## The Fast New Sound

So you know about the speed of sound, right? Don’t worry, it’s easy to catch up. Turns out sound travels at some speed. It’s like 750 miles an hour at normal temperature and pressure. Slower at temperatures and pressures that make the speed of sound slower. Faster otherwise. I told you it would be easy to catch up.

But how fast can you make the speed of sound? I don’t mean you particularly. I know you’ve got enough projects, what with looking at the news and then screaming at the wall. I mean you as if you were someone who wasn’t you, and who had to do something about the speed of sound. I admit I don’t know what I’d do about making the speed of sound faster. Maybe drop a loudspeaker from a helicopter and check how fast that sound hits the ground. I know, you’d think, what if we just made the sound louder? But it turns out loud doesn’t convert into fast. Loud just converts into nervous.

So we need better schemes to make fastness. The trick is that sound works by the elasticity of the thing it’s moving through. You know elasticity well, from all the time you spend bouncing. Me, I know it from trying to get the elastic band off this bundle of radishes. I don’t know how but the elastic band winds through every stalk, so there’s no taking it off except by going into higher dimensions of space, from which the radishes are still banded together.

Here’s where I read that a bunch of people at the Queen Mary University of London, the University of Cambridge, and the Institute for High Pressure Physics in Troitsk worked out just how fast you could make sound. It turns out it’s about 36 kilometers per second.

This fastest possible sound happens if you send sound through solid atomic hydrogen. You don’t have any solid atomic hydrogen, I’m know, because that only exists when you have, like, a million atmospheres of pressure. And I checked. The atmospheric pressure on Earth is one atmosphere of pressure. Maybe physics works a little different in Troitsk. Probably it does, or why would they have a whole institute for the high-pressure physics of Troitsk? But I bet none of the people with the institute are reading this. They’re doing things like figuring out the fastest speed of sound. They don’t have time to read me going on like this.

Or do they? We have to consider some of the benefits of making sound really, really fast. Like, at 36 kilometers per second, Yes’s Tales from Topographic Oceans would zip by so fast you could hear it a third time in your life. So there’s time savings involved. I know, you could just hit the thing on your iPod that makes songs play faster. You can. I can’t. My iPod is in the shop, being repaired. I hope it’s an iPod repair shop. I know you wonder why I didn’t check that first. The answer is that I have spent parts of five consecutive months now trying to get a Nintendo repair shop to repair a Nintendo Switch. No part of that process has gone well. You know that deep bone-weariness you experience when, like, you see “Suncoast Video” is Trending under Politics for some undoubtedly awful reason? That’s what I feel when considering consumer-electronics repair. Entering a storefront at random and wordlessly shoving my iPod at a person who turns out to be the hummus manager at The Pita Pit can not be worse.

What other benefits are there on the sound thing? Oh, I bet if you had sound the fastest it could travel, then inhaling helium would actually lower the pitch of your voice. I wrote that as a joke, but I think that would actually work? Except you have to start out encased in solid atomic hydrogen at more than one million atmospheres of pressure. I don’t know what you’d say in that case.

The article said it turns out the fastest possible speed of sound depends on the fine structure constant and the proton-to-electron mass ratio. The mass ratio is what you get from looking at how often protons and electrons are commented on compared to retweeted. The fine structure constant is a general agreement about how nice it would be to have some direction in our lives these days. How this gets back to sound I’ll never know.

## Where I Am And Where I Am Not, Today

Where I am: I successfully managed to start my car with fewer than three trips back to the door to confirm that I had locked it, the way I have always locked it when going out to my car.

Where I am not: I left my iPod in the house so I had to go back for it, spoiling my good work in the door-locking trades.

## Why I’m Not Ready To Talk About How September Treated My Blog Just Yet

So I found there were some ancient Jack Benny Program podcasts that my iPod somehow had for some reason and I got to listening. And they had some real obscure ones, like from his show before Jell-O picked him up as a sponsor and before his writers had invented Phil Harris and everything. And the show was weird back then, since he didn’t have any of his famous cast except Mary Livingstone and she was still mostly doing Dumb Dora. And then they got to what sketch they’d do on the next week’s show. “Next week, folks, we’re going to do a real old-fashioned style minstrel show!”

So I had to cry out, “NO! DON’T DO IT, JACK BENNY PROGRAM OF 1933!” and throw myself at the iPod, smothering it with my body and saving my whole platoon from the imminent racefail. And while my iPod’s Otter case was strong enough to withstand my falling all over it, and the next episode turned out to be one from 1944 and everything was normal, I’m still not quite up to par. Jack Paar was Benny’s summer replacement host for 1947. But you can see why this has me all off my schedule.

## Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

Traders were feeling optimistic about the Another Blog, Meanwhile Index given how they were able to remember all the Next Generation episodes mentioned yesterday except the drunken-singalong one, and that they really are all legitimate episodes and some of them even good ones. Also that you could too win an Emmy Award for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Hairstyling, just like if you were going to make a joke about technical Emmys.

# 131

## In Which I Review The Only Thing I Get At Best Buy Anymore

All right, fine, Best Buy, I’ll review my stupid purchase already.

Ahem. I purchased recently a 30-pin-USB-to-lightning adapter. When I examined it in the store it appeared to be a thing which existed, possessing definite properties of mass and length and ability to adapt. When taken out of the store it continued to exhibit these properties to the best of my ability to determine. When opened up and put into service in my car the adapting properties came to the fore. The fore was not included in the purchase, but I was aware of that fact and did not expect it to be. It did not affect my decision to purchase this product.

