1315: Questions for God
|Questions for God|
Title text: What sins could possibly darken the heart of a STEAMBOAT? I asked The Shadow, but he says he only covers men.
- "I am an old man now, and when I die and go to heaven there are two matters on which I hope for enlightenment. One is quantum electrodynamics, and the other is the turbulent motion of fluids. And about the former I am rather optimistic."
This was referring to two phenomena in physics that, at the time, were poorly understood and difficult to explain. Lamb proved to be correct in his prediction that quantum electrodynamics (QED) was easier to explain; nowadays we have a much clearer understanding of QED, while our understanding of turbulence has improved little. (Richard Feynman, who was himself largely responsible for explaining QED, famously described turbulence as "the most important unsolved problem of classical physics").
- "Miss Susie had a steamboat
- The steamboat had a bell
- Miss Susie went to heaven
- The steamboat went to ...
- Hello operator
- Please give me number nine
The rhyming scheme between the second and fourth lines, and implied contrast with "heaven," causes the listener to fill in the word "Hell" instead of the innocuous "Hello". Therefore, Cueball is wondering what a steamboat, an object lacking will, could have done to deserve divine punishment.
The title text is a reference to the 1930s pulp series "The Shadow", whose eponymous character is a psychic vigilante. The 1937 radio plays introduction began with the line "Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows!" Unfortunately, as the subject is a steamboat and hence not human ("men" is here used in the sense of "mankind"), The Shadow would be unable to determine what heinous crimes the steamboat had committed to deserve damnation.
- Megan: Horace Lamb said he would have two questions for God: why quantum mechanics, and why turbulence?
- Cueball: I'd have just one: What did Miss Susie's steamboat do?!