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Isotopic abundances: inferences on solar system and planetary evolution

Wasserburg, G. J. (1987) Isotopic abundances: inferences on solar system and planetary evolution. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 86 (2-4). pp. 129-173. ISSN 0012-821X. doi:10.1016/0012-821X(87)90219-6.

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Members of the Royal Swedish Academy, ladies and gentlemen. In thinking over why I am here today, I recalled the story of Tom Sawyer, a character of Mark Twain's. On a beautiful, bright Saturday morning, when all of his friends were playing, he appeared by the wall in front of his aunt's house with a bucket of whitewash paint and a long-handled brush. Before him stood about thirty meters of continuous wooden fence, three meters tall. He dipped his brush and passed it over a plank and then repeated it. Then he stopped and compared the insignificant whitewashed streak with the far-reaching continent of unpainted fence and became melancholy. Then he took up the brush again and went to work. A friend came by and teased him for working on Saturday when he could be swimming or playing. Tom said it wasn't so bad, because a boy didn't get the chance to whitewash a fence every day. Tom took a new brush stroke at the fence and stepped back to note the beauty of the effect. His friend got interested and then asked permission to make a stroke or two. He then offered Tom the core of an apple he had just started to nibble on. Tom told him that it was doubtful that his friend could help because this was the front fence and that a very good and sophisticated job had to be done. Possibly only but one child in a thousand, possibly two-thousand, could do it. Well, after this denial, his friend just had to try and offered Tom the whole apple for a chance to paint. Then more young friends came around to attempt this challenging task. By the end of the afternoon, Tom was the wealthiest boy in town. He had twelve marbles, a key that didn't unlock anything, a piece of blue glass to look through, a tin soldier, a dog collar (but no dog) and lots of other valuable things. The fence had been coated three times and if he had not run out of whitewash, Tom would have bankrupted every kid in the village. My presence here is due to an ability to attract young talent to help whitewash the fence. The only difference is that we have just started on the job.

Item Type:Article
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Wasserburg, G. J.0000-0002-7957-8029
Additional Information:© 1987 Elsevier Science Publishers B.V. This lecture was given at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in connection with the award of the Crafoord Prize in Geosciences in 1986.
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Other Numbering System NameOther Numbering System ID
Caltech Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences4479
Lunatic Asylum Lab562
Issue or Number:2-4
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20131028-100725086
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Official Citation:G.J. Wasserburg, Isotopic abundances: inferences on solar system and planetary evolution, Earth and Planetary Science Letters, Volume 86, Issues 2–4, December 1987, Pages 129-173, ISSN 0012-821X, (
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:42091
Deposited By: Ruth Sustaita
Deposited On:28 Oct 2013 17:26
Last Modified:10 Nov 2021 04:38

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