Syllabus [HoST Fall 2008]

For the Week of 10/22/08

Assignment 8

World Agriculture Tech, Nitrogen Fixation, Chemical or Alchemical BOOM!

Project presenters for this week:

Wednesday the 22nd– Erik Solan

Thursday the 23rd ­– Preethi Moorthy, Dante Smiriglio


Coming attractions: (Week of 10/29)

Amaro Hudson & Robert Ertz and Kyle Lazzaro

Legumes with nitrogen fixing nodules on their roots.




Read in Leigh PDF: pp. 6-7, 10-13 [technical details], 17-19 and pp. 23-53 (skip 45-50)  -33pp.


Leigh_WorldsG-estFix-Chs1-2-8.2MB.pdf  [High resolution version]


Leigh_WorldsG-estFix-Chs1-2-100dpi-4.5MB.pdf  [Low resolution version]

Read about early gun powder in Bown pp. 1-49.  [This books reads really fast. Don’t let the length of the assigned reading intimidate you.] You should own this book.

Write about 1.5 single spaced pages on a topic having to do with the readings.  Feel free to use some of the optional things below to spice things up. 

Bown, Stephen R. A Most Damnable Invention : Dynamite, Nitrates, and the Making of the Modern World. 1st ed. New York: T. Dunne Books, 2005.  This book is a bit shaky on some of the older history, but it is easy to read and has lots of fun details of interest.  It really hits its stride in the 19th-century parts, which we will probably read later in the term.


Leigh, G. J. The World's Greatest Fix: A History of Nitrogen and Agriculture. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004.  This book is probably the best history book of this reading set.  As a result it is slightly dryer, but its information is pretty solid except for some of the early alchemical observations.



Dowsing and Water Witches


McKinkey-On Parched Farms, Intuition Used to Help Find Water- NY Times - 10.8.08

Science? If science won’t tell you what you want to hear…. try, try again.



How Does Dowsing Work? –

This is an excellent short documentary on how using big words and associating yourself with

quantum entanglement will make you credible to anyone desperate enough to want to believe. 

Why DeBroglie waves are not metioned is a mystery to me.  They would be perfect for their purposes.

The nuclear blast in the eyeball near the end of this video is particularly weird.

Disclaimer: I’m very biased.


We Report, You Decide… then we decide:

Notice how the dowser reaches into the dirt and pulls out the coin.

I kept expecting him to pull a coin out of somebody’s ear. 

The question is: Do you want to believe?


Super high tech special science presents Dowsing for dummys:

- Why don’t we get to see Paul Smith’s face?  Is it top secret?


Your tax dollars in action:


A couple of old water witches:

Even these guys can’t help but mention David Hawkins [sic], a “famous psychiatrist.”

I looked him up, thinking that they meant Steven Hawking, but, to their credit, there is a David Hawkins out there.


James Randi (The Amazing Randi) on Dowsing:



Back to Syllabus [HoST Fall 2008]


Me –

Here is a link to a place that sells corn meal that actually has flavor, ground from corn grown from seeds that are old genetic strains, not the new “corn,” invented in a lab and grown by most American farmers.

I use their flour regularly and it is well worth the expense.

Full disclosure: I know the owner.  But I swear by the product.


In the News…

India launches for the moon…

Sources for some of my powerpoint images and descriptions on Black Powder:

lrich Bretscher's Black Powder Page [He’s a Swiss chemical engineer who likes black powder.]

Posted: 12/5/08 1:55 PM

Review materials for Final Exam:






These two review sheets are the same ones that I posted on the Ass7 page.