The aftermath of the Boston Molasses Disaster.
- In January 1919, a freak molasses accident claimed the lives of twenty-one people in Boston: a steel holding tank burst open, flooding the streets (and the nation’s nightmares) with 2.3 million gallons of treacle. Scientists have never really figured out why the spill was so deadly, but a team of researchers from the American Physical Society have an idea, writes Erin McCann: “By studying the effects of cold weather on molasses, the researchers determined that the disaster was more fatal in the winter than it would have been during a warmer season. The syrup moved quickly enough to cover several blocks within seconds and thickened into a harder goo as it cooled, slowing down the wave but also hindering rescue efforts … The cooler temperature of the outside air raised the viscosity of the molasses, essentially trapping people who had not been able to escape the wave. About half the people who were killed ‘died basically because they were stuck.’ ”
- Forrest Gander has translated some never-before-seen Neruda poems, and while he’s not ready to quote them, he’s willing to offer a few tantalizing descriptions, because that is his right: “There’s a love poem that turned my solar plexus into a cavern. There’s an ode to Neruda’s wife’s ear that depends upon a conceit that most Chileans today wouldn’t fathom, since few remember the 1940s vernacular for abalone: ‘little ears of the sea.’ There’s a poem in which Neruda recalls his arrival at the age of seventeen in Santiago. He’d come hoping to cut his teeth on big-city poetry, but when he stepped off the train, he walked into squadrons of mounted police swinging batons at protesters in a widespread violence organized by the ruling elite, the nitrate barons, in a period that came to be called the ‘White Terror.’ There are inclusive Whitmanesque paeans to working men and women, and there’s a hilarious tirade against the depredations of the telephone.”