EXACTLY ONE-HUNDRED YEARS AGO…
"At 11:40pm on April 14 the Royal Mail Steamer Titanic, bound from Southampton, England, to New York, hit an iceberg on its starboard side in the North Atlantic four hundred miles from the coast of Newfoundland. Water began rushing into the enormous ship, thought by many to be unsinkable. Twenty-five minutes later the crew was told to prepare the lifeboats and alert the passengers. The first boat was launched at 12:45; the last, at 2:05. There was only enough capacity in the boats for half the people on board, and some of the boats were not fully loaded. At 2:20 the Titanic's stern disappeared into the sea. The Carpathia came upon the first boat and began taking in survivors at 4:10. The last boat was unloaded at 8:30. The Carpathia rescued 705 people; 1,503 died.”
—Steven Biel, Down with the Old Canoe: A Cultural History of the Titanic Disaster
FIRST LINES FROM NEW BOOKS OUT TODAY: MARCH 26, 2012
"The burst of gas came from so deep within the bowels of the earth it may as well have come from another world. Thirteen thousand feet beneath the ocean’s silty floor and the earth’s crust and another five thousand feet underwater—a total depth farther than fourteen Empire State buildings stacked atop one another—hydrocarbons in the form of hot fluid saturated with dissolved methane seeped through the reinforced walls of a new oil well."
Run to Failure: BP and the Making of the Deepwater Horizon Disaster by Abrahm Lustgarten
"Seventy-four years old in 1912, Henry Adams felt as much enthusiasm for crossing to Europe on the Titanic as an old man who believed that the world was collapsing could muster.”
Down with the Old Canoe: A Cultural History of the Titantic Disaster by Steven Biel
"A quarter of a million miles straight up. That’s the distance to the Moon, and it’s not just a guess but a very well-determined number, even though the distance varies by 10 percent due to the Moon’s elliptical orbit. We know the Moon’s distance with a precision of 1 millimeter, far more accurately than you might know the distance to the nearest wall, or the distance to the person across from you at the dinner table."
How It Began: A Time-Traveler’s Guide to the Universe by Chris Impey
"Could one have guessed while he was a still a child that Richard Feynman would become perhaps the greatest, and probably the most beloved, physicist of the last half of the twentieth century? It is not so clear, even if many of the incipient signs were there. He was undeniably smart. He had a nurturing father who entertained him with puzzles and instilled a love of learning, encouraging his innate curiosity and feeding his mind whenever possible. And he had a chemistry set and displayed a fascination with radios."
Quantum Man: Richard Feynman’s Life in Science by Lawrence M. Krauss (with corrections to the text by novelist Cormac McCarthy)