Why I don’t Quite Fit

I remember standing on top of four feet (or more) of densely packed snow one night in northern Alaska. We were in a large circle under the stars and Northern Lights listening to our company commander explaining how to conduct ourselves during the next day’s inspection by the US Army Chief of Staff.

“Before we leave on the march out tomorrow, General Wickham will walk down the line. He may speak to you, ask you questions. These will not be hard questions. He is not going to ask you the square root of three….”

“1.732 , sir,” I said.

Needless to say, he was not amused. He rarely was ever amused by me. This seemed to be a pattern among Army officers. Well, all officers that I encountered.

In the generally misspent days of my youth, I often thought certain pieces of information would be of use later in life. The square root of the first five ordinal numbers, for example. The densities of certain materials such as gold and lead (1204 lbs and 708lbs per cubic foot, respectively).

This becomes an issue when I read a book, or watch a movie (and movies are generally worse), and gold gets involved. It’s bad enough that at the end of The Hobbit, Bilbo settles on a small chest of gold and another of silver, being as a much as pony would carry.  Small is relative term and ponies can carry a respectable load, of say a 150lbs, and so I can see that in my mind as reasonable. But in the third movie that is based on a story that is similar to that in The Hobbit, Bilbo is carrying what is allegedly a  chest of gold under his arm. Without much effort – and thus without much gold. And don’t even get me started on the gold-dipped dragon, there just ain’t that much magic in the world.

And yes, I start trying to estimate the surface area of Smaug and how much gold might be involved. I don’t get too far fortunately because it is just so silly.

Kelly’s Heroes is one of my favorite World War II movies. I still get amused at the idea of stealing 14,000 gold bars. Since the standard gold bar weighs 12.4 kg or 27.3 lbs, the total haul weighs in at about 190 tons. Any idea how many Deuce-and-a-halfs (2.5 tons) trucks would have been needed to haul all that gold away?

Just one, if it makes 77 trips.

And by the way, if stored perfectly efficiently as cubic foot blocks of gold with no space between blocks, we are looking at a stack of 317 blocks, say a stack of 10 on each side, three complete layers high with a fourth started. When stored in wooden crates at a weight that a single man could lift – six bars to a box – we need over 2300 boxes that take up a lot more room.

This is why I prefer to watch movies at home – I bother fewer people when I share my loss of suspension of disbelief.

What’s worse is visiting an art museum with me. Unless you like laughing inappropriately in public.


Be nice. It won't hurt either of us.

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