This was not my first attempt at buying an adapter. The first one ended in a sad failure. That, too, was from Best Buy but I do not fault the store. I fault my sister. She recommended I buy one of those stiff, thick, Otter cases for my iPod when I finally got one ten years after everybody in the world got one. I like the case. It feels nice and secure. But it’s also big. I suppose my sister got it because in her line of work she’s liable to drop her iPhone from atop a horse, who will then kick the phone a couple times, and maybe bite her for good measure. She trains horses and horse-riders, so this is a normal hazard. It’s not as though she has a job at the indie video store still open in town that somehow keeps going awry. The shop has a canter-up window for horse riders, and she doesn’t have a job there anyway.

I know, tender Best Buy review reader, you might wonder at cantering up to a video shop window. Sure, cantering horses can achieve speeds of 16 or even 27 miles per hour, according to the lead paragraph on Wikipedia that I get by typing ‘canter’ in to DuckDuckGo because yes I’m that guy. But if you’re picking up a copy of, say, George Lucas’s computer-animated thing with the fairy opossums or something that kind of got released a couple years back? Strange Magic or something? Well, you need to do something to spruce that up. Lobbing it toward you at speed is just the trick.

So the Otter case is maybe too much case for my iPod. I don’t work with horses and I sidle casually away even from photographs of them. My electronics just have to survive my forgetting I left them in the dining room, to emotional distress that a thick rubber casing actually kind of helps with. I guess it feels like being hugged.

The case is pretty thick and the first adapter I got was a stubby little thing that couldn’t reach the plug unless I took the Otter case off. The case can be easily removed by chisel and dynamite, I assume. I haven’t got the trick myself. But I had to return the adapter, which your computers with their transaction records know full well. See my review of that, titled, “adapter didn’t fit my iPod’s case”, 450 crafted words about my two minutes of ownership of the thing.

When I learned there was an adapter with a smaller plug that would be more likely to fit my Otter case I was happy. Not so happy as, say, when Nelson Mandela was released from prison. Closer to how happy I am when it turns out a McDonalds I stopped in has all their Chicken McNugget sauces in pump dispensers so I could put sweet chili sauce on my fries.

If I find anything unsatisfactory it is that when I plug in my iPod the system ignores my podcasts and opens up the music player. It’ll play the first song in alphabetical order that I have, and it’ll ignore all directions. So starting the car will include a moment when I hurl myself at the iPod trying without success to The Electric Prunes’ version of About A Quarter To Nine. This is me overreacting. I mean, I bought the Electric Prunes record of my own free will. But if it weren’t for that then the iPod would play Sparks’s Academy Award Performance. Anyway, I don’t know if the problem is this adapter, the other adapter, the car, or just the iPod being difficult because it has to deal with iTunes all day long.

In short, this adapter is a thing which exists, and which possesses definite properties of mass and length and ability to adapt. We should all be so fortunate.

## Why We Never Listen To My iPod On Shuffle

If I’m alone in the car I listen to audio books. I’ve got a lot of them because I don’t have to drive alone in the car much anymore. The current model iPod hides the things it knows to be audio books off in a different application because listening to music files is totally different from listening to someone reading. Fine. But with a bunch of audio book files I haven’t got around to setting the flag that tells the iPod that it’s an audio book, not music.

So. We tried my iPod on shuffle for a change because my love’s iPod that we normally listen to was low on battery and we forgot its cable. We were running about one-third “weird electronic music experiments from that time I bought an album of BBC Radiophonic sound products” to two-thirds “random chapters from Michael Lewis’s The Big Short and Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde”. Which apparently is a lot longer in audio book form than I imagined because it just kept coming up. I should probably listen to it sometime.

## What Amazon Thinks I’ll Buy

Yes, it’s annoying that big corporations insist on knowing everything about us. And insist on tying everything into big identity profiles ready to be swiped by hackers or sold to marketers. But at least they repay us by being uproariously bad at guessing what we might want to buy. From a recent Amazon list of suggested things I might give them money for:

OK. Headphones, I can’t really argue with. I’ve got consumer electronics, I’ve got ears. We have a plausible match here.

Nutritional diet for cockatiels. I don’t have a cockatiel. I never have. I can’t get within four feet of a cockatiel without it eyeing me and opening its beak to figure out how it can eat as much of me as possible before I can react. I get enough of that from my friends, I don’t need it from my pets. My best guess: they worked out somehow that my sister had a cockatiel, back during the Reagan administration, and they’re hoping that she still has that bird, that it’s quite old, and that I want to give my sister pet supplies for Christmas. We don’t have that kind of relationship. She takes care of horses, so her wish list consists of incomprehensible pieces of horse gear that, based on the price, are made of high-grade americium lined with platinum, plus some e-books. I buy the e-books.

Lightning cable. Can’t argue that much. I did buy an iPod Touch over the summer, and of course it can’t use any of the estimated 28 USB cables we already had around. Well, the iPod Touch came with this cable, but I’ll lose that one eventually. They’re just premature here.

Mendini Clarinet. Just … no. Amazon, I hate to break this to you, but woodwinds? Me? I’ll have you know I played violin from third to like seventh grade. I can’t say I was the best violin player in the world, just the best one in my elementary school. I was able to always hit the notes you get by just running the bow across the strings, and I was often able to hit the notes you get by putting your fingers on the strings before running the bow. So if you need a scratchy, nearly-in-key rendition of Jingle Bells, the Theme to Masterpiece Theater‘s Non-Challenging Opening Bits, or the musical Cats’s Memory, well, find me a violin and give me some time to warm up again. But a clarinet? Rank foolishness, that’s all there is to it.

Though looking at it … this does seem like a pretty good deal on a clarinet, doesn’t it? Except according to this a three pound bag of cockatiel food normally retails for over one hundred twenty-five dollars and sixty-nine cents and they’re marking it down to ten bucks? Of all the things they think I might buy, they’re putting that alleged fact on the list?