Saturday, 1 October 2011

Science and Wodehouse

It is difficult to imagine P.G. Wodehouse and science ending up together in any forum. One cannot visualise a dinner-table discussion involving both without a lot of bread rolls being thrown about.

 Throughout his nearly one hundred books, the master of wit hardly ever referred to the scientific world.
There is a delightful passage in the sweet little novel Dr. Sally where two souls ultimately unite by reeling off names of different bacteria. For some unknown reason eccentric peers suddenly start analysing the relative velocities of ants in summer and winter. Sometimes, the promise of a formula of scientific prominence allures imposters to stately houses. In his essays there are unverified Wodehousean statistics claiming 87% of askance looks are today given to humorists. The sexual habits of newts are sometimes expounded upon by Gussie Fink-Nottle. However, other than these one off references, the great writer generally stuck to the world of innocence where the forbidden fruit had not yet been bitten into by mankind, and therefore the quest of knowledge and tinkering in laboratories is left to other writers with bulging foreheads.

However, incredibly, we find his footprints in a scientific project of impregnably intimidating venture. The gist of the endeavour produces the déjà-vu like sensation of having come across it in one of Plum’s own lampooning of scientific research.

The Department of Geological Sciences of the University College of London constructed a photo-geological map of the Fortuna-Meshkenet Dunefield of the northernmost portion of Audra Planitia, in a saddle between the large tessera massifs of Fortuna Tessera and Meshkenet Tessera, in the planet Venus.
As Wodehouse would have put it, mentally translated into English, this means that they carried out an exercise to find out, classify and name the different tectonic features on a part of the landscape of Venus.
And in wondrous testimony to the popularity of P.G. Wodehouse amongst people from all stratas of society and intellect, the blokes who make it their life’s task to find out, classify and name the different tectonic features on a part of Venus landscape between the large tessera massifs of Fortuna Tessera and Meshkenet Tessera, somehow decided to name the features after the women of Wodehouse novels.

Thus, a low coalescent shield at 62.9 degree North and 90.9 degree East is named Honoria, a similar one at 62.8ºN, 91.2ºE is called Stiffy. A low hill, supposedly a buried shield is named Florence  and an elevated region of igneous origin is christened Dahlia.

The complete list of Geological features with names derived from Wodehousean women is given below:

Origin of name
62.9ºN, 90.9ºE
Low coalescent shield.
23.6 x 11.1km.
Honoria Glossop.
63.0ºN, 90.9ºE
1.5 x 2.5km summit pit.
From 'Jeeves and the kid Clementina.'
62.8ºN, 91.2ºE
Low coalescent shield.
Stephanie "Stiffy" Byng.
63.0ºN, 90.4ºE
Low hill / buried shield (?)
Florence Craye.
63.3ºN, 89.9ºE
Elevated region of igneous origin (?)
~65 x 25km.
8.9km diameter summit depression.
Aunt Dahlia.
63.7ºN, 89.7ºE
Shield volcano (?)
~6.6km diameter.
Roberta "Bobby" Wickham.
64.1ºN, 89.8ºE
Caldera (?)
29.9 x 23.5km.
Aunt Agatha.
64.1ºN, 89.8ºE
Composite volcano (?).
Basal diameter ~9.5km.
Height 1000-1600mtr.
Summit crater ~1100m across.
(Mrs) Fellow occupant of Berkeley Mansions W1.
Owner of a Pomeranian.
63.9ºN, 89.9ºE
Shield volcano (?)
Madeline Basset.
64.0ºN, 90.1ºE
Circular depression.
Rosie M. Banks.
64.1ºN, 89.9ºE
Viscous dome or plug.
~6.5km across.
Cora Bellinger.
64.7ºN, 90.5ºE
Volcanic cone (?)
Pauline Stoker.
64.4ºN, 90.0ºE
Old, partly buried caldera (?)
Muriel Singer.
64.8ºN, 89.9ºE
Volcano of unknown type.
Gwladys Pen

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