August 7: A Quick Math Lesson

140 kilograms. That is the magic number.

We have 140 kilograms of rocks, plus or minus a kilogram here or there, and Priority Number One is getting them home to Boston. In previous posts, we have verged on sappiness in describing our affection for each and every sample that we have taken. These feelings could be compared to the first few hours after taking a new puppy home. Our feelings have now shifted to those subsequent days when the puppy pees all over the rug and chews up your expensive leather couch. Getting the samples was the relatively simple part. We now have to get them home.

We are currently staying with Volodia and his family in Moscow. The transit from Khatanga to here was a blur of lifting and lugging: for the past four days we have been carrying boxes of rocks (plus the rest of our gear) up and down staircases, in and out of trucks with no brake pads, and to and from decrepit, rear-loading, ham-sandwich-filled Soviet airplanes. Volodia’s apartment is on the 18th floor. Thank you Mr. Otis for inventing elevators. Volodia’s building has one of your original prototypes.

Volodia’s excellent apartment, despite our efforts to be good guests, is rapidly filling up with the expanding sample-packing operation we have set in motion.

Roma and Volodia have spent many hours obtaining the necessary permissions and documents for us to take “some” “basalts” out of Russia. These documents total 8 pages, with some very impressive stamps. They indicate that we can take roughly 8 kilos of rocks apiece:

    8 for Seth  
+ 8 for Ben    
16 kilos of rocks

16 … does not equal 140. However, as we have learned at MIT, the square root of 144 is twelve and twelve is obviously less than sixteen. Since most of the samples are slightly squareish in shape, and the difference between twelve and sixteen is four, which is the number of bags we can each check… We think we’re golden.

In order to convince Russian customs of this, we have decided to do a bit of creative packing. This afternoon at the flea market near Volodia’s building, we cleaned out the inventory of a surprised duffel-bag vendor. We kept setting aside the duffels we wanted to buy, and the vendor, thinking we only wanted one and were just leaving what we didn’t want on the floor behind us, kept replacing the duffels on the shelf. Finally we conveyed to her that we really wanted to buy all of them.

Ben (waving his arms to indicate English was about to be spoken): No no, we want all!
Vendor (looking incredulous): Щто? (What?) Da?
Ben: Da.

For a very good price, we became the delighted owners of six new sports-themed duffel bags. Our ingenious plan is to fill each bag with equal parts clothes and rocks, hoping that our smelly t-shirts will mask the presence of just a few paltry rocks as well. Volodia thinks it’s an excellent plan.

At the airport in Krasnoyarsk... Roma is waving, and you can barely make out Seth's Giants hat behind our mountain of baggage.

At the airport in Krasnoyarsk... Roma is waving, and you can barely make out Seth's Giants hat behind our mountain of baggage.


Now that we’re back in Moscow, we’d like to extend a last big thank-you to Lindy Elkins-Tanton, who for the past month has been the link between us writing this blog in the field and you reading it on the internet. Thanks a million Lindy!


One Response to “August 7: A Quick Math Lesson”

  1. Post More… I’m waiting!!

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