On Friday my boss, Shelley, got a call. When she hangs up she walks into the lab and says, "Well, I've gotten some strange calls, but that one was right up there."
The caller was Glenn from Philadelphia. Glenn is writing a book in which "the hero" (Glenn's phrasing) invents a time machine and travels to Kenya 400,000 years ago. "The hero" is talking to a Homo Erectus and needs to make a torch. There's a tarpit nearby, so Glenn wanted to know if "the hero" dipped a stick in the asphalt, would it light? Shelley said no. If "the hero" wrapped a t-shirt around the stick, then dipped it in the asphalt, would it light? No. Glenn was sad.
Now, what I really want to know is this. Let me break it down for you. Glenn has in his story:
1) A time machine
2) a Homo Erectus who talks (at all)
3) A Homo Erectus that speaks the Queen's English, or, conversely, a "hero" who speaks the Kenyan dialect of Homo Erecti
4) A tarpit in Kenya, 400,000 years ago.
So why is he worried about the feasibility of an asphalt torch?