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May 15, 2010

God is an Iron. ??



Vannevar Bush wrote that a person's tracks through the Memex of accumulated information would be valuable, and that a father might pass his record of these links down to his children as things of significance. And so I feel like I should identify the track of links that led me to this quote of Spider Robinson: God is an iron.

I was reading the excellent GetTheFlick blog, which referred to a book called Squawk 1200: A History of the Next Midair Collision by Paul Niquette in which Dr. Niquette relates his role in the history of aircraft transponders, Mode C, and TCAS (TCAS is one of the very few {or very first} operational places where we put the machines unilaterally in charge of the humans.)

Dr. Niquette tells about Eastern 375, a flight he hoped to take out of Boston in 1960. His secretary failed to confirm his reservation so he was placed at #8 on standby. He struck up a conversation with a traveller who was #9 on the standby list. It seemed as if the flight would depart without ever boarding standby #8, so Dr. Niquette walked away from the boarding area and spent the night at a hotel.

The next day's headlines were filled with the crash of Eastern 375 due to multiple bird strikes on departure. Pictures of the wreckage showed two dead passengers still strapped into their seats; one of them was the man who was #9 on standby - in other words, if Niquette had been more patient, he would have been dead.

Dr. Niquette writes, "One privilege I have enjoyed over the years is working with bright, insightful people. Kevin is all of that. And a bit mystical. I told him about my encounter with Eastern Flight 375. He listened intently. "God is an iron," he said."

I read that line and I could not make any sense of it. I re-read the chapter and I still did not get it. So I Googled "God is an Iron" and found this:
If a person who indulges in gluttony is a glutton,
and a person who commits a felony is a felon,
then God is an iron.
” - Spider Robinson
I think Vannevar was right, the connections are important.

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