BOOK Review: The Berlin Project

The Berlin Project
by Gregory Beford
Saga Press
Copyright 2017 by the author

“What if we had the atomic bomb a year earlier? The easiest and least expensive method of separating isotopes, a method used throughout the world today, is based on a centrifuge procedure that Harold Urey proposed in 1940. General Groves chose the diffusion method instead. Karl Cohen, Urey’s able assistant during that period, believes that Groves’ decision delayed the atomic bomb by a year.

“If Dr. Cohen is right, atomic bombs of the simple gun design might have become available in the summer of 1944 and, in that case, would surely have been used against the Nazis. Atomic bombs in 1944 might have meant that millions of Jews would not have died, and that Eastern Europe would have been spared more than four decades of Soviet domination.”

– Edward Teller, Memoirs

Benford posits that the team working on the centrifuge method got enough independent funding to fix the engineering problems they were having, and got their method chosen over the diffusion method.

This alternate history novel takes it from there, and follows the career of Karl Cohen, the lead engineer-chemist on the centrifuge project.

That Cohen happens to be Benford’s father-in-law, well….

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The Greatest World Series Ever

With Spring Training underway, baseball is back in the news!. One of the many things we’re pondering (Will Mike Trout ever get another MVP award? Are the Rays and Marlins really trying to lose?) is the eternal question: Who is going to win the World Series this year? It’s a teeny bit too early for predictions – so I won’t make any.

Instead, I’ll note that we’ve had some really great series recently. Exciting games, teams ending championship droughts, classic matchups, the works. It leads one to ponder – just which WS was the most exciting of them all?

Seems like one cannot quantify “excitement” in that manner. Surely, it’s an objective matter. But hold on a minute. The huge body of statistical records in baseball, with details down to individual pitch counts, makes it a bit easier than one would expect. There’s something called “Win Probability” which, as it suggests, gives a team’s chance of winning a game at any specific point in any given game. Atfer a play, the difference in Win Probability becomes “Win Probability Added” (WPA). The bigger and more important a play, the greater the WPA. (more on WPA in this post ) In a World Series or other playoff game, one can calculate the odds of a Championship Probability – the chance a team has of winning the actual series – for each situation. The Championship Probability Added (cWPA) is therefore how important a given play was in determining the outcome of a series.

Naturally, people have done this to figure out the biggest and most important plays in World Series history. Over at The Baseball Gauge, Dan Hirsch has crunched all the numbers and made the database.

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This Year’s Cold

Well, it’s not so much as a “cold” as the world’s most evil cough.

No headache, no fever, no chills, no congestion, no general achiness. But every couple of hours, the body decides it’s time to turn the lungs inside out.

When I wake up, I feel fine. “Okay, no problems today, I must have beaten it during the night!” So it’s off to work….only to be hiding in the rest room three hours later coughing into the sink wondering just how much slime can be in my lungs without my noticing it. And holding my stomach in, because I don’t want to cough so hard I pull something or give myself a hernia (which actually did happen to me some years ago).

I suppose I could be mainlining cough drops, but that doesn’t help much when I’m in bed trying to sleep. At the drug store, I’m confronted with the Paradox of Choice. Which over-the-counter medicine is most appropriate? Extra-strength? Nighttime relief? The one loaded with ingredients to deal with symptoms I don’t have? Name brand or store brand? Should I care about the flavor? AARRGGHH!!

The worst part is that because there are no other symptoms, I’m never going to be truly certain that it’s gone…..