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"Enoch, what can you possibly be talking about?"

It made his head ache. How was he to explain it without making Clarke out to be a fool, and himself a swindler? "Something is happening."

Clark pursed his lips and waited for something a little more specific.

"Galileo and Descartes were only harbingers. Something is happening now - the mercury is rising in the ground, like water climbing up the bore of a well."

Enoch couldn't get Oxford out of his mind - Hooke and Wren and Boyle, all exchanging thoughts so quickly that flames practically leaped between them. He decided to try another tack. "There is a boy in Leipzig like this one. Father died recently, leaving him nothing except a vast library. The boy began reading those books. Only six years old."

"It's not unheard-of for six-year-olds to read."

"German, Latin, and Greek?"

"With proper instruction - "

"That's just it. The boy's teachers prevailed on the mother to lock the child out of the library. I got wind of it. Talked to the mother, and secured a promise from her that little Gottfried would be allowed free run of the books. He taught himself Latin and Greek in the space of a year."

Clarke shrugged. ?Very well. Perhaps little Gottfried is the one.?

Enoch then should?ve known it was hopeless, but he tried again: ?We are empiricists ? we scorn the Scholastic way of memorizing old books and rejecting what is new ? and that is good. But in pinning our hopes on the Philosophick Mercury we have decided in advance what it is that we seek to discover, and that is never right.?

This merely made Clarke nervous. Enoch tried yet another tack: ?I have in my saddlebags a copy of Principia Philosophica, the last thing Decartes wrote before he died. Dedicated to young Elizabeth, the Winter Queen?s daughter??

Clarke was straining to look receptive, like a dutiful university student still intoxicated from last night?s recreations at the tavern. Enoch remembered the stone on the string, and decided to aim for something more concrete. ?Huygens has made a clock that is regulated by a pendulum.?


?A young Dutch savant. Not an alchemist.?


?He has worked out a way to make a pendulum that will always go back and forth in the same amount of time. By connecting it to the internal workings of a clock, he has wrought a perfectly regular time-piece. Its ticks divide infinity, as calipers step out leagues on a map. With these two ? clock and calipers ? we can measure both extent and duration. And this, combined with the new method of analysis of Descartes, gives us a way to describe Creation and perhaps to predict the future.?

?Ah, I see!? Clarke said. ?So this Huygens ? he is some kind of astrologer??

?No, no, no! He is neither astrologer nor alchemist. He is something new. More like him will follow. Wilkins, down in Oxford, is trying to bring them together. Their achievements may exceed those of alchemists.? If they did not, Enoch thought, he?d be chagrined. ?I am suggesting to you that this little boy may turn out to be another one like Huygens.?

?You want me to steer him away from the Art?? Clarke exclaimed.

?Not if he shows interest. But beyond that do not steer him at all ? let him pursue his own conclusions.? Enoch looked at the faces and diagrams on the wall, noting some rather good perspective work. ?And see to it that mathematics is brought to his attention.?

- Enoch Root on Leibniz, Newton, and the birth of the Scientific Enlightenment.
From Quicksilver by Neal Stephenson.

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I'm about a third of the way

I'm about a third of the way through Quicksilver. On the plus side, Stephenson has amazing creativity. The voices just feel so 17th Century and the way he brings in poetry and drama is well done. But does it have to be 900+ pages? The pirate battle could go with no plot loss.

You're actually farther into

You're actually farther into it than I am. Unfortunately, I think that people who found Stephenson through Cryptonomicon are going to be disappointed.