Nerd Fabulous, Party of One (Your Table’s Ready)

Someone should buy one of these for Srikanth Reddy, because I think of his poem about Esperanto every time I wear it.

Fun facts about Esperanto (via Wikipedia):

Esperanto was developed in the late 1870s and early 1880s by ophthalmologist Dr. Ludovic Lazarus Zamenhof, an Ashkenazi Jew from Bialystok, now in Poland and previously in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, but at the time part of the Russian Empire. After some ten years of development, which Zamenhof spent translating literature into the language as well as writing original prose and verse, the first Esperanto grammar was published in Warsaw in July 1887. The number of speakers grew rapidly over the next few decades, at first primarily in the Russian empire and Eastern Europe, then in Western Europe and the Americas, China, and Japan. In the early years speakers of Esperanto kept in contact primarily through correspondence and periodicals, but in 1905 the first world congress of Esperanto speakers was held in Boulogne-sur-Mer, France. Since then world congresses have been held in different countries every year, save for during the two World Wars. Since the Second World War, they have been attended by an average of over 2000 people, and by up to 6000.

Ethnologue estimates that there are 200 to 2000 native Esperanto speakers (denaskuloj), who have learned the language from birth from their Esperanto-speaking parents.[16] (This usually happens when Esperanto is the chief or only common language in an international family, but sometimes in a family of devoted Esperantists.)

The most famous native speaker of Esperanto is businessman George Soros[17]. Also notable is young Holocaust victim Petr Ginz, whose drawing of the planet Earth as viewed from the moon was carried aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia.

Esperanto has never been an official language of any recognized country, though there were plans at the beginning of the 20th century to establish Neutral Moresnet as the world’s first Esperanto state, and the self-proclaimed artificial island micronation of Rose Island used Esperanto as its official language in 1968. In China, there was talk in some circles after the 1911 Xinhai Revolution about officially replacing Chinese with Esperanto as a means to dramatically bring the country into the twentieth century, though this policy proved untenable.

From Jennifer Ouellette’s The Physics of the Buffyverse


Buffy battles a Turok-han in “Bring On the Night”

“Yet there are aspects of vampire lore that resemble the symptoms of real diseases. Most notably, porphyria is a hereditary disease in which the body doesn’t produce sufficient heme, an iron-rich pigment in the blood. Those who suffer from certain types of porphyria are highly sensitive to sunlight and may have reddish mouths, like the ancient Master vampire with “fruit-punch mouth” who was introduced in Season 1 of Buffy. Some historians suspect that a common folk rememdy for porphyria may have been to drink fresh blood, but if so, those efforts were wasted. The chemical enzymes in the blood that sufferers require can’t survive the digestive process; they must go straight into the bloodstream via blood transfusions or injections.

Over time the most severe (and rarest) forms of porphyria can cause blistering, scarring, and thickening of the skin, and in extreme cases can lead to disfigurement. The lips and gums may become so taut that the teeth protrude like fangs, giving the sufferer an appearance strikingly similar to the Nosferatu of early horror films, or the Buffyverse’s Turok-han, an ancient race of übervamps. In fact, the writers of Buffy are on record as saying that they originally conceived of vampirism as a progressive disease, and the Master’s appearance reflected that. But the similiarities between vampirism and the symptoms of porphyria appear to be entirely coincidental. There have been only two hundred or so documented cases of the most extreme forms of porphyria, hardly enough to inspire the plethora of vampire legends around the world, and many of the cited vampiric attributes didn’t appear in folklore until the nineteenth century.

We can find clues to explain vampires’ extremem sensitivity to sunlight not just in the enzyme deficiencies that characterize porphyria and similar disorders, but also by looking at how the sun’s rays cause human skin to tan and burn. The sun emits three forms of light: infrared light (heat), visible light, and ultraviolet (UV) light. It is the latter that is responsible for skin damage: prolonged exposure can damage and kill skin cells, which then release chemicals that activate the body’s pain receptors. The reddening of sunburned skin is the result of increased blood flow to the damaged areas in order to remove the dead cells. The energy from UV light also stimulates the production of a pigment known as melanin, which causes the skin to darken, or tan. Melanin actually absorbs UV radiation in sunlight, protecting skin cells from further damage.”

I realize by posting this and admitting that this is the book at the top of the heap on my bedside table (currently covering Claudia Emerson’s Late Wife) that I’m tipping my nerd hand down—way down. But for someone who struggled to understand any science beyond chemistry, this book is probably the easiest (and most fun) course in science I’ve ever gotten to take.

There are a dearth of scholarly books exploring various aspects of Buffy—philosophy, philology, ontology, rhetoric, feminism, space, etc. They’re worth a read if you enjoy the show.