Charles Darwin announced that the geological processes that created the Weald, an area of southern England stretching across Kent, Surrey and Sussex, had taken, by his calculations, 306, 662, 400 years to complete.

He wrote authoritatively on magnetism, tides and the motions of the planets, and fondly on the effects of opium.

I hate asking directions. I am always afraid that the person I approach will step back and say, ‘You want to go where? The centre of Brussels? Boy, are you lost. This is Lille, you dumb shit,’ then stop other passers-by and say, ‘You wanna hear something classic? Buddy, tell these people where you think you are,’ and that I’ll have to push my way through a crowd of people who are falling about and wiping tears of mirth from their eyes. So I trudged on.

Tokyo: “When a passenger of the foot heave in sight, tootle the horn. Trumpet at him melodiously at first, but if he still obstacles your passage, then tootle him with vigor.

Looking for a supernova, therefore, was a little like standing on the observation platform of the Empire State Building with a telescope and searching windows around Manhattan in the hope of finding, let us say, someone lighting a twenty-first birthday cake.

John A. Templer of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, author of the definitive (and, it must be said, almost only) scholarly text on the subject, The Staircase: Studies of Hazards, Falls, and Safer Design, suggests that all fall-injury figures are probably severely underestimated anyway.

Before, prior to. There is no difference between these two except length and a certain affectedness on the part of ‘prior to.’ To paraphrase Bernstein, if you would use ‘posterior to’ instead of ‘after,’ then by all means use ‘prior to’ instead of ‘before.

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