be to have brought it out of the sinking ship on to the solitary island.
[GKC, Orthodoxy CW1:267]
It deserves serious consideration not only for itself, but for what it implies (see his next paragraph for details!)

GKC also has a great story in CW14 called "My Uncle the Professor" in which he tells the story (from a nine-year-old viewpoint) of how his "uncle" and he went to live in a tree. You will really enjoy it.

Finally, I will mention a famous science fiction story called Spacehounds of IPC by the exceedingly famous E. E. "Doc" Smith in which the hero has to build a high-tech device almost "from scratch".


At 27 October, 2006 13:58, Blogger electroblogster said...

It's funny that it tickled your fancy too. I am an engineer and yet I work on the shoulders of so many (giants and minor players too) that I could not do what I do now from scratch .

That gets under my skin a little bit. So I too find myself pondering how I would survive - not on an island - but if I, like the Conn. Yankee, were suddenly transported back in time. Though I confess I was pondering this long before I read that book. I wondered what I could do to be worthy of the gift in my chosen capcity of tinkerer. What could I do to advance technology if I were to land in the year (?)??? ?.C.

In Conn. Yankee Hank is just close enough to the non-industrial past to know a lot of things from the ground up. He can take things that you would find in Arthur's world and recognize them for what the industrial world would make them into - wires, lightning rods and blasting powder to mention one scene. We will say nothing more about his motives or the wit with which it is written.

But that, in essence, is what I would like to be able to do. I would like to return the favor by advancing man's struggle with nature. Alas, I cannot do it using a PLC and a good computer - too far from the earth. The blasting powder is a bit of chemistry I don't understand. But I think I could probably do some good work with motors, solenoids and switches. I even think I could recognize both copper ore and magnetite. Oh, and chocolate cake is now more within reach!! And I think that I am carrying a few ideas around in my head (thanks to some giants) that could be useful regarding science, math, religion and politics.

(On second thought I probably couldn't add too much to religion after about 1400 A.D. - there is some amazingly advanced thought found in some pretty ancient archives of the Catholic Church!)

I would not spend time worrying about the the "grandfather paradox". If I was sent back I would know that it must have a reason.

In addition to the very essence of practicality in this endeavor I like to think it makes me appreciate my current world a little more. For example, I thank heaven I was born after these few advances: indoor plumbing (esp. the commode), the light bulb, the automobile, natural gas heating and readily available sweetened chocolate... No emperor of any age save our own had such luxury!


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