Belmont Club


Harvard yard collects myth. John Harvard’s statue, for example is locally known as the “Statue of the Three Lies”. The inscription claims that it depicts John Harvard, Founder, 1638, but John Harvard did not found the university, which was founded in 1636. And the statue really depicts a student, who the sculptor used as a model. Thus the Three Lies.

Another myth is that somewhere in Harvard Yard during World War 2 a distinguished group of faculty members worked out the physics of creating man-made firestorms. The legend probably derives from the work of Dr. Louis Frieser, whose Harvard research team beat chemists from Du Pont and Standard Oil to develop napalm, a substance which needs no introduction, after much other work in incendiaries.

But it is the concept of a firestorm which lends itself to the most analogues. Joseph Stalin once remarked that “quantity has a quality all its own”. The idea applies to a firestorm because it is based on the concept that if you create a fire big enough and of the right shape, it eventually transforms itself into a forced draft furnace. The fire itself comes alive and hunts abroad like a living thing looking for ever more to consume.

A firestorm is a conflagration which attains such intensity that it creates and sustains its own wind system. … A firestorm is created as a result of the stack effect as the heat of the original fire draws in more and more of the surrounding air. … This wind shear is capable of producing small tornado- or dust devil-like circulations called fire whirls which can also dart around erratically, damage or destroy houses and buildings, and quickly spread the fire to areas outside the central area of the fire.

One of the most horrifying phenomena associated with firestorms is the flame devil. These are columns of intense heat which rampage down streets, melting asphalt underfoot and pursuing terrified survivors like an apparition from hell. A firestorm is by its nature an out of control conflagration.  It stops only when it has sated itself. It is interesting that firestorms have returned to Cambridge in another form. What started out as a foregone exercise to fill the Senate seat formerly occupied by Ted Kennedy in Massachusetts has gradually turned into an incandescent furnace drawing in national figures and forces from all over into a kind of cauldron. What comes out of the smoke at the end of the process will be known after Tuesday.

The Boston Globe says Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney, Bill Clinton, John Kerry have come in other their respective sides. President Obama has arrived to campaign for Coakely and says that his entire agenda hangs in the balance.  Even the little guys are getting into the act. A reader send me an email describing a curious and possibly isolated incident at a Friendly’s involving some persons spray painting cars which bore a Brown bumper sticker. “None of this has been reported in the local news”.

A lot of fuel is being dropped into Massachusetts? What will be the result? Open thread. (Please be civil and reasoned in your commentary)

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