Dewey B. Larson
755 N.E. Royal Court
Portland, Oregon 97232
Feb. 20, 1984
The printers’ specifications for NBM call for 10-12 Times Roman, 27 picas wide, 44 lines per page. Several of the pages in the enclosed “Sample Page Handbook” use this type face.
I have reviewed the calculations on pages 316 to 318 (manuscript pages 278A to 280). I find that the main source of difficulty is in the values that have been used for the number of seconds in a light year. I had taken it for granted that this is a fixed value, and that I would get the same figure whether I calculated it myself or took the easy way of getting it out of some reference work. So each time that I did any work on this material, I merely reached for the most convenient handbook. But I now find that my physics handbook gives a value that is quite different from the one that appears in an astronomy reference book that I have been using, apparently because of a difference in the definition of the year, and in the accuracy of the value used for the speed of light.
Under the circumstances it appeared that I should recalculate all of these figures, taking the basic data from the same source. I have done this, and have shown the revised values on the enclosed copies of the three manuscript pages. In view of the major uncertainties in the estimates of the masses of astronomical bodies, small differences in these figures are of no consequence, but I suppose we will have to try to keep everything mathematically consistent, since there will no doubt be many persons looking for flyspecks in the completed product.
As to the jacket, since you and Rainer are doing the major part of the work involved in getting the book into print, I want it to conform with your preferences so far as possible, and if you really think that we ought to have a more spectacular jacket, after you have considered the pros and cons of the matter, I am willing to go along with the idea. My reasons for using plain jackets have been as follows: (1) Aside from its function as a protection for the book, the main purpose of the jacket is to attract attention. I doubt if the jacket has any influence on the purchase decision itself. The question, then, is: Is a jacket design more efficient than plain lettering in attracting attention? If there were an equal number of each, I would say yes, but as matters now stand, there are multitudes of books with fancy jackets and very few plain ones. This being the case, I believe that the plain jackets stand out more than the more elaborate ones. (2) It is rather hard to find a subject for a jacket design that is relevant to the primary subject matter of the book, since this deals mainly with items that are either incapable of representation in their true character, or cannot be represented at all. (3) The whole issue is rather academic at present, as the drawing power of the jacket, whatever it may be, cannot be exercised unless the prospective purchasers have a chance to see it, and we have not yet reached the point where the retail stores keep my books in stock. This may continue to be true, even if the new book rings a bell, as we cannot get away from the fact that it is a very specialized work.
You can use your own judgment as to style. I am rather indifferent about it. I realize, of course, that the printers always put the period inside the quotation marks, and I have no objection to their following the “party line” in this respect, but I am a kind of a rebel in my own way, and I don’t see fit to accommodate my manuscript to their ideas. So I put my period at the end of my sentence, where it belongs, and they move it back inside the quotation marks. I go my way, and let them go their way. That leaves everyone happy, I guess.
I am equally indifferent about the parentheses in the quotations. Theoretically, it is desirable to distinguish between parenthetical material in the quotation itself and explanatory material that I have inserted, but as a practical matter, I doubt if it makes any difference. So do whatever you think is best.
I am also rather dubious about a mechanically produced index. It seems to me that a considerable amount of judgment has to go into the production of an index that is complete enough to serve its purpose without being so overloaded that it wastes the user’s time. I have a textbook on my desk at the moment that I think may have been indexed by a computer. I find it very irritating, as I have to look up two or three references to trivial usage of the key words for every reference that has any real significance to the topics with which I am concerned. I believe I had better prepare the index, as I have done for the previous books. It actually is not such a very big chore.